Yes, the conundrum that most families into natural health and wellness will face. On one hand we have the argument that organic, healthier foods cost more and therefore cannot be justified when we have a modest budget. There is some truth to this no doubt. Organic cow’s milk might cost you $4.99 for a half gallon at the grocery store. The non-organic milk sits right next to it at $2.79 per whole gallon. The raw organic almonds I buy at $12.99 a pound to make breakfast bars with seems extravagant when I could buy Pop Tarts for a couple dollars a box right? Why go buy $15 worth of ingredients at the store to make a good dinner when we can shop the $1 menu at McDonalds?
But then the counter argument is that unhealthy foods and non organic foods will cost us more in the long run. Why? Because food is our medicine. An unhealthy diet will eventually lead to health problems, doctor visits, unpaid sick days, hospitalizations, pharma prescriptions, etc. If you need proof, look at me. My bad choices turned around to bite me in the behind BIG time. I chose bad foods…REALLY bad foods for many years and got lovely colon cancer, $50,000 worth of surgeries, and chemo treatment at $7000 a week for 6 months. Don’t I wish I could go back and buy healthy foods and complain about how expensive it was. ;)
I see both sides of the coin but only one really stands up to tough scrutiny. If we cut corners on a healthy diet due to expense…we may likely be paying the piper later…with interest. But like everything it seems there is no black and white here. Some things we may need to compromise on. How can we cut costs and allow access to better food? Let’s explore some of the ways.
Menu Planning – This is probably the best way to cut costs, good old fashioned planning. It gets really pricey when we shop piece meal and only pick up ingredients for a couple days worth of meals. You also might not know what you already have to work with and that can be costly. It just makes good sense to sit down every month or every two weeks and plan out every meal you will eat. Take an inventory of your frig and pantry to see what you have already and work with that. If you have a 5 pound bag of jasmine rice then plan 2-3 meals each week that incorporate rice. If you have lots of dried or canned beans then plan some meals with beans, etc. And when staples like beans and/or rice go on sale, make sure to take advantage.
Meal planning alleviates stress because you always know what you will be making and that lessens the chances that you will just call out for pizza. And eating raw takes planning cause if I want to use rice I have to allow four days for it to soak! But it is kind of fun to do. If it is not your thing you can also use online meal planners or services. Try Menu Planning Central or the Healthy Menu Mailer.
Also don’t be afraid to eat the same thing multiple times in a week if it saves money. There is no law that says dinner has to be totally unique each night.
Buy in Bulk – Sometimes bulk food werehouses can be a bad deal if we buy stuff we don’t need or want just because it is cheaper. But if you shop wisely they are wonderful. Personally I avoid paying the membership fee at Costco by shopping with my mom. I save money on the fee and my purchases count towards her cash back bonuses.
I like to buy frozen fruit at Costco. I can get a huge bag of frozen strawberries for $7.99. A bag ¼ that size can be found at my local grocery store for $6.99. That is a BIG savings since I can easily go through one bag a week and this is one of those areas where I opt not to go organic due to cost. If I had to pay triple for that amount of strawberries I would not buy them nearly as much and I would not make green smoothies nearly as much so the health benefit in that scenario favors the non-organic strawberries. Same goes with their bag of mixed fruit. But when strawberries are seasonal I buy organic and freeze my own. I just run out pretty quick. :(
Organic Baby Spinach is also a great price at Costco so I stock up on that. Fresh, seasonal fruit is better priced too. Costco it is one of the few places I can find wild caught salmon in our area. They have big bags of baking soda that I use to make my own green cleaners. They also add to their organic offerings all the time. Just don’t buy stuff for the sake of buying cheaper stuff.
You might also look into a food co-op where you join with other people to get bulk food at wholesale prices.
Shop Less – This ties in with meal planning. Frequent trips to the store end up costing us more than if we just plan for one or two shopping trips a month. Of course a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies might mean more trips but the bulk of the shopping should only be done at certain times. The book America’s Cheapest Family discusses this.
