You may or may not have heard of eating "seasonally", but it really is the best way to feed your body. I have a lot of people ask me, "how I can buy organic when it's so expensive?" Unfortunately, in a world where big food industry and government control way too much around how we eat, I don't see organic food prices going down. However, you can be smart about how you shop - whether it's at a local grocer or a supermarket. Here are a couple of tips for helping you to make smarter decisions so that you can budget for some of the healthier stuff:
1. Beware of coupons. Ok, ok....I'm going to get a lot of slack for this one. I'm not saying don't use them, I'm just telling you to be careful. Sometimes things on "sale" or "special" look like a great deal, but you're not going to eat it. OR, more importantly, it's the processed, sugar or sodium-laden foods that you don't want to put in your body anyways. You may think you're getting a steal, but if 4 cans of ravioli are going to sit in your pantry for a year, do yourself a favor and spend the $2.25 on a bunch of organic carrots or kale instead.
2. Drink water. Seems like a no-brainer, right? More and more of our money is spent on coffee, soda, sports drinks and flavored water (who thought of that stuff, anyway?) "But it tastes good, and I need the caffeine." Oh please. I've been there, I know....you HAVE to have your coffee in the morning and you can't possibly get through the day without a Diet Coke at 3pm. Do you know how many people actually tell me that they have to drink coffee because they get "caffeine headaches" if they don't? Did it ever occur to anyone that they might be DEHYDRATED? I used to drink 4 cups of coffee every morning. I haven't had coffee in 5 1/2 months. I don't miss it. And I REALLY don't miss the Starbucks bill. If you could save your $5-$10 a week on Starbucks, soda at the drive thru, Gatorade, etc. you could use that annual savings to purchase a 1/4 of a grass-fed cow and some free-range chickens from a local farmer - and feed your family for a year.
3. Buy locally. There are Farmer's Markets in every town, even in the Winter. Milwaukee has one at State Fair Park every Saturday morning from 8-noon, beginning mid-November through mid-April. For information on Farmer's Markets, CSAs, Co-ops/Grocers and more visit www.localharvest.org. By supporting your local farmers you are not paying the overhead on the transporting of the goods. Additionally, your food is fresher and will last longer. Ever bought organic strawberries from a chain supermarket? Would it surprise you to know that they've (on average) been sitting there for a week or more? If you don't eat them that same day, chances are you are tossing them, and the $5 they cost you!
4. Eat seasonally. This one kind of goes hand in hand with #3, since your farmers are only producing what is in season for your climate. But even if you aren't buying from a local farmer, if you live in a cold climate the price of citrus and other fruits usually goes up in the winter months. Not because your grocers are out to get you, but because those foods don't grow anywhere near you, so it takes more to get them to you (and by the time they get to you, they don't taste good anyways). Our bodies are made to adjust to our surroundings. Someone in Alaska isn't going to get by on a diet of bananas and salad through the harsh winters. Just like a diet of stews, heartier meats and starches isn't going to give someone living in Hawaii the type of energy they need. Not only will eating in season benefit your body and fuel you properly, it will also help you save money at the grocery store.
5. Buy in bulk. This one will cost you more up front, but will save you money in the long run. Join a CSA for your produce, eggs and some other specialty foods. Buy your meat from a local farmer (buy 1/4 or 1/2 of a cow, hog, lamb, etc. to get the most bang for your buck). Look at your receipts each week. How much are you spending on produce, and more importantly, how much of that produce are you throwing away? How much are you spending on a meat? Did you know that when you buy your meat in bulk from a farmer, you are usually paying the same price per pound regardless of the cut? So, when my husband and I bought our cow we paid the same price per pound for ground beef as we did for Ribeyes and T-bones. If you really want to save money, find a neighbor or friend that you can split a share with. Again, it might take some saving at first - but how awesome to not have to go to a grocery store for weeks? I used to go to the local supermarket at least once a week. Now, I go every 2 1/2 to 3 weeks...tops! Not only am I saving gas running to the store every few days, but I have MORE TIME to spend doing the more important things in life.
These may seem like big changes, so don't overwhelm yourself. These are changes worth making, I promise. I encourage you to make one change this month...whether it's replacing your sugary beverage with a tall glass of H2O, or checking out a food co-op, start to think about what will work best for you. What can you do right now to start making healthy eating a top priority for your family?
I have no doubt some of you will have some fantastic stories to share about your quest for a healthier lifestyle. Feel free to leave a comment so others can learn your tricks. What have you found that works best for you?