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As a Holistic Health Coach, one of the things I often hear from folks is how expensive it is to eat healthily.

This blog post will share my top tips for eating healthy and saving money on groceries.

A Little Background:

My husband and I currently live on 28 acres, partially off the grid, and finally completed building our home a few years back. But, we scrimped and saved for many years to purchase the land we have now and build our house.

During that time, I implemented the tactics I am going to share with you in this post. It allowed us to eat a healthy plant-based diet (mostly organic) on a tight budget.

Here are my 6 top tips to save you money while still eating healthily.

1. Do eat diet rich in plant-based foods

For some reason, many people believe that it is a lot more expensive to eat a vegan or plant-based diet.

In reality, the cheapest items at the grocery store are plant-based foods.

For example, bananas, beans, rice, and potatoes are much less expensive than buying meat or animal products.

  • Pinterest

That being said, organic produce will cost you more than conventional produce. Furthermore, a plant-based diet gets very expensive when you start buying alternative products such as fake meats, cheeses, or packaged snacks.

We prefer not to eat those things for several reasons. One reason is the expense. But primarily, it’s because we are committed to eating as clean as possible. That means eliminating and avoiding packaged, processed foods and sticking to whole foods as much as possible.

2. Buy in Bulk

Many grocery stores have a bulk foods section, an aisle of the grocery store with bins of bulk foods.

  • Pinterest
  • Pinterest

There, you can find items such as rice, buckwheat, oats, lentils, dried beans, nuts, trail mix, and dried fruit. Because these foods don’t come in costly packaging, the grocery stores buy in larger quantities and sell them at a lower price.

I find it super convenient to purchase in bulk because I can buy the exact amount I want versus buying a set amount.

If your grocery store doesn’t have bulk bins, that’s okay. There is another way apply this buy in bulk tip and still save money.

Go Big and Save Big:

Many packaged and canned items come in different sizes. It is usually always cheaper to buy the larger sizes.

For example, you can buy a small bag of rice that will last your family a week, or you can buy a bigger bag that will last longer and save money doing it.

It’s all about reading the labels to find the best value.

 

Eat Vegan Save Money on Groceries
  • Pinterest

Check Your Labels Carefully:

All grocery store labels will have a unit price and a retail price.

The retail price is the big number you see on every label in the store. The unit price is the cost per weight and is in smaller print. The unit price indicates how much something costs per ounce or by volume and is a more accurate way to determine the best values.

3. Compare the Store Brands vs the Name Brands

It really pays to compare the store-brands against name-brand items. Just read the labels, and look at the ingredients (and the quantity of the ingredients). Many times you find the less expensive store brand is essentially the same exact thing.

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For example, I looked at the price of canned tomatoes. As you can see, the store brand is $0.06 per oz. and the name brands are $0.16 to $0.17 per oz. In this case, purchasing the name brand would cost you 35 to 37 percent more.

4.Stock Up:

I always stock up on non-perishable food items. By this, I mean things with extended expiration dates, such as canned goods, dry grains, and even frozen vegetables and fruits can last a long time. For example, when I see canned beans on sale, I stock up because canned foods often last up to three years. I will certainly use them up before that.

Check Expiration Dates:

Before stocking up, it’s important to check the expiration dates because stores also discount items as they get close to their pull dates. You don’t want to purchase two dozen of something that you will have to eat within a short time. I did that once. When I realized my mistake, I had to find various ways (besides hummus, which we eat pretty regularly anyway) to use up an army-sized stockpile of Garbanzo Beans within 60 days.

Dealing With a Lack of Pantry Space:

If you don’t have a lot of pantry space you may feel like this isn’t feasible for you. Accept it as a challenge and have fun inventing clever ways to store extra food items.

My husband and I kept small boxes of canned goods discretely stacked behind a love seat in our living room, under our bed, and in the water heater closet for years while living in a tiny, cramped apartment.

For the first 6 years of our marriage, the nightstands on either side of our bed were stacked boxes of canned foods draped with a pretty piece of fabric.

  • Pinterest

They were our version of Shabby Chic. It may have been more Shabby than Chic, but you get the picture!

5. You Don’t Always Have to Buy Organic

People often assume that I will be a stickler for buying everything organic because I am a Holistic Health Coach. They are often surprised (I think the correct word is relieved) to learn that isn’t the case.

