Healthy Eating in the Face of Food Scarcity


Not so sure about your grocery store, but the one I shop at regularly seems to be sparse on fresh fruits and vegetables. For many this puts a damper on their health journey from the standpoint of incorporating nutrient dense foods. Below are some tips on how to eat healthy and save money at the same time.


1. Shop the Bulk Section

When you’re buying dry goods and pantry staples such as dried beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and grains, bulk is the way to go. Not only do you save on packaging, you also can buy what you need.


If there is a cost savings to you, buy in bulk, using your freezer to immediately store any food you don’t need. This can be a great strategy when meat is on sale, for instance – if you can afford to stock up on a few extra pounds of meat at a sale price, you can store it in your freezer to get the benefit of that savings later.


Take advantage of “buy one get one free” situations so you can stock up. It may cost you a little more in the beginning, but it proves to be cost saving in the long run.


2. Shop Online

No matter where you live, shopping online can save you both time and money. My favorite is Thrive Market, which offers many top healthy foods, natural beauty, and cleaning product brands at prices 25-50% lower than traditional grocery stores. Many of my clients shop there to stock up on spices, oils, snacks, nuts, nut butters, beans, grains, alternative pastas and more. There is free shipping for orders over $49, and it’s typically delivered within 2 days. After the free 30-day trial, the $60 annual membership fee will still help you save (and if you’re a student or veteran or have a low income, you may be eligible for a free membership.


3. Buy Frozen Produce

Plain frozen produce is an excellent choice for the practical healthy shopper. It’s convenient, less expensive, and equally nutritious. Frozen produce is picked when ripe and at peak nutrition, and flash frozen right away to retain maximum nutrients. By contrast, the “fresh” fruits, and vegetables you get in the produce section are often picked early when under-ripe to withstand traveling and warehousing before they get to the store, which could be days, weeks, or even months later. Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, the nutrients generally start to diminish with time. So, although fresh local produce is your best bet, don’t be afraid to supplement with frozen.

4. Buy Frozen Fish

The technology around freezing fish is very advanced, with much of the fish flash-frozen right on the boat, so it’s a very healthy option. Frozen fish is still less expensive than fresh, and there’s less waste because you control how much you thaw at a time.


5. Choose Store Brands

Store brands have come a long way. Of course, with any packaged food, always read the ingredient list to make sure you’re getting clean, recognizable ingredients. If it has more than 4-5 ingredients, walk away.


6. Batch Cook

One of the best ways to save money is to plan and batch cook your meals. Spending just an hour or two cooking on the weekends can save you time, let alone stress during the week, so you eat more homemade items and less pricey takeout. Plus, meal planning and batch cooking can save you from wasting food.


7. Memberships

Look into membership sellers to see if they will offer you a cost savings that will offset their expense. While you may need to pay a yearly fee, if the savings you get from purchasing certain items specifically from these sources is great it may be worthwhile for you. CSA’s are also available for those looking to buy a share in a community supported program. Memberships to high quality meats are also available.


8. Grow Your Own Food

Americans waste an estimated 1,400 calories of food per person every single day. Not only can you help put an end to food waste, but you also can make a difference by growing your own foods.


Plant an herb pot somewhere convenient, like your kitchen, so you always have fresh herbs on hand. Most organic herbs are overpriced at the grocery store.


There are many resources available on how to grow your own vegetables and fruits according to your zone. There are also many foods you can re-grow from kitchen scraps! Composting all food waste to put nutrients back into your garden soil. Composting is another great way to save money and fertilize your garden soil.


If your property lends itself, get a couple of chickens to provide your family with eggs which are a great source of protein.


9. Find a Farmer

Local food can be significantly cheaper than food shipped from miles away. Find a local farmers market near you – you may even be able to negotiate prices. Being the last person to leave the market often finds you scoring cheap produce. Farmers will likely cut their prices at the end of the day to avoid taking it back to their farm. This is also a good time to buy in bulk and freeze for future use.


10. Other Frugal Choices

  • Avoid pre-washed and ready to eat produce as these are generally more expensive.

  • Choose according to the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” list available on ewg.org. These lists will help you navigate which produce to buy organic due to pesticides.

  • Buying a whole chicken at the store as opposed to the separate parts can be a better option since not only do you get all the parts (liver included) but you can use the carcass to make broth with (and freeze).

  • Freeze all leftovers.

  • Repurposed vegetable pulp from juice to add fiber to smoothies, soups, breads, or crackers.

  • Wash all leafy greens and berries when ready to consume to keep from spoiling.

  • Store herbs, spring onions, asparagus upright in a large glass will with an inch of water to preserve longer.

  • If your palette will allow, show some love for organ meats as they are the most nutrient dense.

  • Lastly, choose to eat less to avoid overeating which in turn will reduce waste. Smaller plates are helpful here.

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