Every year, I make a resolution to lose weight and inevitably fail. This year, I made sure I’d succeed: I signed up for a nutrition boot camp, met with a dietitian every week, and turned my wishing into doing. In the beginning, I expected to starve myself and pay outrageous prices just so I could be eating organic. But I was pleasantly surprised.
Eating organic and finding healthful food alternatives isn’t as difficult or expensive as I thought. And I didn’t have to stalk the weekly ads or circulars for coupons and discounts. I’m outsmarting the expensive health food craze, and you can too. Here’s how:
1. Be Wary of Organic Marketing
Marketers are very clever, and food and beverage advertisements are even sneakier. Lots of companies hire celebrities or athletes to market their products. But such endorsements don’t make products healthy, no matter what they claim.
Do you think a local farmer has money to hire a marketing team and pay a celebrity? Unlikely. Locally grown food is fresh, often organic, and doesn’t come with the fancy packaging or expensive endorsements. Simplify your shopping process by ignoring fancy or creative marketing schemes. Actually read the labels and you’ll get the food you want.
2. Connect With Local Growers
One of the reasons I love living in the South is the ease with which I can connect to farmers who raise cattle and crops on acres and acres of farmland. No matter where you live, you can take advantage of local “crops” and goods, like fish in the Pacific Northwest or lobster in the Northeast.
If you can create a relationship with a local farmer or fisherman, you can cut out the grocery store middleman and get the best meat and vegetables available at the nicest price around. You’ll also have the added confidence of knowing exactly what goes into your food and exactly where it comes from.
3. Find a Farmer’s Market
A local farmer’s market is one of the best places to connect with local farmers and growers. As the seasons change, so does the produce. During the colder months you’ll get a lot of root vegetables (like carrots, radishes), while the warmer months give way to summer fruits and veggies.
If you don’t know where the closest local market is, check out LocalHarvest.org. You can search by city, state, or zip code for local health food stores, co-ops, and wholesale produce. The site also shares information about when the farmer’s market opens and closes. They also have tips and recipes on their blog.
4. Try Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
The concept of CSA is simple and intended to help community minded individuals save money on groceries. You and a few other local families pay up-front (either quarterly or annually), and in exchange you receive your share of that season’s best crops.
Whatever the farmer grows and harvests that season, you get to eat. Buying a whole year’s worth of veggies could get very pricey, not to mention boring. By joining a CSA, you’ll get a nice variety of food that’s adequate for your family by only paying a one-time lump sum.
5. Eating Well Saves Money
There are a few things you should know about buying local organic foods:
- They are more expensive than regular meat and produce.
- Shopping for them takes a little bit of research up front.
- You’ll be restricted to foods that are in season.
Having said that, in the long run spending a little more to eat better will save you money. Before my nutrition boot camp (a.k.a. “food rehab), I would get major headaches every couple of days. I had to take Tylenol or Advil almost daily. I also ate at fast food places and restaurants frequently since I didn’t have good food to cook.
Since I’ve changed my eating habits, I’ve spent a little more on my grocery bill but I’ve cut out both my headache medications and almost expenses on eating out. Every now and then I even get free food from my local farmer or butcher when they have an abundance of product.
The Bottom Line
These are just a few ways I’ve learned to eat better, build some great relationships, and save some money in my budget. I’m probably one of the laziest people when it comes to food and cooking, but the reason I’m successful is because I’ve found simple ways to do it well. All it took was a little research up front, but now I’m eating organic whole foods and local produce for less than I would if I shopped at a grocery store.
What do you do within your budget to eat better? If it’s too much of a financial strain to be eating organic and locally grown food, what other changes to your diet can you make? Weigh in below and join the conversation!
Carrie Smith is a PerkStreet Customer Columnist who has worked as a freelance Certified Bookkeeper for nine years and as a Tax Specialist for four. She specializes in small business and oil and gas accounting. She has written several finance and accounting articles at Hubpages.com, and also writes regularly on her own blog CarefulCents. Follow her on Twitter @applecsmith.