While I recommend eating organic as much as possible, I realize it’s impossible to do 100% of the time. The cost may be one of several contributing factors.

Doing the Best Your Can IS Good Enough:

I always tell clients, “Even if you do the best you can and fall short, it’s still better than having done nothing at all.”

Here is some great news! The truth is that you don’t always need to purchase your produce organically grown. That’s right! I said it! Let me explain.

How Was it Grown:

How the food was grown is what matters most.

For example, some smaller farms actually use organic practices to grow their food, but they cannot afford the organic certification. The price of the certification is cost-prohibitive for many, but especially for small businesses.

  • Pinterest

Get to Know Your Local Farmers:

A great way is to visit your local farmers’ market and ask the farmers about their growing process. You may find that they are using organic farming practices but don’t have the official organic certification. That certificate is expensive to acquire, and many small businesses can’t afford it. If they are growing organically, sans the official certification, I am happy to purchase from them. In fact, I look for opportunities to support small, local farmers whenever I can.

Check out LocalHarvest.org. It is an excellent resource for locating local farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants, farm stands, and places to pick your own.

The Dirty Dozen, The Clean 15 & All of Those In Between

Next, I rely on the Dirty Dozen, the In-Betweens, and the Clean 15 lists, which are updated every year by the EWG, or Environmental Working Group. These lists organize fruit and vegetables from 1-47, beginning with those that have the most amount of pesticides to those having the least.

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  • Pinterest

 

These lists can help make choosing whether to purchase organic or not a lot easier.

The Dirty Dozen:

Since these fruits and vegetables have the most amount of pesticides, I always buy these items organic.

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The In- Betweens: This list consists of the produce that didn’t make either the Dirty Dozen or the Clean 15 list.

They aren’t too dirty but they are none too clean, either. : )

I will share my strategies for choosing whether to purchase these items organic or conventional in a bit.

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The Clean 15:

The Clean 15 is a list of crops that have the least amount of pesticides. So, I purchase the conventional version of these, over organic.

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At The Top of the In-Between List:

You will note that Sweet Bell Peppers (13), Cherry Tomatoes (14), Lettuce (15), Cucumbers (16), and Blueberries (17) are at the top of our “In Between” list. That means they almost made the Dirty Dozen List. So, I prefer to buy them organic.

But, the items at the bottom of the “In Between” list (Banana’s (29), Sweet Potatoes (30), Watermelon (31), and Mangoes (32) nearly made the Clean 15 List. So, I am comfortable buying the conventional version of these.

Check the Cost – Organic vs Conventional.

The disparity between organic and conventional prices is not always significant. Let’s look at Bananas, for example. Bananas are near the end of our In Between list, at number 29. They are pretty close to the Clean 15 list and something I would normally purchasing conventional. But, the price between organic bananas versus  traditional tends to average only $0.20 more per pound. If I buy 3 pounds, that is only $0.60 more. In this case it is worth paying a few cents more for the organic.

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Items at the top of the In-Between List:

Closer the top of the “In Between” list, we find Sweet Bell Peppers (13), Cherry Tomatoes (14), Lettuce (15), Cucumber (16), and Blue Berries (17). This placement means they came close to making the Dirty Dozen list. For that reason, I prefer to buy them organic.

Items at the Bottom of the In-Between List:

Purchasing Watermelon (31) and Mangoes (32) organic can be spendy, but since they are near the bottom and closer to the Clean 15 list, along with Sweet Potatoes (30), I am comfortable purchasing these inorganic.

For all the items in the middle of the In Between list, I might use one of the following options.

Wait, Substitute, Mix Them Up, or Buy Only the Bare Minimum:

If a particular produce is too expensive organics, but l don’t feel comfortable eating the conventional version, I may wait until it goes on sale.

Of course,waiting isn’t an option if it’s something I need for my weekly menu. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often because I plan my menus around the weekly sales. But, when it does occur, I might look to substitute it. For example, I might use brown rice instead of potatoes.

Other times I substitute items from the Dirty Dozen or In-Betweens list with something from the Clean 15 list. For example, I may use Pineapple (clean) to replace of Strawberries or Nectarines (dirty).

