With the cost of real food on the rise, is it still possible to affordably eat clean? By keeping the costs of refined and processed foods down, big food companies want you saying it isn’t. Although a trip to the supermarket is more costly now than in recent years, there isn’t much difference between a healthy and unhealthy diet. Unless of course you’re trying to eat ‘fashionably clean’ by only opting for the organic, free range “super foods!”
Eating clean can break the bank, but it doesn’t have to. It may require some changes to your spending, but varied, real food is doable on pennies. Here are some simple and practical tips to help you plan and shop smarter.
Buy In-Season Produce
In-season fruits and vegetables are not only markedly cheaper, but they’re also at their most flavoursome and nutritious. So you’ll save money and do your health good. You can even take this a little bit further by opting for indigenous produce only.
Buy Frozen Produce
Many people avoid frozen fruit and vegetables because of the misconception that they’re not as healthy. Often, this produce goes directly from picking to be flash frozen and packaged so there’s little exposure to the environment, making them just as nutritious as fresh produce. Most supermarkets also have their store brand of produce for sale which is even cheaper.
Buy in Bulk
This is especially helpful with meats, and if you have a big freezer. Buy whole, uncut chickens, get your red meat once a month from a butcher, or even better directly from the Chalmar Beef abattoir, pack into portions you’d need when cooking, and freeze. You can even buy online from Chalmar for delivery to the gym or home which is a further cost saver! And consider a new trend called ‘cowpooling’ where a group of you purchase an entire animal and divide it between yourselves.
Shop at Markets
Now there are different types of markets. You have your newer, trendy markets with food stalls, beer and coffee bars, and waffle stands. And then you have traditional farmer’s markets that exist simply to sell fresh produce. You can find good deals at both, but the latter are best for buying fresh produce. You can also find good deals on homemade sauces and spices and you’re doing good buy support the local economy.
Opt for the Store’s Brands
Most supermarkets now have their own brand name products for frozen veges, canned items, spices and just about everything else too. That cuts many of the middle men out of the equation resulting in better prices for you. Unlike knock-off clothing brands, you won’t be sacrificing quality here.
Enjoy Fattier Cuts of Meat
You should know by now that animals fat are good for your health AND performance. Fattier and tougher cuts of red meat are a load cheaper than prime cuts. Just as bone-in and skin on cuts of poultry are. They’re also MUCH tastier and you can use any fat dripping from the cooking process to flavour other meals – yum!
A diet high in good fats and low in high GI carbs is also protein sparing. That means, you lose less lean body mass and therefore need less protein. Animal fats are your friend, unless of course you’re vegetarian!
“Organic” and “Superfoods” aren’t a Necessity
While there is certainly benefit to eating foods that are RELIABLY labelled as organic or superfoods, you can still have a wholesome and nutritious diet without them. Use the guide on the dirty dozen and clean 15 for info about when to worry about organic fruit and veges. When it comes to meat, organic (free range and grass fed) doesn’t always mean cleaner. What matters is whether or not the animals have been dosed with hormones and antibiotics.
While the disparity in price between organic and not is closing due to the increased demand for organic goods, superfoods are still much more expensive. They’re great to have every now and then, but you don’t need chia seeds and maca powder daily to be healthy 😉
Avoid Pre-packaged and Pre-Cut Products
This includes meats, fruit and vegetables. Resources, and therefore costs, go into packaging and cutting. Do that yourself, or get your kids or younger siblings to do it for some pocket money!
Start a Vegetable and Herb Garden
You don’t even need much space to get your own garden going. Pick your favourite herbs and veges, and enjoy truly fresh and organic produce daily!
Make Your Own Condiments
I’m not sure what the average bottle sauce costs, R20-R30 maybe? If you want to the “all natural” stuff free from preservatives and other additives you’ll be paying loads more. Buy the ingredients and make your own sauces and condiments for a fraction of the cost, and they’ll be free from preservatives and chemicals. Yes, it is time initially, but less time and money in the long run. Or find a source of homemade condiments.
Remember, most ready made stuff is loaded with sugar and sweeteners so you want to be keeping those to a minimum anyway.
Cook in Bulk
Get yourself big pots and a slow cooker. Cook enough to cover a few days worth of meals and then only keep out what you need in the coming couple of days. Pack and freeze the rest for when you need it. This is helpful too if you’re buying in season vegetables because you can dig the meals out when they’re out of season and enjoy them without the extra cost of buying out of season!
You can do this on a smaller scale too by simply ensuring that you cook enough to have leftovers for one of your meals the next day. That keeps you from finding convenient sources of food that only appear cheaper and are certainly not healthier.
Budget and Prepare
This just requires some discipline. Know what you are able to spend. Come up with a week’s menu, create a shopping list according to that, and using the above guidelines stick to that list. It’s tempting to just get a bit of this and that, but those items are more often than not treats that you can do without 😉