Friday, September 27, 2013

how being broke helped us to eat healthier than ever. (also 100th post?!?!?!)

ok, so im going to get on a little soapbox for a minute here, which i swore id never, ever do on this blog, but theres just one thing in particular thats been really bothering me that i actually feel qualified to address. 

see, i normally go out of my way to stay out of political/philosophical/religious/sociological debates because, frankly, i dont consider myself educated enough to make a structurally sound argument for my beliefs and opinions (because i was home schooled and actually studied formal logic, i just dont feel comfortable making arguments that i cant completely defend using sound logic and facts, rather than opinion and emotions). so i dont generally rant about such things in public. 

but this one thing, it comes up a LOT. and its not only something that im passionate about, its something that i have enough personal experience with that i really can refute a very popular misconception here in america:

that is, that healthy eating is "too hard", or that healthy foods are "too expensive" for poor people, and things like fresh produce and natural foods are luxuries that only the wealthy suburbanites at whole foods in $200 yoga pants can afford. people say this all the time and it drives me INSANE. 

why? because its a lie. 

ill be the first to tell you that were broke. to be completely honest, this year is the brokest weve ever been. but you know what? this is also BY FAR the healthiest weve ever been. and if i look back at our diet over the last year or so, the broker weve gotten, the healthier weve been eating. 

case in point, heres what i ate for breakfast for most of last week:

 organic strawberries in organic vanilla yogurt.  delicious, healthy, easy, fast, and (surprise!) cheap. (no really, i had a vons personalized deal on the raspberries and the large tub of organic yogurt was the same price as the non organic, i only paid a little over $5 for five breakfasts worth of berries and yogurt). anyways, this totally awesome breakfast, that most people would assume is prohibitively expensive (i know i used to), got me thinking about how our diets changed over the past couple years, i thought id examine exactly why weve been able to eat progressively better on progressively less money. 

heres what i was able to come up with:

1. we dont eat meat. meat is really, really expensive when you compare it to plant based proteins (and im talking about beans, cheese, eggs and tofu, not packaged veggie burgers and fake meats). even though its only me thats a pescetarian, we dont regularly buy meats any more (aside from jamess lunchmeat for work) and its saved us a lot of money. 

2. we plan our meals. and then ONLY buy what food is missing from our pantry/fridge for the upcoming week only. we dont stock up on anything or buy extra "just in case". this not only kept us from wasting money on food we dont need, its also kept us from wasting money on foods that we dont eat before they go bad and throw away, AND its made our fridge and pantry much more organized. a very rare win-win-win

3. we buy a LOT less snacks then we used to. we used to buy a lot of snacks. every grocery trip ended up including chips, crackers, cookies, candy, etc. just because. did we need any of it? no. i mean, snacks do have their place, but once i started really looking at what junk food costs vs. what a healthy snack (like, say, raisins) costs, we stopped with the junk food. and even though i typically bought this kind of stuff on sale with coupons, it still took a HUGE chunk out of our weekly groceries. 

4. we almost never buy processed "convenience" foods. you probably know by now that im allergic to just about everything. which means that just about any premade, packaged food is out. and since it was usually me that ended up eating all the poptarts and microwave mac and cheese, we just dont buy that kind of stuff anymore. and nobody misses it. when i first implemented the $50 a week grocery budget, i went over almost every week. when i stopped with the packaged foods, i was under budget almost every week. 

5. we can realistically only afford produce thats less than $1 a pound. (note: i will occasionally raise the limit to $1.50 if it means strawberries) i know this sounds like a bad thing right? wrong. because its gotten us to eat a WAY bigger variety of fruits and veggies than ever before. and since were spending way less on junk food, we have more money to spend on the produce that were getting for cheaper than before so these days id say roughly HALF of our weekly groceries is fresh produce. 

when you combine all the money we were spending on meats, wasted food, and junk that we stopped buying, we ended up having way more room in our budget for fresh, whole foods like produce, fish, and natural dairy products, which has helped us to eat WAY healthier than we ever did before. on top of that, most weeks theres STILL room left in the budget for ice cream and wine. its pretty awesome, if you ask me. 

so please, please, please dont ever tell ME that you cant afford to eat healthy.

end rant. 

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