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How to eat healthy and organic food on a budget

12 March 2015 Rebecca Neale

How to eat healthy and organic food on a budget

How can you afford to eat healthy, organic food all the time? People are always asking me that…it’s a fair question, as I am a full time student on a very low, next to nothing income.

Organic meat, organic vegetables and fruits – I eat only quality and in abundance of variety. But how? It’s very simple: I see food as an investment, an investment into my health, my future, and my one-day-to-be family’s future. I could spend my money on other things, but my priority is to sustain the healthy life I have and continue to nourish my mind and body with goodness.

According to a Forbes article:

“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.”

Of course people can’t afford organic meat and veggies if they only use 13% of their budget for this. If people stopped eating out so much they would be able to afford to eat well on a regular basis in their homes, leaving dining out as a treat for special occasions or only once every now and then.

Quality food should be your number one priority. Just think too, you will save money on doctors’ bills if you eat better, which in turn means more money in the kitty for the weekly shop.

Here are my top five tips for a healthier, more organic lifestyle.

1. Get informed

If you can’t buy all organic fruits and vegetables check out what should be top priority when it comes to organic. The team at the Environmental Working Group has put together a shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. It lists which produce is top priority when buying organic and which aren’t. Check out The Clean 15 and The Dirty Dozen.

2. Be careful in health food stores

I’m a sucker for this trap – you go into a health food store and start browsing the isles up and down…wow, so many cool and exciting yummy things! You grab a bag of coconut chips, a green juice, a yummy protein bliss ball and before you know it you've spent the same amount of money you could have spent on meat from the organic butcher or vegetables to make three or four days’ worth of super food salads.

All those fancy gluten free, nut free, dairy free, chips, pastries and sweet treats add up. And are they really that good for you? When my clients make the transition to healthy and more organic foods they often do it the wrong way. Pre-packaged foods can come at a high price, so think whole foods!

Instead of grabbing a $10 box of granola that won’t go far, why not make your own? Recipes can be found everywhere online that are simple, full of goodness and delicious. Or make your own bliss balls: a big batch of them can be kept in the fridge or freezer and last you weeks.

3. Go to farmers’ markets

On the weekends make it an adventure to seek out  nearby farms (if you're lucky enough to live close to some) or head to your local farmers’ markets and get to know your farmers. They are more than happy to share stories and tell you if they are spray free or what they use on their produce. Just because they aren’t deemed as ‘certified organic’ doesn’t mean they aren’t organically grown. Some farmers just can’t afford the hefty price tag that comes with being certified. My favourite places on the Gold Coast are:

  • Freemans Organic Farm, Currumbin Valley
  • Markets Saturdays at Burleigh – a select few farmers have ‘spray free’ produce
  • Miami Organic Markets on Sundays – the whole place is organic, go to the little farmers' stalls before heading to the bigger, more commercial ones as their costs are lower and they have better stories to tell.

For more tips on farmers’ markets head to my blog.

4. Buy in bulk

Bulk food stores are so exciting! But you can get so caught up in these places and spend way over your weekly budget. I call these stores candy stores for foodies. I could spend hours on end wandering around and grabbing different things to take home and bake with…you only need to open my cupboards to see how much I love them.

But there is a plus side to these stores, too – most are of high quality ingredients, and you can buy them in bulk, hence the name. Purchasing in bulk means you will save money in the long run. You also have the ability to see where the ingredients are sourced.

I am a sucker for recycling and minimal wastage, so I use mason jars or old cold press juice bottles to store my ingredients. These stores are helpful for those who want to start making more of their own bliss balls or slices and other things at home to save money.

I recommend the Source Bulk food at Miami on the Gold Coast or Helens in James Street, Burleigh – both have a large range of goodies.

5. Learn to read labels

I don’t recommend eating many packaged foods as most are highly processed and are not considered wholefoods and from nature’s pure state, in my opinion. But I do understand there are times when we do need things that come this way, so we must learn how to read labels.

Just because something says its ‘healthy’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘better for you’ does not mean it is! Don’t fall for the fat free, sugar free trap either.

Firstly, read the ingredients list. Can you understand it? Are there things on there that you have never even heard of, are they almost in another language or are they just simply numbers and letters that belong in a chemistry textbook? This would tell me they were created in a laboratory and probably far from being real food.

Become aware of greenwashing – false advertising and the food tick. I have lost count of the numerous foods I find with ticks on them that I almost have a mini heart attack over when I realise what they call good for you!

Just ask yourself, where did this come from? Did it grow in the ground or walk, swim or fly? Mother Nature won’t let you down, I promise.

Your health is your wealth, and I really believe that food is your medicine. As the Dali Lama says, ‘Happiness is your highest form of health’ – this couldn’t be closer to the truth. Whatever you do in life make sure it makes you smile.

This post first appeared on Food.Fitness.Wellness.

Rebecca Neale

About Rebecca Neale

Rebecca Neale is an Australian health and fitness ambassador for Body Science, a food and wellness blogger, sports model, online coach and personal trainer. She wakes up every morning with a burning desire to create positive change in the world around her.

After discovering first hand the impact the right nutrition, exercise and correct mindset can have on both physical and mental health Rebecca now believes that true wellbeing comes from within. She is currently studying her Bachelor degree in Health Science (Naturopathy) to continue following her dream to help as many as she can achieve high levels of wellbeing and to heal themselves naturally - mind and body.

View all articles by Rebecca Neale

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