To afford healthy food, we need a paradigm shift
Since this post is all about saving money while eating healthy, I do want to address the following point.
If we speak with our wallets, then it is accurate to draw the conclusion that the American population, in general, doesn’t see food as a valuable investment.
According to statistics from a Forbes article on American spending habits,
In the past, feeding our families took a much bigger bite out of American budgets –and it hardly ever included dining out. In 1901, according to a 1997 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the average family spent almost half of their budget on food. Just 3% of that went to meals away from home. Today, we only spend an average 13.3% of our budgets on food–but 42% of that money is spent in restaurants.
For many of us, we cannot afford to purchase real, healthy, organic food with only 13% of our budget. That is why I believe we need a paradigm shift: we need to INVEST in healthy foods because it means investing in a healthy future.
Quality food should be prioritized in the budget above a cable subscription… it’s a paradigm shift, right? Reprioritizing is the most important way I keep my pantry stocked with unprocessed food.
Tips to afford healthy food
With that said, I rely on a few essential resources to afford healthy food and manage a real food lifestyle. I hope this list can help you!
1. Thrive Market
What happens when you combine the wholesale prices of Costco, the convenience of Amazon Prime, and the quality of your local health food store? You get Thrive Market. Here is why I am hooked on Thrive:
- Prices are 25-50% off retail
- I know I am getting the best brand for each product. For example, they don’t carry 12 brands of almond butter, they only carry the two brands that meet the highest standards of ingredient sourcing and manufacturing.
- Free speedy shipping over $50.
Here are some of my healthy living staples that I routinely purchase from Thrive:
- Coconut products like coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut flour
- Healthy cooking oils, including ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil
- Skin care products like jojoba oil and shea butter
- Herbs and spices
It’s very similar to Costco – you pay a yearly membership fee to get the wholesale prices. You save so much that you’ll likely make back your membership fee in just one or two orders… I did!
Here is the link to register. Use that link and you’ll get a FREE jar of ghee (my superfood favorite fat – I reach for it more often than coconut oil).
Thrive offers 25-50% off retail. Take a look at the examples below:
2. Craig’s List
I recently snagged a $70 Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker for only $20 on Craig’s List. This online market has surprising gems when it comes to materials and products for healthy cooking and a Real Food Lifestyle.
Under the “Household Items” category, you can find materials including:
- Used or new Vitamix or Blendtec blenders
- Kitchen Aid standing mixers
- Specialty tools, like ice cream machines, dehydrators and yogurt makers
- Slow cookers
- Cookware and bakeware including Le Crueset pots and cast iron pans (here is my discussion on non-toxic bakeware options)
In addition, you can also place ads to source Real Food staples such as pastured eggs, raw milk, farm animals and cultured food starters. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to practice adequate precaution when buying or selling on Craig’s List. But when used wisely, it provides prime savings to eat healthy on a budget.
3. Skip the “luxury heath foods”
When browsing the isles of natural food stores, I’ve learned to avoid the “glamour health foods.” This includes the non-necessary items like snack bars, the fancy chips, and the gluten free pastries.
A meal of a $5 bottle of green juice, a $5 bag of coconut chips, and a $3 plant protein bar would make a stereotypical chic-health-food-store lunch. But don’t stray towards these fashionable and pre-made health foods if budget is your priority. Compare that price tag to a meal made from a chicken you bake at home, with a baked sweet potato and a salad, for example.
When many people make the transition to a real food lifestyle, they swap processed items for their counterparts with higher quality ingredients. This includes:
- Gluten free breads
- Snack bars and protein bars
- Desserts, such as dairy free ice creams
I understand the need baby step through the transition to whole foods. However, the expense of doing it with these pricey pre-packaged foods can be enough to dissuade someone from real food! So instead of reaching for a $7 box of “healthy” cereal that will last for three servings, how about going for the box of pastured eggs instead?
Along the same lines, if you are going to switch your ice cream for a $6 pint of coconut milk ice cream, why not try satisfying your sweet tooth with a handful of frozen berries or an apple?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which a growing movement to provide affordable, organic produce to families. Members pay the farm an allotted amount at the beginning of the growing season, which provides the farmers much needed funds to plant the crops. Then, during harvest, member families are delivered boxes of fresh produce.
Here is why I highly recommend CSAs
- Much better prices on local, organic produce than you’ll find at any store
- You’re supporting local, organic/biodynamic farming
- Variety and color in your diet! My CSA box has introduced me to new ingredients such as kholrabi and romanesco
You can most likely find a CSA near you. Many CSAs also deliver meat and milk products along with their produce. I am also able to purchase seasonal shares of pastured eggs, raw milk cheese, and grassfed beef from my CSA.
5. Know your grocery stores
- Costco – Did you know you can find excellent prices on tons of real food ingredients here? This is a helpful list of Real Food Finds at Costco.
