Many of us want to incorporate more fresh produce in our diets, but are intimidated by the cost. And why wouldn’t we be? Take a stroll into Whole Foods (also known as “Whole Paycheck”) and we’re greeted by pricey produce that can set the average family back financially. While in an ideal world we’d all be able to consume perfect vibrantly-colored delicious organic produce that was grown sustainably at the local farm and spoken to in soothing, dulcet tones, it’s just not feasible in the real world where people are saving money and struggling to make ends meet. So how can we eat healthy on a budget? Here are a few tips.
1. Go local. If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with a farmer’s market or farm stand, be sure to visit it. You may be surprised where you’ll find one; there’s a small farm stand in the residential neighborhood down the street from where I live that you’d hardly notice unless you were looking for it. The family grows tomatoes, beans and other yummy staples on their property and sells the excess. Or instead of shopping at a large supermarket chain, look for small, produce-heavy markets in your community. The added benefit of buying your produce locally is that it keeps money in your community–you’ll boost the economic vitality of the community while you improve your physically vitality. It’s a win-win!
2. Go frozen. If you live in a food desert or don’t have a local farmer’s market nearby, frozen produce is the best alternative. It’s just as good nutritionally and will last much longer than fresh produce.
3. Shop discount. Major retailers like Walmart and Target have expanded their produce sections to include a variety of organic produce. Since most areas now have one or both of these stores, it’s an option for folks who want to eat well and get all of their shopping done in one fell swoop.
4. Be selective about the organic produce you buy. You don’t have to buy everything organic. It’s ideal, but it’s not mandatory. Anything with a peel that you throw away can be bought conventionally. However, fruit and veg with a thin skin or a skin that you don’t peel you should buy organic if you can afford it.
5. Grow it yourself. The ideal solution if you don’t have access to fresh, local produce is to get your hands dirty and grow it yourself. Most popular veggies and herbs can be grown in a pot, whether indoors or on a patio. Either grow from seed or go to your local hardware store, plant nursery or major retailer and pick up tomato plants, greens, pole beans, squash, cucumbers, basil, parsley and all of your other favorite veggies. Plant them in a pot with some dirt near a window or outside, add water and soon you’ll be able to harvest your own produce from the comfort of your home.
Healthy quick tip: Short on time? Cook your meals ahead of time (like on Sunday) in a slow cooker, and freeze or refrigerate portions for every day of the week.