I am working on catching up our Simplify Your Life series where we are working through Tsh Oxenredier’s eBook One Bite at a Time. We’re jumping back in on Project 14 and I will soon be adding the weeks I’ve skipped. If you haven’t gotten your own copy of the eBook, you can snag one here.
Project 14: Eat Whole Foods (on a budget)
We’re not 100% there yet, but over the last 6 months we’ve been focusing on removing processed foods from our lifestyle. As a family of six on a tight budget, I’m challenged to do this as inexpensively as possible. It’s not easy, but it is doable!
We are a little boring with the type of meat we eat. It’s mostly chicken breasts, tilapia fillets, and ground beef or turkey. We eat a lot of things where the meat stretches, particularly chilis or stews that can be stretched with beans, or casseroles that use shredded chicken. Occasionally, if we can get a good deal or have beef from a family-friend’s farm, we’ll have pork chops, loins, ribs, or even steaks, but they aren’t part of our usual fare. Eating less meat, and not buying expensive cuts regularly, keep us healthy and our budget low.
Buy in bulk. We have a Sam’s membership and have price matched to ensure that we are getting the best quality at the best price when it comes to our meat and baking supplies. Also, food co-ops are a great resource. There are big ones like Zaycon for meat (that’s where I buy my chicken breasts for $1.79/lb), and even smaller ones for farm-fresh dairy. Can’t find one in your area? Organize one! I’ve currently got one for farm-fresh beef in the works!
Be smart about buying, preparing, and storing produce. Let’s face it, produce is expensive, especially the good stuff and in many households, a lot of it goes to waste. I know this has been the case for us in the past.
Follow the rules of the dirty dozen. If you can’t afford to buy it all organic, focus on the dirty dozen. According to the Environmental Working Group, these have the highest levels of pesticides.
Buy local! Farmers’ markets and CSAs are your friend here. You can talk to the farmer and find out how the produce is grown, there is minimal environmental impact for the transportation of the produce, and you’re supporting the local economy directly.LocalHarvest.org is a great website for finding one near you.
Buy in season! Seasonal produce tastes better and is higher in nutritional value than out of season produce that has been shipped from who knows where. It’s also easier on your wallet.
Grow your own! If you have the space (it doesn’t take much) and the time, start a garden. Focus on plants that grow well in your area and fit your space and needs. (More on this later this Spring!)
Once you get the produce home…then what? Well, it’s important to prepare and store it well. I hope to post more in-depth on this soon, but here is the short version:
Wash produce well in something more than water. Pesticides are water-resistant, so you’re going to want to soak them off in something. Many people suggest an equal-parts mix of vinegar and water, but I find it leaves a faint aftertaste, particularly on my berries. I’ve been using just a few tiny drops of Shaklee Basic H for an entire sink full of produce and it works wonderfully and is very inexpensive.
Store your produce properly. Check out my guest post at ErinBrans.com on how to properly use your crisper drawers. If you have an over-abundance, look into freezing, canning, or dehydrating to preserve it for future use.
And the biggest way to stay under budget while eating whole foods: leave out the processed food. Seriously, you just don’t need it. You can make your own mixes (baking, pancakes, cakes, brownies, seasonings). If it has more than 5 ingredients, you can make it yourself for probably pennies on the dollar. This is a rather slow process at our house as hubby refuses to give up soda and even I like a good ol’ bag of chips now and then. But we definitely have less around our house than we used to and our budget and health show it! It’s easy to baby-step your way to 100% whole foods. I love the site100 Days of Real Food for more info on this!