Don’t Eat Out – Just stop it already, it is expensive. Make your own meals and save money. Presuming you don’t shop the dollar menu then value meals at fast food places will run around $25 for a family of 5 and it is crap food! That $25 could be dinner for 2-3 nights if you plan well. And don’t waste money on $4 coffees from coffee houses. Yes, it is easy for me to say since I don’t drink coffee but it seems like such a waste. I had to speak with my hubby about this recently and his iced coffee from Dunkin Doughnuts habit.
Make Your Own – Are you buying bottled salad dressing or salsa? Bags of bread? Think about making your own foods and condiments and save money.
Look for Deals – When staples go on sale like rice, beans, nuts, grains, etc, stock up and fill your pantry. Use coupons when you can but do not buy stuff you don’t need or want just because it is on sale. Wasting food is not cool.
If you find you regularly buy certain brand products then contact the distributor and see if they can send coupons. Join their online mailing list to get printable coupons. Pick up Mambo Sprouts coupon books in front of Whole Foods. Look at online sales flyers to see which stores are having sales and even if you have already shopped this week check them anyway, just in case. Don’t go to Whole Foods to buy your almonds when Trader Joe’s down the street has them on sale. If you use Agave Nectar a lot then stock up when they have a sale. I recently found my favorite brand of raw Agave Nectar for $1.99 a bottle! It was an unadvertised sale and needless to say I bought every bottle they had. Which leads me to a little tip: the little natural food sections of mainstream grocery stores often have unadvertised sales. I guess maybe they decide that no one is buying this stuff so they want to clear it out which is good news for me.
Also start keeping track of your purchase in a spreadsheet so you can get a feel for average pricing. This will help you figure out if something is a real deal or waste of time.
CSAs and Farmer’s Markets – Do the math and see if a CSA membership will be a good deal for you, it usually is. BUT if you end up with veggies you don’t like or use then perhaps not. Also check out Farmer’s Markets at the end of the day when the farmers mark down produce to get rid of it. Also be sure to look for local Amish for great deals on organic veggies and eggs.
Eat Less Meat – Meat is the budget killer so try to incorporate as many meatless meals as you can. If you see my sample rice meal plan above you will see only one of the three meals includes meat. That was deliberate. I have been amazed at how much food I have been able to bring home on the average shopping trip since we stopped buying so much meat. If anything we buy fish now instead for 1-2 fish meals a week. Ultimately I would like to see us move to buying sushi only… at our local Japanese grocer.
Eat in Season – Buy according to the seasons for cheaper prices. In the fall buy apples and persimmons and skip the pineapple and green grapes. In the summer load up on watermelon and strawberries. It might also be advantageous to buy a stand alone freezer and freeze some. You can also dehydrate to extend the life of seasonal foods.
Grow Your Own – Even if you have never gardened or think you don’t have the space I bet you can grow at least ONE thing. Pick one item you always buy and see if you can grow it yourself. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or herbs are a great place to start. They can be grown on a patio or at a sunny window. I love this post fro J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly about gardening. He found that for every dollar he spent on the garden, they harvested $1.91 worth of food and the expenses were often one time things like a wood chipper and young fruit trees. That is awesome. Wouldn’t you like to make every dollar go twice as far?
There are lots of ways to reduce costs that I can see. How about you? What tips or somments do you have?
I have wanted to talk about this ever since a discussion started on my dumpster diving interview post. Basically the post discusses how one woman used the concepts of Freeganism to harvest good food thrown away by grocery stores and turn around and give it to the hungry and homeless…to the tune of $30,000. Surprisingly, it was said that this was perhaps a bit selfish….that we should consume (buy) even if we don’t need to so that we are supporting farmers.
Well, I am all for supporting local farmers and supporting earth friendly, sustainable, conscious companies with our money. But I am not for consuming just for the sake of consuming and yes I do realize that this is exactly the trend that our current economy is based upon. Consumerism may make the economic world turn…but self sufficiency is what will preserve the planet…not consumerism.
This fact was clear when I read a new prediction from Gerald Celente. This is the man that accurately predicted 1987 stock market crash, the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse, and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar. The New York Post once said of him “If Nostradamus were alive today, he’d have a hard time keeping up with Gerald Celente.” Clearly this gentlemen and his partners have a their eye on the pulse of the economy but their latest prediction will not leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. He has said, “by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts. And there is going to be a lot of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities are already sprouting up around the country and we’re going to see many more.”
