Because I’m talking about the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle on my blog this week, I thought I’d take some time to discus one of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy: money. Budgets can be a roadblock to your good intentions, but finances don’t have to prevent you from feeding your family well. Here are some ways our family of seven eats healthy without breaking the bank.
1) Not everything has to be organic
There’s a difference between eating healthy and eating organic. Too often, the terms are confused. Eating a 100% organic diet can be very expensive, or even prohibitive if you do not have the means to grow or raise any of your own food.
We eat organic whenever we can, but we certainly do not eat a 100% organic diet. I use the Dirty Dozen list as a starting point. Those foods are the “worst offenders” so we try to purchase the organic options. I also include grains in my list of organic must-haves because many non-organic grains are genetically modified (especially corn and soybeans, and the others are at risk of contamination from the GMO crops). Fats are another good item to buy organic because toxins are stored in the fat of plants and animals.
In everything, I do as best I can and do not worry about the rest. God is big enough to bless even my imperfect efforts, and He will bless yours too!
2) Know your price points and take advantage of sales
I once came upon a flash sale at my local grocery store. The manager had marked whole chickens down to $0.39 a lb. Whole chickens for about $2 each? I started loading up my cart, silently calculating how much room I had in my freezer.
Meanwhile, people mingled past. They would look at the price, think about it, and walk away. Occasionally, someone would take a chicken, but usually, only one chicken. Not two. Never three.
I asked one lady, “Why don’t you buy more?”
She looked at me funny and said, “I don’t know what I’d do with two chickens!”
You eat it. Eventually, you eat it!
If you find a great deal on the food you eat, purchase all you can afford and all you can reasonably store because it will save you money in the end.
3) Buy in bulk
Not everyone has the space to store food, but if you have a little space in your garage or even under your bed, it is wise to take advantage of buying in bulk (my favorite bulk food resource is Azure Standard). I invested in some food-grade buckets and keep my dry goods stacked up against one side of the garage. It takes up very little space in my home but makes a great deal of space in my food budget.
Purchasing in bulk means saving ahead because the initial expenditure is larger than purchasing on an as-needed basis. One year, we used our tax refund to purchase a side of beef. Purchasing that much beef at once saved us dollars a pound, but it was a huge one-time expense. But all year, when I pulled meat out to thaw, I thanked God that I was able to feed my family so well on so little.
4) Invest in a dehydrator
I am a very frugal person. For years, I used a hand-me-down dehydrator that took days to finish a batch of food. When it finally broke down, we made the hard decision to purchase a quality machine. This is the one we purchased:
My Excalibur dehydrates food so efficiently, I have never regretted the purchase. It takes a fraction of the time to dry food, and I never have to rotate trays or flip food half-way through. The energy savings was astounding. I actually noticed a savings of tens of dollars each month when I tossed my old machine.
I purchase food in season when it is at its lowest price-point, or grow my own when I can, and then dehydrate it so I can store more food in less space for longer amounts of time. I make special treats like fruit leather or apple slices that I would not be able to afford to purchase for my children. I dry copious amounts of herbs that I grow myself and use them all winter long. I even use it to culture yogurt, saving myself tons of money over store-bought yogurt. It’s all organic, it’s all homemade, and it’s all inexpensively nourishing.
For more dehydrating ideas, check out the Dehydrating book included in the bundle!
5) Use freezer space to your advantage
We bought a large, commercial freezer for $100 on craigslist when we purchased our first home. Like the dehydrator, it has been one of the best purchases we have ever made. Of course, having an extra appliance means a slightly larger energy bill, but the extra freezer space allows me to take advantage of below-prince-point sales, seasonal abundance, or even that extra-large meat purchase. It is a money-saver!
Canning is making a comeback! Canning allows you to store large amounts of food without refrigeration. I tend to dry more food than I can because dehydrating preserves more nutrients, but canning is a great option for seasonal overflow. I even dry can goods like nuts and brown rice, which tends to go rancid quickly. To do this, simply fill sterilized jars, leaving a small amount of head space, bake in the oven on a tray at 200 degrees for one hour. Carefully pull the tray out, seal the jars, and return to the oven for another ½ hour. Allow the jars to cool in the oven. They should seal tight! If they do not seal, repeat.
7) Save the scraps
If you spend the money on organic food, don’t waste it! I love the From Garbage to Gourmet book included in the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle because she trains us to see food as money. Don’t throw away that leftover coffee or those vegetable scraps! Gather up the scraps and treat your family to a gourmet meal you’ve gleaned from what you might have thrown away.
8) Clean out your refrigerator once a week
This sounds silly, I know, but I am notorious for wasting food because it gets shoved to the back of the fridge where I forget all about it. I have started the habit of serving a “leftovers lunch” after church on Sundays. Sometimes I remake the leftovers into something new; other times, I just heat and serve. But once a week, all the leftovers get eaten!
9) Grow what you are able
Did you know, you are able to grow a lot of nutrition in a very small space? Jami Balmet’s Apartment Gardening book, included in the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, is a great resource for those who do not think they have the space to grow anything but a Chia pet.
I have used these principles, along with sprouting, to grow a lot of nutrition in very little space.
10) Live simply
Feeding your family well can be expensive, but it is the most fundamental thing you can do for your children to ensure a lifetime of physical health and well-being. It is a short season! The sacrifices you make now will reap benefits in the years to come when your children and grandchildren are able to reach their potential because they are physically equipped to do so. Be encouraged in your efforts! You do not run in vain.