Another option is to mix things up a bit. Suppose a recipe calls for three heads of red cabbage, which is more expensive than the green. You might buy one organic red cabbage and purchase two heads of the cheaper organic green cabbage.

If none of the above options are workable, I will buy the organic version but purchase the bare minimum.

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6. Shop Around

When we go grocery shopping, we usually hit 2-4 stores during our outing. After getting familiar with the stores in our area, we know which store consistently has the best produce. But, we prefer to purchase our bulk items elsewhere. It isn’t easy to go to three or four stores, but you don’t have to go to all of them every week.

Familiarize Yourself With Prices:

The more you get familiar with the prices of various items at different stores, the more money you can save. You may discover that certain things are cheaper at store #1, but other things are less expensive at store #2. Knowing this can help make your shopping expeditions more efficient and cost-effective.

Write a List & Shop the Ads

I suggest writing a grocery list instead of just walking up and down the aisles. If you are the type of person who walks in and shops the aisles, I suggest you at least grab a sales ad first.

Planning In Advance:

Since my husband and I live many miles from town, I am pretty organized with meal planning and shopping trips. (This systematic, advanced planning stuff was not second nature to me. I had to learn it. (Indeed, circumstances forced me.)

Deciding Weekly Menus Based on Sales

I rely heavily on grocery ads to help me plan. Thankfully, most grocery stores post their sales ads online nowadays. Here is what it looks like to plan your menu using the sales ads. Thumbing through the ads you notice that Butternut Squash is on sale. Your family loves it, so it’s time to pull out your favorite Stuffed Butternut Squash recipe. Asparagus is also on sale. Hey! Your baked asparagus recipe would be a perfect accompaniment for the Stuffed Squash entree. Finally! They have  organic Spinach price marked down. At that price, you’ll want to get several bunches for dinner salads and green breakfast smoothies.

 

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Before you know it, your new superpower is a Super Savvy Shopper, eating healthy, and reaping the savings.

Those are the six tips that have saved me a lot of money over the years and made it affordable for my family and I to eat healthily all year round.

I hope you will find them helpful.

Mangiamo! ( Let’s Eat! )

 

  • Pinterest

As a Holistic Health Coach, one of the things I often hear from folks is how expensive it is to eat healthily.

In this blog post, I will share my top tips for eating healthy and saving money on groceries.

A Little Background:

My husband and I currently live on 28 acres, partially off the grid, and finally completed building our home a few years back. But, we scrimped and saved for many years to be able to purchase the land we have now and build our house.

During that time, I implemented the tactics I am going to share with you in this post. It allowed us to eat a healthy plant-based diet (mostly organic) on a tight budget.

Here are my 6 top tips to save you money while still eating healthily.

1. Do eat a diet rich in plant-based foods

For some reason, a lot of people seem to believe that it is much more expensive to eat a vegan or plant-based diet. In reality, the cheapest items at the grocery store are plant-based foods. For example, bananas, beans, rice, and potatoes are much less expensive than buying meat or animal products.

I can attest to the fact that eating a predominantly plant-based diet is not only healthier but can actually cost less, if done right.

That being said, organic produce will cost you more than conventional produce.

Furthermore, a plant-based diet can get very expensive when you start buying alternative products such as fake meats, cheeses, or packaged snacks.

We prefer not to eat those things for several reasons, one reason is the expense. But primarily, it’s because we are committed to eating as clean as possible. That means eliminating and avoiding packaged, processed foods and sticking to a whole foods as much as possible.

2. Buy in Bulk

Many grocery stores have a bulk foods section, which is an aisle of the grocery store that has bins of bulk foods.

  • Pinterest
  • Pinterest

There, you can find items such as rice, buckwheat, oats, lentils, dried beans, nuts, trail mix, and dried fruit. Because these foods don’t come in costly packaging, the grocery stores buy in larger quantities and sell them at a lower price.

I find it super convenient to purchase in bulk because I can buy the exact amount I want versus purchasing a set amount.

If your grocery store doesn’t have bulk bins, that’s okay. You can still apply this tip to help you save money.

Go Big and Save:

Many packaged and canned items come in different sizes. It is usually always cheaper to buy the larger sizes. For example, you can buy a small bag of rice that will last your family a week, or you can buy a larger bag and save money.  This is where it pays to look at labels carefully.

