As mentioned in many previous posts, the key to healthy living is exercise, a well-rounded lifestyle, and a quality diet. Quality meaning: few to no processed foods, a focus on a mostly plant-based diet, and being aware of what ingredients may be lurking in seemingly healthy foods. When at a grocery store, its undeniable that produce can sometimes be expensive, especially if you are in a region where it has to be shipped in and the price reflects that journey. But, even if you are in an area where produce is readily available, there are still many ways to cut back on the cost of produce without sacrificing the quality of your diet. Here are a few ideas:
Grow your own: This sounds complicated, but it is not. Many fruits and vegetables can be grown using kitchen scraps that are often thrown away. Instead of tossing the scraps, use them to start growth of a new vegetable or fruit.
Check out the video below for a quick how-to:
Backyard space isn’t something everybody has access to, but a majority of produce can be regrown in containers and tucked in a balcony, a sunny windowsill or entry way. Containers also allow for easy transport. One blog, “Balcony Garden” shows you 22 different green vegetables that can be grown in containers- everything from spinach, celery, to Swiss chard! “The Homestead Survival Guide,” also shows you a variety of fruits (lemons, strawberries, and tomatoes, for example) that are easy to grow in containers.
If you want to go the extra mile and grow your own from the seed, the Native Seed Search is an incredible resource for regional seeds- everything from beans, corn, vegetables, herbs, and more (wildflowers!). They are a non-profit organization that was founded in an effort to collect and preserve seeds that could otherwise be wiped out as a result of modern farming and changes to the local ecosystem, among other factors. “Preserved in our seed bank today are nearly 2,000 varieties of crops adapted to arid landscapes extending from southern Colorado to central Mexico, many of them rare or endangered. The collection represents the cultural heritage and farming knowledge of over 50 indigenous communities.” Impressive, to say the least- now, 36 years after their founding, they also focus heavily on supporting local growers in pursuing healthy, sustainable farming using local seeds.
Here are many great ideas for growing on containers via Pinterest:
Eating a plant-based diet is essential for a healthy body. Some produce is more susceptible to pesticides and other potentially harmful additives than others due to their natural packaging. Produce like strawberries, apples, and lettuce are more vulnerable to unwanted additives than bananas and oranges that have a natural shield, being the peel. For produce often called the “Dirty Dozen,” try to shop organic to avoid ingesting the pesticides often used on crops.
Organic food has the rap of being expensive. Many of us have heard the joke of referring to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck,” due to the higher price-point of their organic-heavy selection. Don’t assume that Organic always means more expensive; one Consumer Reports study dove into this topic by comparing the basic (eggs, meats, fruits, veggies, etc.) at eight different national, regional, and online grocers. They found that when comparing nearly 100 pairings (organics vs. their non-organic counterparts), “On average, organic foods were 47 percent more expensive, but the range was huge. In a couple of instances, the organic product was actually cheaper, by as much as 13 percent for honey at Amazon Fresh. In fact, depending on where [they] shopped, [they] found organic lettuce carrots, maple syrup, olive oil, and cream cheese for the same price or less than their conventional counterparts.” In the most recent Consumer Reports supermarkets survey of of nearly 63,000 subscribers, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Costco, and Sprouts Farmers Markets had the best overall prices on organics. But if you don’t have access to any of those chains, check out the prices at several stores. Prices can be dramatically different and change based on weekly promotions. Here’s also a fact that may surprise many: Costco is the top retailer of organic foods- even outdoing Whole Foods. Their competitive pricing makes shopping healthy a whole lot easier!
Shop At Your Local Farmer’s Market:
Shopping local is a win-win for you as the consumer, as well as local farmers. Pricing is often lower than at local grocers, having cut out the cost of transport and storage, and the produce itself is the epitome of fresh. Produce that is shipped in by larger grocers is picked early to allow for the time it takes to transport. Skipping the long distance transport, produce you purchase at local Farmer’s Markets is picked at peak ripeness and is ready to enjoy. This article from “Local Harvest” shares a selection of farmer’s markets in the Tucson area. A hidden gem of a farmer’s market in Arizona is also Produce On Wheels, by Borderlands. Called “P,O.W.W.O.W.”, the program operates during produce season, typically November through August. Every week, usually on Saturdays, P.O.W.W.O.W. host sites are held in cities around Arizona, hosted by community organizations (churches, civic organizations, schools and universities.). You can register at any of the sites (full schedule here), and leave with up to 70 lbs of fresh produce, all just for a contribution of $12. Incredible.
Tucson is the proud home of the only USDA-inspected food and safety lab run by students. The University of Arizona Food Products and Safety Laboratory teaches students food safety, animal meat composition, and carcass fabrication. This is one of the best sources of local, quality meat. Not only does the lab process animals — both their own and local farmers’ — but they also sell the meat. The shop opened its doors to the public in 2010 and is run by students. The shelves and freezers of the shop are full of locally-raised, grass or grain fed beef, pork, lamb, and goat. For more information, read here.
Now, even Whole Foods is more competitive in pricing after having been recently acquired by Amazon. Prime members receive discounts at Whole Foods, and when paired with their in-store promotions, the savings can be substantial. That isn’t the only retailer that provides online savings though- check your favorite retailer for additional coupons or savings if you use their app while you do your shopping. Doing a little bit of homework can really add up the savings!
With so many great resources, both local and online, there is no reason to not work towards eating healthier, even if it is just adjusting one facet of your food consumption habits. These are just a few suggestions to incorporate healthy eating as an enjoyable routine for you and your family. Are there any great ideas we have missed here? Please share them with us!
Main image courtesy of: -usatoday.com/story/money/2019/03/20/pesticides-food-report-strawberries-spinach-kale-have-most/3178844002/