- Whole Foods – Frankly, I am not a fan of Whole Foods. I am grateful to have local food co-ops as an alternative to this store. However, in some areas, there are not convenient alternatives to the corporate giant I call Whole Paycheck. The prices for many items are jacked up, but you can find some good deals if you know what to purchase. Here is a list of budget-friendlier items at Whole Foods.
- Trader Joe’s – My warning with Trader Joe’s is that many of the foods are disguised as health foods, but they aren’t. Always read the ingredient lists! You may be surprised how many store-brand products are chock-full of highly processed sweeteners, inflammatory vegetable oils and stabilizers. There are some affordable, healthy finds at the store, but always read ingredients.
- Local Food Co-ops – I feel lucky to live in Northwest Washington, where there is an abundance of locally-owned natural food co-ops. These stores nearly always beat Whole Foods with their prices, have more locally-grown produce, and I’m happy to support the businesses.
Do you use any of these resources to save money on healthy food? Do you have any other money saving tips for eating real food on a budget?
Hi Lauren – I hope you are going thru ebates when you purchase from Vitacost. It can be used with alot of other stores too. Free cashback and so easy!
Love the info you share. Just got the Vital Proteins – I will not be without that from now on – love it.
Thanks for all you do!
Thanks for the tip!
I really love your tip on skipping the luxury health foods! When I first made the switch to a more nutritious diet that was the biggest culprit as to why I was spending so much money on food. I also wasn’t reaping the many benefits of fresh produce. One way I spend less and make preparing meals easier for myself is by saving my favorite recipes and picking them out for the week. If I don’t have a plan prior to grocery shopping I’m much more easily sucked into pre-made meals!
Hi Lauren, I would suggest you contact Mash up Mom/Rachel Singer Gorden. She’s originally from WA. Her blog has a Crunchy Friday/homemade/gluten free tips and resources. Some are Abe’s Market online,All Natural Savings for coupons/deals @ Whole Foods. She helps other bloggers she uses by linking to the their tips.
YES YES YES! I especially love #5! TJs drives me crazy sometimes and you can find great finds at WF. You just have to be willing to hit up more than one market! Great list. 🙂
Thanks so much for continuing to post great info!
I went to the referral link for Vitacost and unfortunately, the discount wouldn’t work. With each item I ordered (Nordic Natural fish oil, Artisana coconut butter, coconut lip gloss, etc) it just kept saying the discount would not apply. I still went ahead and tried to purchase it but a day later, they wrote me asking for repeated info without explaining why. I decided to cancel my order, displeased with the whole experience. Ultimately, I found another site with the same prices for the items I sought. I will try the others recommended here as well. Thanks again for all the great posts! I am addicted to this site. 🙂
I love your informative posts & recipes. I LOVE ice cream! I saw here your recommendation for Craigslist, & I picked up a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker for $6 at Good Will, same model as yours. The problem, it’s an aluminum or metal alloy lined bowl, just like the one I purchased & returned. I had to return the one I purchased because it caused my autoimmune disease to flare twice when I made ice cream in it with known safe for me ingredients. (I have Hidradinitis Supporativa [HS for short] I get boils, so a trigger food is known within 24 hours usually.)
I’ve long suspected aluminum as a problem & you bring it up here in this post: http://empoweredsustenance.com/non-toxic-bakeware/
So do you have complications using your Cuisinart Craigslist ‘find’? The only true all stainless steel ice cream maker I could find is around $700. Ouch!
Any ideas on how to make creamy ice cream without using a machine?
Yes, the aluminum coating in the ice cream maker has been a concern for me too, and since I so rarely make ice cream, I haven’t invested in the stainless steel version. What I usually do is blender ice creams, with frozen fruit.
This is good info, I just want to kindly point out that healthy food is out of reach for a huge portion of our population, and it’s not just a matter of reprioritizing and implementing tips. I mean, I know that’s not the point of this post, and these are good tips for people who want to make changes but aren’t sure how, but I do get frustrated when real foodies want to make it seem like the ideal is achievable for everyone if they just downsize or shop smart or spend less on other things and it’s just not true. Cost of living has increased without commensurate increases in wages, people live in food deserts, rely on SNAP or WIC which provides low quality food, people don’t have functional kitchens, don’t have time to cook, can’t afford to potentially waste food on new recipes their kids may not eat – there are a lot of real obstacles to healthy food. Okay, I’m done, sorry to be a downer!
I would like to point out that Thrive Market is not the huge savings source that it claims it is. They do usually have better prices than most other stores, but not nearly by the large margins they claim. In fact, because Whole Foods is so convenient for me location-wise, I often compare Thrive’s prices to them, and normally the difference is not as big as the 35-50% they claim. My point is that Thrive over-inflates their savings claims, and that really bothers me as a consumer. They should be more honest about their prices.