Cost/Benefit of Eating Healthy and Stretching those Dollars

Therese Martinez

Cost/Benefit of Eating Healthy and How to Stretch those Dollars

 

Many people associate eating healthy with higher spending at the grocery store. It seems like many people assume they can’t afford to eat well without even LOOKING and CONSIDERING ways they could move some spending around. That’s what gets me the most, and the main reason I am sharing this with you today. I am here to tell you a little story about a girl who went to graduate school, got $50,000 in debt (landing a $300 monthly payment), became a Registered Dietitian (do you know how many random dues are required for that, too?), got a job that she LOVES but makes less than anyone reading this (bold claim, I know, but likely pretty accurate), had a car payment (about $200/mont) she successfully paid off in 1.5 years upon graduating, lives in a great 1-bedroom apartment one mile from downtown, has extracurricular activities like volleyball that cost $50 for a league and $30 per tournament, is SAVING a couple hundred dollars a month and eats freaking amazing, nutrient dense foods every. Single. Day. Unless she chooses otherwise… 😉

 

Yes, people, you can do it too.

 

HOW, how does she do it??

 

I’m glad you asked. Well, it takes some sacrifice, I am not going to lie. Actually, let’s replace “sacrifice” with “awareness” and “choices”. I don’t really feel like I sacrifice anything to live the way I do. I just have my priorities set in certain places. I am aware of my spending, some may say to a fault, and choose to spend my income in the ways that I do, understanding the repercussions.

No, I don’t drive anything fancy…but the car I have gets 30+ MPG and has very low maintenance needs. No, I don’t have kids. I understand this can be a major obstacle in not only food preparation and choices, but overall time consuming. I have tips and tricks for many of the excuses thrown at me, though. Plus, I know MANY people who still manage to eat well and save money with kids (have you met the owner of CoreFit?). Yes, I still go out for coffee. But, when I do, I get simple drinks like Americanos and drip coffee. I end up only spending a couple bucks on those. Yes, I go out and have adult beverages from time to time. Again, keeping it simple, and limiting the amount. Honestly I most prefer hanging out at houses or bbq’s or the like instead of restaurants/bars, so that tends to be a money-saver. Rarely do I go out to eat, largely due to the fact it costs SO MUCH for food that I can usually make at home…with higher quality ingredients…and often better flavor… I also make an effort to prepare food ahead of time so as to avoid the need to buy food on the go. I had a client recently rave about UberEats and how he ordered a meal from DeLish’s Hamburgers (shout to Mike Lish, owner and member of CoreFit!) and it was ONLY $20. ONLY. I understand convenience, but man, that seemed like a bit for a meal from UberEats when you could prepare something for a fraction of that.

I would also like to point out that when eating whole, healthy foods, a person just naturally tends to munch less, and eat less overall. I really noticed this when I went from being a vegetarian (mind you, a vegetarian that probably consumed a lot more vegetarian crackers and cheese than the plant-based veg-head I know some of you out there are), constantly hungry and chasing blood sugars, to bringing meat back into my diet. I noticed it even further when I started incorporating more fat into my diet. I no longer was starving in between meals, and I didn’t get my snack cravings in the evening. My meals just had the nutrients my body needed to feel satiated and satisfied for hours. These aren’t extravagant meals, either. Simple, plant-based, with some protein and healthy fat make for a very satisfying combination. Please note, I am not recommending a high fat diet for all of you, I am just pointing out what worked for me…

Anywho, these are just a few ways I watch my spending. Here is a list of the MANY other ways you can budget to save money and prioritize your spending in ways that improve your health, vitality, longevity, and overall wellbeing. IT IS POSSIBLE TO EAT WELL, LIVE WELL, and SAVE WELL.

