Hubby and I started our food journey about 2 years ago, when we decided we wanted to start having kids. Originally, we thought we would just go cold turkey, and eat healthy EVERYTHING. No more junk food, all organic, blah blah blah. First off, eating 100% healthy is really hard, especially when it isn’t what you are used to eating. Secondly, it can be really expensive. Everyone seems to think that Bryan and I are pretty well off, and that just isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, we are so blessed. And God takes care of everything. But that doesn’t mean that money isn’t tight. We are paying for hubby’s education in cash. No debt. And tuition costs take almost 20% of our yearly salary. And I’m not saying this to get sympathy, or say “oh, look at us!” I’m saying this because there are ways to eat healthier without spending a fortune. So. Here is how hubby and I (and baby Jude) eat healthy on $300 a month.
*All of the following things are what I personally consider to be the biggest health changes we made that worked for us. I do what I can within our budget. Some things for us are nonnegotiable. Other things depend on whats on sale or how much money we have left at the end of the month. You have to pick and choose what you can and are willing to do
The first thing we did (after realizing that we could not turn into health gurus over night), was switch our oils. We had been using margarine and vegetable oil, which makes me shudder thinking I used to eat that crap. For reasons why you shouldn’t eat these bad oils, you can read here and here. A lot of health professionals still claim that artificial, highly processed oils are better for you then their natural alternatives, and here is a good article about why they think that. I personally am a solid believer in nature over factories. And that the idea of new diseases coming from old foods is total crap. but that’s just me. Anyways! Switching our diets from vegetable oil and margarine to butter and coconut oil costs us about 5 extra bucks a month (I buy in bulk when its on sale. i.e. Sprouts is selling organic coconut oil for 50% off this week. I will be buying at least 5 jars….). Good oils include coconut, walnut, palm, and olive (although olive oil turns into a bad oil if heated to much. It changes the chemistry. So I only use it on salads). Of all the things hubby and I have changed, the switch from bad to good oils has affected my health the most. I had several digestive issues since junior high that seemed to just disappear a week or 2 after we switched.
On the subject of butter, healthy food comes from healthy animals. Buying margarine? Bad. Buying butter? Good. Buying butter made by a happy, healthy cow? Better. Your typical commercial cow is fed a diet of corn and soy, the top 2 produced GMOs , instead of a grass based diet as nature intended (more info on GMO here). Your typical commercial cow is also pumped full of hormones and antibiotics to make them produce more/ get fatter faster. This is one of the things I have to negotiate on. My minimum requirement for dairy products is no hormones, but I don’t usually have room to buy the grass fed, organic products. And honestly, it really bugs me. But I deal with it. I’m doing the best that I can for my family.
The next thing we did was free. Actually, I would argue that it actually saves us money every month. We stopped buying cereal. For an example as to why, lets look at the Cheerios label. It’s typically considered a “healthy” choice, right? And babies love it! Here is the ingredients list for Honey Nut Cheerios:
Ingredients are listed in quantity order, greatest to least. So besides oats, sugar makes up most of Cheerios. Pretty typical in most processed food. And then there’s corn. Do you think General Mills shells out the money for non-GMO corn? No. They don’t. And then look! More sugar! I think you get my point. And as far as cereals go, Cheerios’s is still “healthier” then most. Have you ever seen at the end of an ingredients list “BHT added for freshness”? Yeah. BHT is an antioxidant, deemed unsafe in large amounts, and banned in a lot of first world countries, including most of Europe and Japan. Although all the research isn’t really available, I would personally rather avoid being part of the experiment. So all of this adds up to why cereal is nonnegotiable for me.
So how does not buying cereal save me money? Hubby used to go through a box of cereal and a gallon of milk every 3 to 5 days. That’s easily 6 bucks, totaling almost $40 a month just for hubby to eat breakfast. Now we get more bang for our buck by eating cheaper, healthier meals. Toast, eggs, yogurt, and 2 ingredient pancakes . Yum. We’ve gone from 5 gallons of milk a month to barely 2, which gives me money to buy organic. YAY!
Speaking of milk, do you know how skim milk is made? This article is a must read. Really gross, but good. Skim milk is a byproduct from taking the cream out of milk to make other products. It is naturally chalky, blue, and doesn’t taste like milk at all. Plus, fat is where the vitamins and minerals are. So you are drinking fake milk, full of empty calories and getting nothing from it. Which is why we switched to organic whole milk. We’ve also switched to whole fat yogurt. It tastes sooo much better then your typical low fat variety. This is one of the changes that has affected hubby more than me. Although he refuses to admit it, he has a dairy allergy. Usually, he just gets a nasty runny nose, but if he eats too much, it usually leads to an upset stomach and a migraine. But, with the organic and whole fat dairy products, his nose doesn’t even run. I think his allergies have more to do with the chemicals and processing rather then the dairy itself.
Eggs are a pretty big staple in our house as well. For us, organic is a must. This is one of those non negotiable things, both for my families health and the chickens. Honestly, I could write a whole blog about how commercial chicken farming is unsustainable and killing peoples health, and maybe I will later. But for now I’ll just leave it at this: healthy animals make healthy food. Here is an article about how to read egg carton labels. If they are on sale, I get pastured eggs, but that doesn’t happen as often as I like. The max I spend on a carton of eggs is $4, 3 times a month. And if we run out? Oh well. It is worth waiting rather then compromising on our health.
Some other quickie health tips:
- Buy real bread. This means it should only include ingredients you have at home. And I really hope you don’t have high fructose corn syrup just setting around your house.
- If sugar is one of the top 3 ingredients, reconsider your purchase. (Other names for sugar on labels include: Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids)
- If corn or a corn byproduct is an ingredient, buy organic. If the organic version is to expensive, consider why you wanted it in the first place.
- The more nutritionally dense your food is, the less hungry you will be. When you eat high calorie foods that are nutritionally empty, your body will tell you to eat more because it is looking for nutrients.
So I’ve dumped a lot of health information and not a lot of budget information. So here is the budgeting part :)
- Trade sugary snacks for healthy snacks. The money is already there. Instead of buying 2 boxes of cookies, spend the $6 bucks on produce.
- Try making a vegetarian meal. Seriously. Meat is expensive. And healthy, organic meat is even more pricey. Skipping meat every once in awhile leaves more room in the budget for better quality meat later. For example, the other night Bryan and I made baked potatoes, and topped them with sauteed onions, garlic, and red bell peppers with some cheese. The whole meal cost us $3, and we had tons of left overs. Another vegetarian dish we love is fried rice. Tons of veggies (I cheat and get the frozen bag of precut mixed organic veggies), brown rice and 2 eggs , and we’ve got a meal and left overs for a few days for under $4 bucks. Speaking of rice….
- Rice! Rice is seriously my best friend when it comes to feeding my bottomless pit of a husband. I buy long grain brown rice from Sprouts every other month when it goes on sale for 69 cents a pound. And I buy 15 to 20 lbs. That’s $13 to keep hubby full for 2 months. And there’s so much you can do with it! Add cilantro, lime juice and black beans, make fried rice, mix it with a can of chili, poor leftover soup over it…. the possibilities are endless.
I know this is a lot of information I just threw out in a chaotic matter. If you have questions or think i missed something, let me know and maybe I’ll make a part 2 :)