Now I have no opinion on the accuracy of this prediction I can only say that for us it should show what is at the very least, a possibility. I am not about doom and gloom but I am not for sticking my head in the sand either. Can you imagine living in a country where people riot for food, protest any and all taxes, can’t find a job, or live in tent cities because they are homeless? As a spoiled American I can barely even fathom such a thing but the very idea that the current economic model of spend, spend, and spend more could crumble like that shows us that more self sufficiency is needed. And consumerism as it exists now will NEVER heal our planet. Maybe it is time I finally read that book I have meant to read for awhile: The Environmental Endgame: Mainstream Economics, Ecological Disaster, And Human Survival.
Just think about it. If you woke up tomorrow in the world Celente has predicted what would you do? Can you be self sufficient? Do you have economic survival skills? To me it seems that to rely on consumerism to drive the world forward will always be potentially risky. If I woke up in that world tomorrow I “hope” that I would have a home completely paid off, that I could grow all my own food, that I would have a nest egg saved, that I could make or sew anything I need, and that I could open my home to others and do co-housing. I would “hope” that my purchases in the years previous were smart so that I did not need much in the way of material things.
It certainly has given me a lot to think about. Even if none of it comes to pass I think I would be infinitely better off being more self sufficient. It will help me save money that is for sure.
So what do you think about Celente’s prediction? Could it happen and what would you do? Is self sufficieny selfish and is consumerism the way to keep everyone’s head above water?
One of my favorite online stores is Resuablebags and they are having a big sale right now on bags, bottles and other miscellaneous items. Some HUGE deals I spotted were:
Acme Bags Earh Tote for $4.98 (50% off)
A 27 oz Klean Kanteen Bottle for $12.57!! (30& off)
A Klean Kanteen Sippy Cup for $13.97!! (30% off)
If you have been wanting to try any of these great products now would be a great time to buy!
Thanks to Amy for tipping me off to this great sale. ;)
This month’s podcast is an interview with Ginger Freebird who used Freeganism or dumpster diving, to feed the hungry and homeless. In this interview we learn about what Freeganism is, what spurred her to take the leap, and how she has been able to donate nearly $30,000 worth of fresh food to area homeless shelters and food centers in only 9 months.
I met Ginger on Twitter and was amazed by her Squidoo page where she shows, with pictures, what she has been able to accomplish utilizing the totally legal (in most cases) practice of dumpster diving or Freeganism. She has some great stories to tell about what she finds and who she helps. And dare I say she has inspired me to possibly take up her cause after I move to the city this spring. I am just blown away buy the completely fresh, sometimes organic, fruits and veggies she finds thrown in the garbage every week to make room for new stock. Not only has she done some amazing things for the hungry in her hometown but she has made a serious dent in her own food budget.
Ginger also shares tips and advice if you want to get started as well. Just take a look at the picture below to see what you might be missing! Listen in or read the transcripts.
I spent the majority of the morning engrossed in a really awesome book entitled America’s Cheapest Family. I thought it was a timely read considering all that is going on in the world right now. On a positive note for my own family it looks like hubby’s job is safe for now (or so they say) and he has gone mute about wanting to take his old job back (which required heavy travel). I am interested in using this scare as an opportunity to evaluate our budget and see where we can whittle expenses down so we can save more. Our emergency savings needs a lot more padding than it currently has. And I fully admit that hubby and I are not very responsible with money. We have very leaky wallets and we don’t do a lot of bargain shopping. Adopting a greener lifestyle has helped oodles but that is thanks to being green not being smart about money.
That said….I LOVED this book. I think all money conscious families need to read it…now. ;) It is written by a husband and wife who were dubbed the Cheapest Family in America several years ago by the talk show circuit. Their names are Steve and Annette Economides. Their last name ironically means “son of the steward” in Greek. The book shares all of the secrets to their success that allowed them to raise and homeschool 5 kids, pay off their first home in 9 years, buy cars with cash, pay for vacations in advance, save money for all possible emergencies, and feed their family for $350 a month all on a one income salary of less than 35,000 a year. They have an amazing story to tell and the advice is wonderful. The book is organized in categories like groceries, clothing, utilities, etc so that you can read it straight through or skip to sections where you need help.