Eat Vegan Save Money on Groceries
  • Pinterest

Check Your Labels Carefully:

All grocery store labels will have a unit price and a retail price. The retail price is the big number you see on every label in the store. But the unit price is the cost per weight and is in smaller print. The unit price indicates how much something costs per ounce or by volume. This unit price tells you how much you’re paying for the amount of food you’re getting. It is a more accurate way to determine what items are the best value.

3. Compare Store Brands Against Name Brands

It’s essential to compare store-brand labels with name-brand labels. Most likely the store-brand item will be cheaper. But check out the ingredients on the label and you will find that very often they are virtually the same product! This is especially true when buying things such as beans, tomatoes, pasta, and sauce.

For example, I looked at the price of canned tomatoes, and, as you can see, the Whole Foods store price per ounce is a lot cheaper than this name brand’s price.

  • Pinterest

  • Pinterest

4. Stock Up

I always stock up on non-perishable food items. By this, I mean things that have extended expiration dates, such as canned goods, dry grains, and even frozen vegetables and fruits can last a long time. Say, for example, I see that canned beans are on sale, I will buy a lot of them because things like this can be good up to three years. I will definitely use them up before they expire. 

Check Expiration Dates:

Before stocking up it’s important to check the expiration dates because stores also discount items as they get close to their pull dates. You don’t want to inadvertently purchase two dozen of something that you will have to eat within a short period of time. I did that once. When I realized my mistake, I had to find a variety of ways (besides hummus which we eat pretty regularly anyway) to use up our army-sized stockpile of Garbanzo Beans. 😒

Dealing With a Lack of Pantry Space:

If you don’t have a lot of pantry space and feel like this isn’t feasible, I understand, but I assure you it is still doable.

My husband and I kept small boxes of canned goods discretely stacked behind a love seat in our living room, under our bed, and in the water heater closet for years when we lived in a tiny, cramped apartment.

In those early years of our marriage, the nightstand next to our bed was actually a box of canned foods covered with a pretty piece of fabric. It was our version of Shabby Chic. Okay! It may have been more Shabby than Chic, but you get the picture.

5. You Don’t Always Have to Buy Organic

My clients often assume that because I am a Holistic Health Coach, I will be a stickler for buying everything organic. They are often surprised (I think the correct word is relieved) to learn that isn’t the case.

While I recommend eating organic as much as possible, I also realize it’s impossible to do so 100% of the time. The cost may be only one of several contributing factors.

Doing the Best Your Can IS Good Enough:

I always say to clients, “If you do the best you can and fall short, it’s still better than having done nothing at all.” Guilt is a useless emotion.

Here is some great news! The truth is that you don’t always need to purchase your produce organically grown.

That’s right! I said it. Let me explain.

How Was it Grown:

How the food was grown is what matters most.

For example, some smaller farms actually use organic practices to grow their food, but they cannot afford their full organic certification. The price of this certification can be cost-prohibitive for many, but especially for small businesses.

Get to Know Your Local Farmers:

A great way is to visit your local farmers’ market and ask the farmers about their growing process. You may find that they are using organic farming practices but don’t have the official organic certification. That certificate is expensive to acquire, and many small businesses can’t afford it. If they are growing organically, sans the official certification, I am happy to purchase from them. In fact, I look for opportunities to support small, local farmers whenever I can.

Check out LocalHarvest.org. It is an excellent resource for locating local farms, farmer’s markets, restaurants, farm stands, and places to pick your own.

The Dirty Dozen & The Clean 15:

Next, I use and rely on the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. Have you heard of them?

We will cover them in a bit of detail because they are helpful to making choices as to whether I purchase organic, or not.

The Dirty Dozen:

The Dirty Dozen is a list of produce that have a lot of pesticides. Consequently, I feel it is always best to buy these organic.

(In the following graphics the produce is listed in order from the most amount of pesticides to the least amount. So, strawberries are number 1 for having the most and Avocados are last on our list, having the least.)

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The Clean 15:

The Clean 15 are a list of crops that have the least amount of pesticides. I usually choose to buy these items conventional.

Our Clean 15 list begins with Kiwi’s at no. 33 and that will make more sense a bit later, after I have explained the In Between List.

 

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The In-Between:

Inevitably someone will ask, “But, what about all the produce that is not listed on either of those two lists?” A great question because there are a lot of them!

