How’s your Saturday going? 🙂
I want to jump right in to this topic because Saturdays, for me, are grocery shopping days. This is often kind of a sore topic when talking with anyone about making dietary changes because the common response is “Healthy food is so expensive!” and “I just can’t afford it.”
Before I go further, I want to address that I do absolutely understand the very real situation of poverty. It does exist and it’s unfortunate. In cases like that, food choices are more about basic survival and less about what’s healthy or unhealthy, and I can appreciate those efforts and that situation as well. However, many people who are well above the poverty line might not realize that they can indeed afford healthier foods. So as the title here states, it’s all about perspective.
So first, let’s be real here. In terms of straight forward numbers, yes, things like pastured eggs and meats, and organic produce, the prices are higher. So I definitely understand why this is intimidating. BUT….
Let’s take a look in your pantry and see what you’re spending your money on….
Items like sugary cereals, soda/sports drinks/fruit juices, snacks like chips/pretzels, basically anything pre-packaged. These items are nutritionally empty, and full of dangerous ingredients like an overabundance of sugar, rancid cooking oils, chemical flavorings, dyes, etc, so from a health standpoint, it’s actually a waste of money.
Probably the easiest way to stop eating these products is to simply stop buying them. Seriously. I’ve been there. I’ve always been pretty into nutrition, but I will admit I was once the goldfish/Cheerios mom. And once I decided to stop giving these to my kids, I was in a little bit of a panic mode. “What are they going to snack on?” / “They’re going to hate me, these are their favorites.” / “I feel like such a mean mom.” / I was expecting battles and tears. Do you want to know what really happened? Nothing. They didn’t ask for it. Ever, actually. I had healthier replacements like cut up fruits and vegetables, homemade squeeze packets (basically a smoothie for babies), etc. They were totally fine! And you will be too.
That being said, it’s very possible that it’ll take some time to really switch over to a real-food pantry. Go in baby steps if that’s what it would take for these changes to stick. As a first step, for example, stop buying soda. Remember you can drink water! So good for you! If you miss that carbonation, a fabulous soda replacement is kombucha, full of healthy bacteria for your gut. Or even some sparkling mineral water. Squeeze in some lemon or lime juice for a little flavor. Avoid bottled flavored waters because of the chemical flavorings and added sugars. So anyway, looking at what you’re spending your money on now will help you work on replacing the processed foods with healthier choices rather than trying to ADD them to your already existing grocery bill.
Where else is your money going? Think about this for a second. We are surrounded today with incredible technological advances like smartphones and tablets, developmental/recreational classes for our kids, vehicles, name brands, etc, and not to mention a basic competition and expectation to have “nice things”. None of these are needed to survive, but food is needed. Good health is needed. Purchasing and consuming good quality food should be a priority. Did you know, as of 2014, Americans only spend about 6.5% of their annual income on groceries? (It increases to 11% when you account for eating out at restaurants, but that’s hardly healthy.) I think this is a real problem. I’ll restate my previous sentence that good quality food should be a priority. Check out these graphs about US spending in comparison to other countries.
I’d love to find a graph comparing the amount spent on groceries (which can reflect the quality of food) to doctor visits/sick days. More perspective to consider. How much are you spending on your healthcare insurance, and doctor visits, and pharmacy prescriptions, and gas to get to the doc and pharmacy, and missed work days? That can be a major factor when trying to find your “Why” in deciding to make some dietary changes.
And what about your daily life? Are you someone that buys fast food often and/or coffee drinks? Aside from being incredibly unhealthy, these are actually pretty expensive. If you get a grande Starbucks latte every week, that’s roughly $5 for one drink…about $20/month. Did you know that could buy about 3 dozen organic pastured eggs to do numerous things with? Perspective!
So what are some ways to begin switching over to healthier choices without breaking the bank?
Start slow. As I mentioned before, it can be better and not so overwhelming to take baby steps. Replace your soda with water, first and foremost, for the most cost effective beverage. You may want to purchase a filter for your tap, or something like a Brita filtered pitcher. (There are different types of filters, but we won’t go into that right now.) Pick a processed pantry staple to replace, one at a time. You’ll start to feel the difference in your personal health and wellbeing over time and with baby steps, you won’t feel deprived during your adjustment.
Choose single ingredient foods! There’s a LOT of information out there, and a lot of marketing gimmicks. It’s so hard to know if you’re doing the right thing for your health. If you stick to single ingredient foods, you don’t even have to worry about reading and deciphering a label because these foods don’t have one! Things like fruits, vegetables, wild caught salmon, chicken, quinoa, beans, lentils, eggs, raw nuts. All one single food.
Don’t jump for the big guns right away. What I mean by this is don’t feel like you HAVE to buy the organic pastured eggs and organic grass fed beef all the time. It depends where you’re coming from here in deciding where to make changes, that fit your income. If switching from frozen chicken nuggets to homemade chicken nuggets, but with commercial chicken, that’s still a definite improvement! So don’t think there’s only one way to make healthy choices.
Consider variety. If the quality is something that is definitely important to you, but truthfully can’t afford to purchase the best of the best all the time, consider the cheaper and still healthy options and alternate. For example, you want organic pasture raised chicken or organic 100% grass fed beef but have to feed a family of five and can’t afford to buy all that meat each week. A fabulous replacement would be lentils! They are chalk full of protein and nutrients, are crazy cheap, and super versatile.
Do what you can. This doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” process. Switching out just one or two products for healthier options is a great leap in the right direction. And if that’s where you have to stop, that’s ok!
Avoid the sugar. If you can only make one change, I’d say to dramatically reduce your sugar. It’s in soooo many things! Soda, cereal, chips, bread, candy, fruit juices, low fat/fat free anything. Sugar is the source of so many health problems. I’ll probably be doing a whole separate post on just the dangers of sugars. This is such a wonderful place to make a change, even if this is the only one to make.
So next time you are making your grocery list, or meal planning, and you write off the healthier stuff as “just too expensive”, use these ideas to put your spending into perspective and figure out if it genuinely is too much to afford or if you’re using that excuse as a crutch to lean on the convenience foods.
In good health and happy shopping,