 

Ways to avoid breaking the bank while eating healthy

  • Produce: Frozen or Fresh?
    • I personally find a big difference in flavor and texture with fresh vs frozen vegetables, so I tend to go fresh more often than not. I also go through them fast so I limit the spoiling frequency. However, nutrient-wise, they are the same. So if you prefer freezing vegetables because you aren’t sure how quickly you will get to them, or perhaps for convenience purposes so you don’t have to cut and chop so much, I would go frozen. They are often very affordable. Just look at the nutrition facts and make sure you aren’t getting a bunch of extra ingredients in there…
    • I definitely love both fresh and frozen berries, but the frozen varieties are far more affordable than fresh. They go great in smoothies and make for a delicious snack! I heat a bowl up for like 15 seconds, or just let it sit out for a little bit so it doesn’t totally freeze my mouth, then munch on them while I work or as a nighttime snack.
    • Grow Your Own
      • Oh, to have the luxury of time and space to have the must abundant garden of your dreams… I understand the yearning. However, I have also found there are ways to get around both of those excuses.
      • You don’t have to have the biggest, bombast garden of them all. Try out just a few vegetables in a small garden in your backyard. If you live in an apartment complex of sorts, see if some neighbors would get down on it with you. 2. Community gardens. There are gardens all over where you can help contribute and reap the benefits from that are named “community gardens”. They will have some rules/stipulations and of course lack the convenience of being in your backyard, but its definitely worth checking out!. 3. Grow fresh herbs at home. Even with little space, many herbs can be grown inside the home. Basil is a great one, actually. You can grow a ton, make pesto, and freeze for later months!
    • Make your own dressings. There are TONS of simple dressing recipes out there that can save you a lot, especially if you purchase more “natural” and “healthy” dressings that can get upwards of $6 a container. One of my favorite combinations: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard.
  • Buy in Bulk
    • Buying foods in big quantities can be burdensome on your storage space, and runs a higher risk of spoiling. Take your neighbor to Costco with you, or go in on a ¼ cow together. This can save loads of money, especially on those meat products.
  • Rewards Card
    • Many stores have rewards cards that don’t cost anything to use. All you do is rack up points and get discounts down the road. I highly recommend this for stores you frequent.
  • Make a list
    • Sticking to a list always helps when it comes to sticking to your budget. Browsing the grocery store can lead to grabbing products simply because they are on sale, even though they are not in your best interest to purchase (my weakness: peanut butter)
  • Buy ingredients, not Products
    • I know those microwavable meals are quick, convenient, seemingly healthy and therefore very appealing, but you are better off, and your bank account is better off, to buy ingredients to make a meal instead.
  • Buy basic ingredients (seasonings, curry paste, fresh garlic, onion powder..)
    • Get versatile ingredients so you can make a tasty last-minute meal with random pantry and fridge items so you won’t reach for the take-out menu.
  • Pick your Battles
    • Organic? Grass-fed? Free-range? Local? Sometimes a person just needs to eat the inorganic eggs or bananas, and I get that. However, some choices are better than others still.
      • Avoid conventionally raised chicken, pork, and organ meats (NO CAFO PRODUCTS)
      • On occasion its okay to buy inorganic: lamb, eggs, some natural cheeses; After all, a breakfast of inorganic eggs is better than one with organic cereal…
      • Okay most of the time: canned fish-salmon, skipjack tuna, sardines, and herring
      • Check out The Dirty Dozen list of produce that you will want to make sure to buy organic: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes (1)
    • Cut our the Extras
      • It is always possible to cut out some extra spending. Some suggestions: coffee, bottled water, certain supplements
    • Skip the Filet Mignon
      • There are cheaper cuts of meat you can buy that are still very nutrient dense. Not to mention organs are rather cheap and SUPER healthy, though they do sometimes require a more adventurous pallet. You can also buy bone-in cuts to make stocks which will provide lots of nutrients and save money too!
    • Less eating out
      • Alright, let’s break down a version of the example I said earlier from my client…If you were to eat out once a day for a month: $15/meal x 1x/day for a month (30 days) = $450! $15 may be more than what you spend on a meal, but I bet if you were to make some calculations from what you DO spend going out to eat, you would be surprised.

 

 

Well, I hope this helps some! I truly believe it is possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank, and I want it for EVERYONE. Food is your lifeline and it is important to care what goes into your body if you want to live your life to the fullest.

 

Therese Martinez

 

 

  1. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php/dirty_dozen_list.php#.Wbm2va3MzVo
Therese Martinez, MS, RD, CPT

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