I call those the “In-Betweens” because they didn’t make the Dirty Dozen or the Clean 15 list. Below is a list of the “In Betweens”.

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You will note that Sweet Bell Peppers (13), Cherry Tomatoes (14), Lettuce (15), Cucumbers (16), and Blueberries (17) are at the top of our “In Between” list. That means they almost made the Dirty Dozen List. So, I prefer to buy them organic.

But, the items at the bottom of the “In Between” list (Banana’s (29), Sweet Potatoes (30), Watermelon (31), and Mangoes (32) nearly made it to the Clean 15 List. So, I am comfortable buying the conventional version of these.

Below are the lists in order, with the produce shown from dirtiest at #1 (Strawberries) to the cleanest at #47 (Avocados).

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  • Pinterest

When considering the “in-between” items and whether to buy organic or not, there are no hard and fast rules, but here is my strategy.

Consider the Cost – Organic vrs Conventional

Over time, I realized that with some produce the disparity between the organic and conventional price is not that significant at all.

Let’s look at Bananas for example. They are near the end, at number 29 on our In Between list. closer to the end of the “In Between” list, and so closer to having made the Clean 15 list. Normally, I would be comfortable purchasing the conventional version. But, in this case the price for organic verses conventional  is very close.

Banana’s tend to average only $0.20 more per pound. If I buy 3 pounds, that is only  $0.60 more. In cases like this it is worth it to pay a little more for organic, even though I would feel comfortable purchasing them conventional.

Items at the top of the In-Between List:

Closer the top of the “In Between” list we find Sweet Bell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Lettuce, Cucumber, and Blue Berries. This means this produce was close to being on the Dirty Dozen list. For that reason, I usually buy the organic version of these produce items.

Items at the Bottom of the In-Between List:

Watermelon and Mangoes can be kind of spendy, but since they are closer to the bottom of the list, and therefore closer to the top of the Clean 15 list, I don’t worry so much about not buying them organic.

Wait, Substitute, Mix ’em Up, or Buy Only the Bare Minimum:

I prefer to buy all my “In Betweens” organic when I can afford to (except for those  at the bottom of the list as discussed in the preceding paragraph)

If a particular organic produce is too expensive, but l don’t feel comfortable eating the conventional version, I sometimes will wait until it goes on sale.

Obviously, this isn’t an option if it’s something I really need for my weekly menu. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often because I plan my menus around the weekly sales. But, when it does occur, I may chose to substitute that particular item for something else, if plausible. For example, I might use brown rice instead of potatoes.

Other times I may substitute an from the Dirty Dozen or In-Betweens list with a suitable replacement from the Clean 15 list, like using Pineapple instead of Strawberries, or Nectarines.

Sometimes I mix things up a bit. Let’s say my recipe calls for 3 heads of red cabbage, which is more expensive than the green. I may buy only 1 organic red cabbage and swap the other 2 for the cheaper organic green cabbage.

If none of the above options are workable, I will buy the organic version but only purchase the minimum needed.

6. Shop Around

When we go grocery shopping, we usually hit 2-4 stores during our outing. After getting familiar with the stores in our area, we know which one tends to have the best produce. But we prefer to purchase our bulk items at another. It isn’t easy to go to three or four stores, but you don’t have to go to all of them every week.

Familiarize Yourself With Prices:

The more you get familiar with the prices of various items at different stores, the more money you can save. You may discover that certain things are cheaper at store #1, but other things are less expensive at store #2. Knowing this can really help make your shopping expeditions more efficient, and cost-effective. 

Write a List & Shop the Ads

I suggest writing a grocery list instead of just going to a grocery store and walking around the aisles. If you are the type of person who just walks in and shops the aisles, I suggest you at least grab the sales ad at the front of the store.

Planning In Advance

Since my husband and I live remotely and many miles from town, I am pretty organized with meal planning and shopping trips. (This organized and advanced planning stuff was not second nature to me. I had to learn it. Truly, I was forced by circumstances.)

Deciding Weekly Menus Based on Sales

 I rely heavily on grocery ads to help me plan. Thankfully, most grocery stores post their sales ads online nowadays. Use the sales ads to help plan your weekly menus. Let’s say Butternut Squash is on sale. Well, it’s time to pull out Mom’s favorite Stuffed Butternut Squash recipe. Asparagus is also on sale and your baked asparagus recipe would go perfect with it! Perfecto!

