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Top Tips for Maximizing your Food Budget

Hi friends! It has been a while!

Excited to share that *hopefully* in Summer 2019, I will launching a website that better encompasses the knowledge and content I want to share, as well as the services I provide teaching yoga and offering target Nutrition Coaching. Way more to come on the Coaching aspect but essentially I am excited to work with individuals on building a healthy lifestyle from the ground up in a way that is going to stick and make a real difference in their quality of life.

And no… This is not a pyramid scheme đŸ™‚ I’m not selling shakes or oils or workouts. Just nutrition techniques and accountability. I hate that the term “coach” has been taken over by brands like Beachbody because although I would like to call myself a “Nutritionist,” I believe it is a protected title so I would rather err on the side and use the term Precision Nutrition (the company I am doing the cert. through) uses for their grads.

Anyway, with summer just around the corner now is the time that a lot of people are starting to think about warmer weather coming and cleaning up their diets. However, cost of healthy food is often one of the biggest barriers to entry when it comes to making even the smallest of changes to how you eat. I am not going to get into the politics of how we ended up with a system where chips and fruit snacks are cheaper than organic vegetables (that’s for another day!) but I do want to give some crowd-sourced and curated tips that can actually be applied to your next grocery trip. Let’s dig in!

1.) Buy your staples in bulk. Whether you hit up Costco or the bulk bins of your favorite supermarket, bulk purchasing is cheaper for the store and therefore cheaper for the consumer. Today I get most of “healthy” staples –think quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, etc — at Costco but at the bulk bins, you can also portion size out just the right amount for those more expensive ingredients that are also nutrient powerhouses.

Bulk is especially great for spices and nuts since these items can be really pricey when you account for packaging on top of them already being an expensive item!

2. ) Make your own everything.This might sound daunting, but the three biggest reasons people have a hard time even starting a healthy lifestyle shift are time, effort and price. What happens is we often try to maximize two of the three which in this case results in buying prepackaged “health foods” like bars, shakes, frozen meals, etc. but these foods are often still not optimized for health and nutrition and they are actually pretty expensive considering what you get out of them.

Popular staple items to start making from scratch include: beans (from dried), hummus, tortillas, crackers, salad dressings, burgers, tomato sauce, and broth (bonus – from leftover veggie scraps and/or meat!)

3) Eat seasonal produce! High quality organic produce from your farmer’s market is always going to come with a bit higher of a price tag but you can try to maximize savings by catching short-lived crops at the peak of their season when producers want to make sure they are selling enough to get significant ROI on their production.

Conversely, just stop buying things like fresh berries and other fruits that are so out of season that it is painful. I know blueberries in December sound amazing but they came from far away (costing a lot in environmental impact and transportation costs) to arrive in your store with less flavor and nutrients. You pay more for a worse product. Buy frozen in that example if you really want the blueberries! At least those were likely picked closer to when they would be seasonally.

4) Cut back on meat consumption and find some favorite veggie sources of protein. Protein is critical to taking steps towards a balanced diet but in general, most Western countries still eat way too much meat. We should all start to consider high quality sources are going to be more expensive, but also that meat production in general requires a lot of energy so of course it costs more! That said, we weigh that against the energy density in the end product so that should be considered, too.

5) Actually add up your total food costs! This is the most crucial step (probably should be listed at the top) in understanding where your money is going and that includes something as necessary as food. Check your grocery bills carefully — what are your high ticket items and why are they there? In addition, your restaurant purchases should be included in here as well. If you’re spending several hundred dollars on groceries a month AND several hundred dollars on restaurants a month, a huge portion of your income outside of housing is suddenly going towards food.

Brief note on that last topic — Americans spend some of the lowest percentage of our income on food in the world. This is partially because we are still not seeing the connection between food choices and chronic disease, and processed food is made artificially cheap here. While I do advocate for investing in your health with food, we need to be smart and conscious of where that money is actually going. Are we purchasing and eating all of this amazing produce and fresh meat and seafood, or is going to waste for a variety of reasons including supplementing with eating out?

These are some of the most common tips I found when polling friends and the community as well as my own insight! Please share and let me know how these practices help you.

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