Eating healthy when your resources are limited.

posted in: Holistic Wellness | 2
Red Beans

Melina Bee raised a really good point on my post, How to Eat Healthy:

I think more than just a basic understanding of nutrition, though, the difficult also lies in access to nutritious food and cost.

I totally agree and that is a challenge. I would say for anyone struggling to afford nutritious food or who can't shop for fresh food often because of distance or whatever the case may be, would be to shop bulk foods and build a diet around good grains like brown rice and oats, lots of beans for protein, (especially black beans, they have a TON of antioxidants!) and good fats like olive oil or sunflower oil or at least real butter.

Then, as you are able to, add in fresh produce and other sources of protein. Try to get a good variety of color in, and if you are really limited, start with green – according to dietitian Jill Nussinow, “Greens are the No. 1 food you can eat regularly to help improve your health.” Carrots are another great, cheap veggie and they will last in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Bananas are really cheap but they go bad quickly. Check out what's on sale as you shop and build your menu around the more inexpensive produce or produce that will keep longer, depending on what your limitations are.

I would also recommend buying flax seeds to grind up and put in your baked goods, sprinkle on your oatmeal, or put in smoothes. They have lots of fiber and are rich in omegas and other minerals. They are cheap, too if you buy them from the bulk foods – I usually pay around 2.89 a pound and that lasts 2-3 weeks for me and my family. (I mostly put them in smoothies and muffins.)

As far as non-plant sources of protein go, I would start with whole chickens and canned tuna. Whole chickens are really cost-effective and then you can make awesome, nutritious soup stock from the bones and veggie scraps. Tuna is great because it's fairly inexpensive and fish is really good for us!

To wrap up, here is what my shopping list would look like for a week if I only had $40 to spend for my family – one man, one woman and a toddler:

  • Oats ($3)
  • Brown rice ($3)
  • Flax ($1.50)
  • Black beans ($3)
  • Olive oil ($5)
  • Kale ($4)
  • Carrots ($3)
  • Frozen peas ($2)
  • Eggs ($3)
  • 1 Whole Chicken ($8)
  • Tuna ($3)
If I ended up with a couple extra dollars, I would run and grab some cheese – mostly just because I think it's yummy, but the calcium helps too.
I have to add something here though: I get a lot of free food. In the fall, my dad and I go pick loads of apples, so if I can't buy fruit one week, it's not a big deal –  I can just pull a carton of apples out of the freezer. I also get a lot of  extra veggies and berries from him and other gardeners that I preserve. I know that's not the case for everyone. If you want to save money on food or stock up on things that you don't always have access to (or both!) then you should definitely learn to preserve food – canning, freezing, drying, etc.
This list probably isn't perfect, and it would probably look different for your family, but my point is that eating good food is doable – even if you're only replacing one unhealthy meal a day with a more nutritious one, it's a start.
What would you buy if you had a really tight budget for the week?
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Kylie Wiser is an herbalist, writer, and educator on plant-based living. She founded Everblossom in 2009.

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2 Responses

  1. Laura

    What a great article! Eating healthy can be extremely cost prohibitive, it’s great to see you break down what to buy like this!

  2. 6 side hustle ideas » Everblossom

    […] probably not going to have a lot of money. Be wise with how you spend; Pay your bills, buy your (good! wholesome! fresh!) food, tend to your health, maintain your vehicle, save for emergencies. Save the splurging for […]

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