Those are the six tips that have saved us a lot of money over the years and made it affordable for us to eat healthily all year round.

I hope you will find them helpful.

Mangiamo!

( Let’s Eat! )

As a Holistic Health Coach, one of the things I often hear from folks is how expensive it is to eat healthily. This blog post will share my top tips for eating healthy and saving money on groceries. A Little Background: My husband and I currently live on 28 acres, partially off the grid, and finally completed building our home a few years back. But, we scrimped and saved for many years to purchase the land we have now and build our house. During that time, I implemented the tactics I am going to share with you in this post. It allowed us to eat a healthy plant-based diet (mostly organic) on a tight budget. Here are my 6 top tips to save you money while still eating healthily. Do eat a diet rich in plant-based foods. For some reason, many people seem to believe that it is much more expensive to eat a vegan or plant-based diet. In reality, the cheapest items at the grocery store are plant-based foods. For example, bananas, beans, rice, and potatoes are much less expensive than buying meat or animal products. I can attest to the fact that eating a predominantly plant-based diet is not only healthier but can cost less if done right. That being said, organic produce will cost you more than conventional produce. Furthermore, a plant-based diet can get very expensive when you start buying alternative products such as fake meats, cheeses, or packaged snacks. We prefer not to eat those things for several reasons. One reason is the expense. But primarily, it’s because we are committed to eating as clean as possible. That means eliminating and avoiding packaged, processed foods and sticking to whole foods as much as possible. Buy in Bulk: Many grocery stores have a bulk foods section, an aisle of the grocery store with bins of bulk foods. There, you can find items such as rice, buckwheat, oats, lentils, dried beans, nuts, trail mix, and dried fruit. Because these foods don’t come in costly packaging, the grocery stores buy in larger quantities and sell them at a lower price. I find it super convenient to purchase in bulk because I can buy the exact amount I want versus buying a set amount. If your grocery store doesn’t have bulk bins, that’s okay. You can still apply this tip to help you save money. Go Big and Save: Many packaged and canned items come in different sizes. It is usually always cheaper to buy the larger sizes. For example, you can buy a small bag of rice that will last your family a week, or you can buy a bigger bag that will last longer and save you money. Check Your Labels Carefully: All grocery store labels will have a unit price and a retail price. The retail price is the big number you see on every label in the store. The unit price is the cost per weight and is in smaller print. The unit price indicates how much something costs per ounce or by volume. This unit price tells you how much you’re paying for the amount of food you’re getting. The unit price is a more accurate way to determine the best values. Compare Store Brands Against Name Brands It’s essential to compare store-brand labels with name-brand labels. Most likely, the store-brand item will be cheaper. But check out the ingredients on the label, and you will find that they are virtually the same product very often! For example, I looked at the price of canned tomatoes, and, as you can see, the Whole Foods store price per ounce is a lot cheaper than this name brand’s price. Stock Up I always stock up on non-perishable food items. By this, I mean things with extended expiration dates, such as canned goods, dry grains, and even frozen vegetables and fruits can last a long time. For example, when I see canned beans are on sale, I buy many cans because things like this can be good for up to three years. I will definitely use them up before they expire. Check Expiration Dates: Before stocking up, it’s important to check the expiration dates because stores also discount items as they get close to their pull dates. You don’t want to purchase two dozen of something that you will have to eat within a short time. I did that once. When I realized my mistake, I had to find various ways (besides hummus, which we eat pretty regularly anyway) to use up our army-sized stockpile of Garbanzo Beans. 😒 Dealing With a Lack of Pantry Space: If you don’t have a lot of pantry space and feel like this isn’t feasible, I understand, but I assure you it is still doable. My husband and I kept small boxes of canned goods discretely stacked behind a love seat in our living room, under our bed, and in the water heater closet for years when we lived in a tiny, cramped apartment. In those early years of our marriage, the nightstand next to our bed was a box of canned foods covered with a pretty piece of fabric. It was our version of Shabby Chic. It may have been more Shabby than Chic, but you get the picture. You Don’t Always Have to Buy Organic My clients often assume that I will be a stickler for buying everything organic because I am a Holistic Health Coach. They are often surprised (I think the correct word