In my last blog post, I discussed simple musts for saving money on healthy foods (you can read it here). Aside from having a game plan, knowing your prices, and buying in bulk, there are other subtle ways to keep your monthly spending down in a big way.
Today’s topics involve two underlying principles: balancing priorities and connecting with community. The same principles apply to training, the dinner plate, and the pocketbook, and returning to these values often has helped me continue to make progress with my budget and nutrition even during times of stress or transition.
PRIORITIZE QUALITY: If you’re overall goal is eating better-quality foods and a higher level of health, but you have to provide for other basic needs—like your house payment—there needs to be balance. For my family, I’ve determined general food groups deserve higher priority in my budget. I buy high-quality fats because of the way our bodies store them, how long they last, and how often I add them to meals. Proteins come next. Higher-quality meats may not offer more protein, but they do include a better balance of Omega 3-fatty acids. The way the animals were raised is also important—not only on an ethical level, but also as science discovers more about the way stress and lack of movement affect animal and human bodies at a physiological level. Fruits, veggies, and carbs are last on the list when it comes to quality. If my budget allows, I will buy high quality. But, most often, I go for the most affordable price.
Typically, I follow this list from the Environmental Working Group to determine where my money is best spent:
- Spend more money for higher quality on the “Dirty Dozen.” These are foods that contain the highest levels of pesticide residue, and include: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes.
- Spend as little money as possible on the “Clean Fifteen.” These are foods where more than 70% of samples had no pesticide residue, and include: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, sweet peas (frozen), onions, papayas, eggplant, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms, honeydew melon.
WORK TOGETHER: Community provides new opportunities for growth, expansion, and fulfillment. But there are also practical benefits to connections with family and friends. Saving money on groceries is one of them. This can show up in a number of ways. Here are a few great ideas:
- Group meal prep: Cut down on the cost of groceries by buying ingredients within your budget in bulk. Limit variety. Then keep some meals and trade the others with friends and family. This allows people with different income levels to work together. You still get a variety of nutrients, don’t get bored with the same meals every day, and build connection.
- Group spending: Recently, I heard a friend say they save money by having one person with a Costco membership do the shopping, then later they split the payment through a mobile payment app like Venmo. On meal prep day, everyone gets together to split the bulk items into their own storage containers. It saves money, and the person who does the shopping gets a larger return on their groceries through the Costco Membership. That way, each year the membership pays for itself.
- Community Garden: A friend of mine runs a community garden on their land. In this community space, friends and family with less ability to garden in their homes come with their kids to plant and help maintain the garden. The workload is relatively easy (with so many hands to help) and the money saved in summer and fall goes towards their winter budget.
Finding balance, asking for help, and offering help to those around us are muscles we need to intentionally build. Budget and nutrition are great places to start. Many people in the community are just waiting for somebody to ask. So get together with some friends, decide what matters most to you, and make those health gains (without breaking the bank).