Can you eat a healthy diet on a tight budget?

I recently switched to a vegetarian diet. The last time I gave up animal protein I  was in my 20’s. It had more to do with my love of animals than my desire to be healthy. Lately,  the more I read, the more I am convinced that a plant based diet is the best choice for us human beings. My dog is another story. She does best on a raw meat diet. So I recently decided to become a vegetarian…again. More about this later.

Today I saw an article about how expensive it is to eat a healthy diet and it inferred that wealthy people eat much healthier diets than poor people. I don’t think you can make that generalization as I know many people who are very comfortable financially that eat unhealthy diets.  Earning a 6 figure income does not necessarily mean someone is smart about nutrition.

I do agree that it can be very expensive to eat a healthy diet if you choose to eat only organic foods. Yesterday I was shopping at Whole Foods and nearly went into shock when the cashier rang up my groceries. I bought 2 lbs of organic carrots, a few pints of organic blueberries, some kale, pears, oranges, some creamed soup in the box, flax seeds, 1 lb of cashews  and the bill was over $50!!! My non-food bills are high and take a good chunk out of my paycheck. It doesn’t leave me a lot of disposable income for food. However,  I have decided to put every available penny towards buying the healthiest and freshest food I can. Why? Because when it comes right down to it…nothing is more important than your health and what you eat can have an enormous impact on your well-being. There’s a lot we can’t control that affects our health …..genetics, air pollution etc. …but we do have control over the foods we eat and eating a healthy diet really makes a difference. As I keep mentioning…it’s all about choices. Organic fruits and veggies are not sprayed with pesticides and are grown in soil that is nutrient dense..hence the veggies are more nutrient dense. And they just taste a helluva lot better.

When I was 21 I was living with my boyfriend in a 200 sq. foot apartment.  We were both making minimum wage and in order to conserve money we lived on Top Ramen, white bread and white rice for at least a year. I shudder to think of the effect a diet like that had on my health but when you are just trying to survive it’s hard to look at the big picture. We were basically eating a 100% carb diet that provided us with glucose and hardly anything else. I am sure I was deficient in lots of nutrients back then. We should have spent a little extra money on a few bananas, some organic eggs and brown rice ( a total of maybe $2 a day). If you eat a diet that you know is bad for you it will catch up with you eventually. Maybe not next week or next month or even next year…but it will eventually. And those little aches and pains, migraines headaches, colds that last 2 months are your body’s way of telling you that you are slacking. Listen to your body!

Even if your budget is really tight, I urge you to try and get at least a few servings of ORGANIC fruits and veggies into your daily diet. It will cost a couple of extra dollars per day but it is sooo worth it. Remember – cheap food is cheap for a reason. It probably contains genetically modified soy or corn and salt or sugar…none of which is good for you

Like everyone else, I dream of winning the lottery and one of the many reasons (aside from buying my dream house) is so I can walk into a Whole Foods Market and shop with wild abandon. $6.99 for that small pint of organic blueberries?? no problem…I’ll take 5!

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2 Responses to Can you eat a healthy diet on a tight budget?

  1. Kas says:

    I was just thinking about you when I was clipping my coupons. I’ve been doing some “extreme couponing” and then buying produce at the local farmer’s market. Great post – eating healthy is too often expensive, and it shouldn’t be that way. I recently watched Food Inc. (made me sick to my stomach) and it’s just heartbreaking that it costs an arm and a leg to eat healthy but yet you can feed your whole family for just dollars if you eat junk.

    • Debbie Cohen says:

      Hey Kas- I think it’s great that you have found a way to fit fresh produce into your budget.

      It depends how you frame your outlook. Let’s say you normally eat something sweet from Starbucks for breakfast with a cup of coffee. That’s about $5.00 and provides you with nothing but sugar and caffeine. Or you could eat some organic steel cut oatmeal with an organic banana and a few tablespoons of blueberries and a small amount of nuts, I estimate that would cost about $2.50 tops and is very healthy. Or for dinner, maybe you have a $3.00 Lean Cuisine…full of salt and preservatives and hardly anything good for you…or you could have a cup of brown rice with a broccoli stir fry which altogether costs maybe $3.50 and serves 2-3 people. Once you decide that what you eat is as important as everything else in your life you won’t want to put crap in your body because it’s a waste of money and you will see that it’s really not that much more expensive and in some cases cheaper to eat healthy and organic.

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