5 Budget Saving Tips to Sustainable Eating
By Amanda Louden
February 8, 2009
Times are tough, and everyone (at least everyone I know) is counting pennies. Food is often one of the biggest expenses, especially for families. It is evident by the rise in fast food dollar menus that people are turning to inexpensive, low quality food in order to eat on a budget. I believe that eating well (real food that’s sustainable) doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, eating high quality traditional foods such as beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables are very inexpensive and allow enough room in a budget for higher priced sustainably raised meat, eggs, and dairy.
Here are 5 Tips to eating well while remaining on a budget.
1. Increase Produce
An average family of two parents and 2.5 children ages 6-17, should be spending a minimum of $160 per month on fresh produce. $40 a week on produce is a lot of food, especially if you are shopping a local farmers market where good deals along with local produce are abundant.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) states that a typical family meeting the description above consumes only $46.75 per month on fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead of fresh produce people are eating too much fast food, snack foods, and other processed foods. According to the BLS, the typical family consumes $336 in meals outside of the home each month. That’s a lot of money going to food where quality is questionable.
To give you an idea of how inexpensive produce can be, let’s look at a few of the items that I bought this past weekend at the farmers market.
1 large bunch of Carrots = $1
1 large bunch of Turnips = $1
1 large head of Kale = $1.50
1 large head of Sweet Chard = $1.50
2 Russet Potatoes = $1
1 large stem of Brussels Sprouts (approx 3 dozen sprouts) = $7.00
Soups and stews are a great use for vegetables, especially the weird ones! Spending approximately $40 per week on a fresh fruits and vegetables paves the foundation for a healthy life.
2. Make Meat a Side dish
While recognizing that some people do better on vegetarian diets, most people do not. I do not advocate for most people to give up meat. I love meat and consume it in some form almost daily. But meat, in all of its glory, is better off as a side dish. Sustainably raised meat, eggs and dairy are a lot more expensive than their commercially raised counterparts. Eating high quality sustainably raised meats are often the last step people take to eating well. Small servings along side a heaping load of produce, grains and/or legumes is not only a healthier way to eat, but saves your greenbacks too. By consuming meat as a side dish, you will be stretching those roasts and whole birds into multiple meals thus saving you countless dollars.
3. Add Beans and Grains for a Source of Protein and Unrefined Carbohydrate
Beans and grains are cheap! Combined together and, like meat, make a complete protein. Depending on the bean or grain, the price can vary from $.50 to $3 per pound. Personally, I like to wait for the more expensive items to go on sale and typically don’t spend more that $1.50/lb on any one legume or grain. Combining beans and grains in a soup or salad create a tasty and versatile meal or side dish.
Some of my favorite beans are:
• Black Beans
• Black-eyed peas
• Butter Beans
• Cannellini Beans
• Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
• Cranberry Beans
• Great Northern Beans
• Kidney Beans
• Lima Beans
• Mung Beans
• Navy Beans
• Pinto Beans
• White Beans
Some of my favorite grains are:
• Brown Rice
• Oat Groats
4. Buy What You Need And Eat What You Buy
Why do we waste so much food? There was a time (long ago) when I would throw out bags of spoiled or unwanted foods each week. It’s so simple people BUY WHAT YOU NEED AND EAT WHAT YOU BUY! Don’t buy the whole bunch of carrots if you only need two for a recipe. If for some reason you don’t get around to consuming the two carrots, chop them up and throw them in your freezer until your next pot of vegetable soup. Everything can be frozen. Think of the large food manufacturers that make frozen foods and meals. You can too. Leftover produce, grains, beans, or meat make great additions to soup, salad or simply freeze them for later use…I give you permission.
And remember, it’s only a “good deal” if you need it! 10 for $10 is only a good deal if you need 10! My dear friend buys anything that is on sale. She loves a bargain and will buy any sale item without have a purpose for “it.” Say it with me, buy what you need and eat what you buy!
Consumers save money when they don’t waste. We don’t waste when we buy only what we need.
5. Get organized
Getting organized is extremely important for saving money and eating well. It requires a “planning-shopping system” that works for you and your family. When a plan is in place, it’s easy for consumers to buy only what they need.
By getting organized and having a plan, a consumer can save both valuable time and money. Having a shopping list that is derived from a meal plan allows the consumer to walk into a grocery store or farmers market with a purpose and shop efficiently. When a meal plan is in place the age old question, “what’s for dinner?” is already answered, and relieves stress. Because a shopping list was created directly from the meal plan, you will have all of the necessary ingredients to make a healthy home cooked meal; and therefore, are less likely to pack up the family and head to the local drive through.
How do I do it?
• Twice a month I stock up on sustainably raised meats, grains, and beans that are on sale.
• On Fridays, I meal plan. I plan almost all of my meals, breakfast lunch and dinner. A good place to start is with 4 to 6 dinners which seems doable for most people. A shopping list is derived from the meal plan.
• On Saturdays, I hit the farmers market and load up on my produce. Then I hit the grocery store on the way home for anything else my family needs.