Make It Affordable

Let’s call it my health bill rather than the grocery bill

Cost is frequently cited as an obstacle to healthier eating habits. But cost can be more a matter of how I categorize it. There are huge costs to the way we are now eating: high cost of illness, pollution of the soil, loss of soil, disconnection to nature, depression, garbage created from processed food, etc.

Yes, some costs are easier to measure than others. But what would happen if I added sickness costs to my grocery bill? Let’s add the cost of working days lost to illness, additional doctor’s appointments, gas for driving to doctor’s appointments, pharmacy expenses, etc? What would my health/grocery bill look like then?

Skewed Costs

It’s also helpful to remember, our government and food industry have greatly skewed the cost of food in this country. Here are two simple yet critical examples:

1) Our government has chosen to subsidize corn and soy on a massive scale. As a result, large segments of the food industry have chosen to feed that cheap corn to cattle. This creates a warped situation where a burger is cheaper to buy than carrots. That’s a HUGE distortion considering the amount of land, feed, butchering and transportation is involved in raising meat versus growing vegetables.

2) Much of the food industry, in the drive to increase profits, has replaced natural flavors and colors with petroleum based taste-a-likes and look-a-likes. Yes, petroleum. It’s pretty amazing actually. Scientists have been able to turn petroleum into food flavors, colors and preservatives AND make them so they distort our taste buds and get addicted. AND somehow all that research, technology and production is cheaper than real food too. Remember, their goal is to get me to buy their food again and again—what better way to get me hooked than with cheap, addictive ingredients?

Making it Affordable

And, yes, in addition to the long term benefits where I save on my overall health/grocery expenses, there are ways to shop that can save me significant amounts of money.

  • Think produce. Single item foods. A bag of carrots is far more filling and satisfying than a bag of chips. Slice the carrot flat and thin so it becomes a scooper for hummus.
  • Just don’t buy the processed foods. Those desserts, chips, cookies can’t call my name if they are not there.When the cabinets or freezer is full of convenience foods, it is incredibly difficult to do my own cooking. So it’s much easier to not have it in the home.
  • Don’t fill the cabinets and fridge to overflowing. When there’s too much around, I often neglect the freshest, most nutritious foods for the easiest, most convenient.
  • Think produce. Single ingredient foods. Fresh, crisp veggies are wonderful replacements for  chips. A handful of carrots is far more filling and nutritionally satisfying than a bag of chips. Slice the carrot flat and thin so it becomes a scooper for hummus.
  • Find the bulk bins. This is key. Buying from the bulk bins saves me on packaging and marketing costs. This is how I can afford organic foods. Buying organic bulk can often be the same price as prepackaged, smaller quantities of the conventional sort. Tips on storing your bulk foods.
  • Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. I can buy a share in the farm’s crops and over the growing season, the farm distributes food to the members. Many CSA’s follow organic principles but don’t pay the Federal fee to be certified and labeled as organic.
  • Shop the local farmer’s market. Many take food stamps and even double the value since veggies are being bought! My money will stay within my community. And farmer’s earn more through direct sales, allowing them to have more resources to care for the land.
  • I don’t need to stop eating meat, but consider eating less of it. Meat is expensive. A pound of sausage can feed a family of 8 if it is mixed in with the rice and a veggie, instead of being served as a main course.
  • Join the Meatless Monday festivities! Families from all over the globe are using Meatless Mondays to get the week off to a delicious, nutritious start! Need inspiration? Check out recipe ideas here.
  • Start growing my food. Even if all I have is a sunny window, use it! Plant some fresh herbs that I can use in my cooking. The smell, feel and taste of fresh herbs is a great way to create excitement for clean eating.
  • Plant a garden. Discover the joy of growing my own food and tasting food fresh off the vine. As Ron Finley says, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Do it. Live in an urban environment? There’s tons of examples of urban gardening–not an excuse.
  • Waste less food. Clean food sometimes costs more, use that as an incentive to make sure it gets eaten. Just 3 to 4 generations back families were extremely careful not to waste food. Ask parents or grandparents what it was like during the Depression. Nothing was wasted. In current times, many of those valuable habits have been neglected.

For instance, how often has fresh food been bought with the intention of cooking it for dinner but in the rush of activities and work, that fresh food gets left alone in favor of the easy processed food that just gets popped in the oven. So what gets thrown out, the processed food with little nutritional value and artificial ingredients? Too often it’s the fresh vegetables that need to be prepared. Maybe once I start paying more for clean, nutrient-rich foods, I’ll make sure they get used.