The first chapter I loved was about groceries. $350 a month for a large family is incredible and one big part of their success is that they shop ONCE a month. I think we all know how expensive it is to make lots of small, frequent trips to the store to get ingredients for one or two meals or one or two missing things. Shopping like that almost always means spending more than you have to and it is basically a result of poor planning. The Economides family saved on average $1,702 per year over the average family. That is equal to a nice week long vacation for many or a slush fund for car/house repairs. Their tips on grocery savings amounts to a long chapter but basically it involves shopping once a month, doing menu planning, stocking up, shopping for sales and using coupons when they can, cooking extra portions for leftovers, and freezing quite a bit.
The advice was very good but I did find a few things that would not work for our family including the buying of lots of processed foods, the lack of more expensive whole foods being bought, and the idea of doing without FRESH fruits and veggies for the last 2 weeks or so of the month. I think families that eat lots of fresh, raw, whole foods would have a lot of adapting to do but the basic plan is a good one. I would probably feel more comfortable doing bi-monthly shopping expeditions with weekly trips to farmer’s markets for fruits and veggies.
There is a big chapter on budgets next, which is a good read. I liked the tip they had about buying gas cards to make sure you always have your gas expenditures covered. Then there is a chapter about cars…which I loved. It has lots of great tips for buying used cars and making sure you get a good car and a good deal. The section on insurance was great too. The Economides do not believe in skimping on insurance. One tip I liked was to cancel the towing benefit on your insurance and join AAA instead. That money goes a lot further with AAA.
The housing chapter had some alarming statistics about interest rates and how they would have paid $100,000 interest on their $50,000 home over a 30 year period. Their advice is to pay off the mortgage in less than 10 years if you can but ouch that is still over $25,000 you pay in interest. Sheesh, I think it might just be better to rent and then save that interest money to buy land and a nice Yurt with cash, LOL. This chapter also has advice for saving on repairs and renovations too.
The utilities chapter has lots of great advice although not too much for cold weather climates as the family lives in Arizona. Although having lived in both areas I think the utilities expenditures are pretty much the same…we just pay high energy prices at different times of the year. In AZ I had high air conditioning bills and in OH I have high heating bills. The cell phone advice was a little dated and the book was written in 2007, LOL. I am guessing that this older couple likes their land line and the kids are the ones that use cell phones. Hubby and I pretty much only use cell phones or Skype. We do have a land line but only because we couldn’t get DSL without it…I can’t even remember the number though, that is how little we use it. We hope to move soon and get cable Internet so we can get rid of our land line altogether.
There is also a big chapter about debt. Honestly I just skimmed this chapter as we don’t have debt and we don’t have credit cards but I am sure this chapter is equally good. Their chapter on medical just kind of pissed me off…not because it wasn’t good advice but because of the way our health care and insurance is in this country. I am having a hard time not being really pissy with Republican friends right now because the biggest issue we are voting on in a couple weeks for me is health care. I think only one candidate wants to fix health care and the other has plans so stupid I am getting hot just thinking about it. Better change the subject…anyway I have had insurance my whole adult life and I still racked up over $100,000 in EXTRA charges in a ten year period, so while this book’s advice is good in theory I see some problems because the insurance people are criminals and no amount of “personal responsibility” (inert GOP talking head) will change that. If taking personal responsibility means paying 4-500 hundred dollars a month for coverage and then having to pay 100 grand out of pocket and then calling it health care…well what more can I say? The advice on staying healthy was good though and personally I think that is the only/best option for many these days.
The chapter on clothing was fabulous with lots of great ideas for clothing your whole family for cheap as was the chapter on FREE entertainment. Entertainment is a BIG expenditure here so I need that advice. The vacation info was really practical and kind of amazed me that some families do go into debt to have vacations. I am not smart with money I totally admit that, but even I would never do that. The last chapters were about raising money conscious kids and about emergencies….lots of great info. I HIGHLY recommend this book! AND you can get it new for only $10.36 on Amazon or used for around $7.