Making it Affordable
In much of Good Food for Bad Cooks, we talk about getting the highest-quality meat, eggs and produce possible. For most people, this reads:
“BUY THE MOST EXPENSIVE MEAT, EGGS AND PRODUCE POSSIBLE.”
And honestly, if we continue shopping at the same places, we WILL end up buying more expensive food when we make the switch.
One pound of “Regular” ground beef costs half as much as one pound of “Grass fed” ground beef at the same grocery store.
“Pasture-raised” eggs cost twice as much as “regular” eggs.
“Standard” chicken is half the price of “Organic” chicken.
And organic fruits and veggies? Pssh. Fuggedabout it. Open your wallet and empty your bank account!
But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way!
…if we CHANGE HOW WE SHOP – and know the “exceptions to the rules.”
AND REMEMBER: This can be done ONE STEP AT A TIME. You don’t have to clear your whole refrigerator and transform your kitchen and how you cook all at once. This can be done gradually: one basket at the farm market, one pound of good beef, one meal at a time.
Do what you can, when you can, when you can afford it.
DON’T let not being able to go “all out” stop you from trying at all.
You will ALWAYS pay more for the “good stuff” when you buy it from the same place as “the other stuff.” So what to do? Shop differently!
The most affordable food out there is bought DIRECTLY from the producers:
- the farmers who raise it (check out EatWild.com to find a farmer near you)
- the growers who grow it (check out LocalHarvest.org to find a grower or a farmer’s market near you)
- through CSA (community supported agriculture) services who grow your food for you (check out LocalHarvest.org to find a local CSA and to see how it works)
If budgeting is a priority, stick with starchy vegetables when you can – like sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots and even white potatoes. They’re filling, chock-full of healthy fiber and carbohydrates, and they provide EXPONENTIALLY more nutrition calorie-for-calorie than expensive, less filling options like lettuce, broccoli, or cauliflower.
Shopping for meat
The most affordable way to buy “good meat” is to buy direct from a local farmer. This will save a bit, but to save THE MOST: go in on a “cowshare,” a “pigshare,” or a “whatever-animal-you-want-share.” A whole animal – and all the meat and trimmings – is sold to you (or a group who chooses to split it) for a fraction of the supermarket per-pound price.
Don’t worry – you won’t have a giant side of beef hanging in your freezer. It’s raised, butchered and packaged (just like it’s packaged at the store) for you.
This makes a SIGNIFICANT slice in price. The sacrifice? You’ll become completely addicted to buying this way. It’s amazing!
Here are the possible challenges and solutions:
- You can’t find anyone to split the “share” with. If this is the case, inquire with your farmer as to whether he has customers in mind who would like to split the share. You can end up with as little as 1/8 share, which would fill a standard freezer.
- You end up with cuts you’re not familiar with. If you’re used to only eating ground beef, a T-Bone steak might not be your favorite cut. That’s something you can learn to love, but you’ve got to be willing. Or you can buy a meat grinder and turn everything into ground beef yourself!
- You can’t afford to buy in bulk. This is common. Buying a share of a cow means paying for every pound up front, and even though this is much cheaper in the long run, it can be a sacrifice in the short-term. So start saving pennies! Put your dollars and change in a jar, and eventually, you’ll have enough to buy that share.
If you simply can’t consider changing the meats you buy right now, just opt for the leanest cuts of meat you can. The toxins and negative nutrition from feedlots and factory farms is stored in the animal’s fat, so opt for lean beef and white meat.
You WILL need to “make up for” the lost nutrition and satiation that you’d get from properly-raised animal fat, so be sure to consider high-quality ghee, raw milk or cod liver oil, or the less-expensive “odd bits,” to supplement nutrition. Be sure to get healthful plant fats as needed as well.
Shopping for fruits
Buying organic fruit at the grocery store is expensive. Most farm markets and CSAs have extremely affordable, seasonal options, but at the store, follow this rule of thumb:
If the skin is thick and you’re going to peel it off before you eat the fruit, you can feel safe buying conventional. If you’re going to eat the skin of the fruit, buy organic whenever possible.
For even MORE information on organic vs. conventional, pesticide residues, the Environmental Working Groups’ “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen,” and safe produce, see this page from the Environmental Working Group.Clean fifteen, dirty dozen, and more Pesticide residues
Shopping for veggies
Buying organic veggies at the grocery store is expensive. Most farm markets and CSAs have extremely affordable, seasonal options, but at the store, follow this rule of thumb:
If the skin is going to be peeled off before you eat the vegetable, you can feel safe buying conventional. If there is no skin, or you’re going to eat the entire vegetable without peeling, buy organic whenever possible.
Even better: grow your own veggies! Seeds are dirt cheap (pun intended) and growing your own veggies is an exciting, fun way to feed yourself. I buy seeds from RareSeeds.com and use The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible as my go-to resource.
Shopping for healthy fats
When you’re on a budget, healthy fats are a GREAT place to prioritize spending because they’re rich in the kind of energy (calories) that also balances hunger and hormones; and many of them are full of fat-soluble vitamins.
If the priority is TRULY being well-nourished and properly fed while saving money, fat is your best friend. You can actually eat smaller portions – thereby not needing to spend money on more “volume” to fill your plate – while getting more nutrition and energy when relying on good, healthy fats.
Fats also help make the nutrition in vegetables more available to the body – so be sure to cook your veggies with a healthy fat. Buttered sweet potato, here I come!
- A high-quality bottle of olive oil (like Kasandrinos.com) will last you a very long time, while providing the antioxidants and polyphenols from cold-pressed olives.
- An avocado (catch ‘em when they’re on sale!) provides fiber, healthy fat, and filling nutrition. Go ahead and eat the whole thing!
- High-quality butter costs just a few dollars (I like the butter from my local farmer, KerryGold brand, or any import from Ireland or Iceland) and it’s full of vitamin A, vitamin K2 and healthy fat.
- Quality Ghee (like OMGhee or Pure Indian Foods ghee) is more expensive, but the nutrition is highly concentrated: vitamins A and K2 are abundant in ghee.
- If you buy a cowshare or pigshare, ask for the tallow or lard. You’ll get a vat of it – and it’s full of nutrition. Pastured pig lard, in particular, is a phenomenal source of vitamin D.
Making a new way of eating affordable does require getting over the “learning curve” and changing the way we eat, shop and cook…but IT’S POSSIBLE and it’s FUN!
Nothing worth doing is easy; and as adults, we often want change to come to us while still staying “set in our ways.”