Healthy Food, Healthy Wallet

Happy New Year!  At a little over a week into 2013, I think it’s time we talked about shopping. I’ve had this post stewing in my head since I started writing this blog back in May.  My own budget is going to be tighter this season as I save up for a possible move in July and continue the never-ending search for the perfect second job.  Thus, I’ll be following my own simple rules for a healthy body and a healthy budget.

First rule for healthy eating:  Avoid packaged, processed foods.  Chances are, if it has more than a few ingredients, it’s really bad for you. Additionally, whatever it is can probably be made at home for far less money (compare the cost of my Black Bean Burgers  to some packaged variety).  My only major exception to this is plant-based milk.  I use it for baking, pancakes, and smoothies and alway get it unsweetened.  The store brands at big health food chain stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are usually the least expensive.  Even at its high price, it still is often cheaper than organic cow’s milk.  Read up on why cow’s milk is bad for you.

Second rule for healthy eating:  Actually, do I need another?  Ummm…Eat more plants!  There are plenty of experts on the internet who can help you with this.  Check out VegSource for more information.  They can link you to all kinds of helpful things.

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Moving along to shopping for those foods…

First rule for a healthy wallet:  Look at the unit price.  That means the price per pound/ounce/gallon/gram etc.  I learned this trick at an early age from my mom, the ultimate bargain-shopping champion.  Unit price is usually printed in tiny letters on the price sticker that’s on the rack at the store.  From there you can tell what’s cheapest for the amount you’re getting.  The bigger package is not always better!  At my local store, black beans are $1.49/lb if you get a one pound bag.  The three pound bag almost always costs more per pound.

Second rule for a healthy wallet:  Shop around and jot down what things cost (unit price!) at different stores.  This is how I know that frozen spinach, edamame, and blueberries are the best price per pound at Trader Joe’s rather than my local grocery.  (I’m a nerd and have a spreadsheet comparing different stores.)  On the flip side, conventionally grown produce is nearly always cheaper at the little Korean market up the street.  That’s a plus, since I like to buy fruits and veggies throughout the week based on what’s on sale.  All I have to do is walk past on my way home.  Pay attention to quality too. Apples are one thing I never fail to buy at the farmers’ market, even though they cost a little more per pound.  They just taste better when they are fresh and local.  To me, that’s worth a little extra money.

Third rule for a healthy wallet:  Keep certain staple items in stock in your pantry and freezer.  For me that means a variety of dried beans (cheaper than canned by a long shot), a variety of whole grains, some canned goods (tomatoes, pumpkin), and frozen produce (always spinach, usually peas and edamame, as well as berries and bananas for smoothies).  I also usually have some nuts and seeds, as well as raisins, whole wheat pasta, root vegetables (potatoes are always a bargain!), and a loaf of frozen sprouted bread.  For beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, I find the bulk bins at a nearby natural food store very helpful.  They are not always cheaper than what I can get at Trader Joe’s, but it’s always worth a look, especially when I want something unusual.  TJ’s is great for brown rice ($1.09/lb!) and nuts, but they don’t have fun things like wheat berries and millet and fava beans.

Getting back to those first two things about healthy eating:  I honestly believe that if you take care of your body now, you’ll save on medical bills later.  Some might attribute my lean figure and low cholesterol to my age, but I don’t.  My family has a long history of weight and heart problems.  I’m determined to beat my genetics.  I’m slim because I eat foods that aren’t very calorie dense and because I walk a lot.  Can’t say for sure why my cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure are so low, but I’ll bet it has something to do with the plants I eat.  Give your body the right fuel and it won’t let you down.

Any questions?  Cheers to your health!

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