is relieved) to learn that isn’t the case. While I recommend eating organic as much as possible, I realize it’s impossible to do so 100% of the time. The cost could be one of several contributing factors. Doing the Best Your Can IS Good Enough: I always say to clients, “If you do the best you can and fall short, it’s still better than having done nothing at all.” Guilt is a useless emotion. Here is some great news! The truth is that you don’t always need to purchase your produce organically grown. That’s right! I said it! Let me explain. How Was it Grown: How the food was grown is what matters most. For example, some smaller farms actually use organic practices to grow their food, but they cannot afford the organic certification. The price of this certification can be cost-prohibitive for many, but especially for small businesses. Get to Know Your Local Farmers: A great way is to visit your local farmers’ market and ask the farmers about their growing process. You may find that they are using organic farming practices but don’t have the official organic certification. That certificate is expensive to acquire, and many small businesses can’t afford it. If they are growing organically, sans the official certification, I am happy to purchase from them. In fact, I look for opportunities to support small, local farmers whenever I can. Check out LocalHarvest.org. It is an excellent resource for locating local farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants, farm stands, and places to pick your own. The Dirty Dozen & The Clean 15: Next, I use and rely on the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. Have you heard of them? They can help make choosing whether to purchase organic or not a lot easier. The Dirty Dozen: The Dirty Dozen is a list of produce that typically have a lot of pesticides. Consequently, I feel it is always best to buy these items organic. (In the following graphics, the produce is in order from the most pesticides to the least amount. So, strawberries are number 1 for having the most, and Avocados are last on our list, having the least.) The Clean 15: The Clean 15 is a list of crops that have the least amount of pesticides. I usually choose to buy these items conventional. Our Clean 15 list begins with Kiwis at the top, indicating they have the highest amount of pesticides on our Clean list. The In-Between: Inevitably someone will ask, “But, what about all the produce not listed on either of these two lists?” A great question because there are a lot of them! I call those the “In-Betweens” because they are between the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 list. Below is a list of the “In-Betweens.” You will note that Sweet Bell Peppers (13), Cherry Tomatoes (14), Lettuce (15), Cucumbers (16), and Blueberries (17) are at the top of our “In Between” list. That means they almost made the Dirty Dozen List. So, I prefer to buy them organic. But, the items at the bottom of the “In Between” list (Banana’s (29), Sweet Potatoes (30), Watermelon (31), and Mangoes (32) nearly made it to the Clean 15 List. So, I am comfortable buying the conventional version of these. Below are the lists in order, with the produce shown from dirtiest at #1 (Strawberries) to the cleanest at #47 (Avocados). When considering these “in-between” produce and whether to buy organic or not, there are no hard and fast rules, but I will share my strategy. Consider the Cost – Organic vs Conventional. Over time, I realized that the disparity between organic and conventional prices is not always significant. Let’s look at Bananas, for example. They are near the end, at number 29 on our “In Between” list. Therefore, they are close to the Clean 15 list and something I would typically consider purchasing conventional. But, in this case, the price for organic versus traditional is very close. Bananas tend to average only $0.20 more per pound. If I buy 3 pounds, that is only $0.60 more. In cases like this, it is worth paying a few cents more to get organic. Items at the top of the In-Between List: Closer the top of the “In Between” list, we find Sweet Bell Peppers (13), Cherry Tomatoes (14), Lettuce (15), Cucumber (16), and Blue Berries (17). Their placement means they came close to making the Dirty Dozen list. For that reason, I prefer to buy their organic version. Items at the Bottom of the In-Between List: Watermelon and Mangoes can be kind of spendy, but since they are near the bottom and closer to the top of the Clean 15 list, I don’t worry about not buying them organic. Wait, Substitute, Mix Them Up, or Buy Only the Bare Minimum: I prefer to buy the “In-Betweens” organic when I can, except for Mangoes and Watermelon, as discussed above. If a particular organic produce is too expensive, but l don’t feel comfortable eating the conventional version, I may wait until it goes on sale. But waiting isn’t an option if it’s something I need for my weekly menu. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often because I plan my menus around the weekly sales. But, when it does occur, I may choose to substitute that particular item, if plausible. For example, I might use brown rice instead of potatoes. I may also substitute an item from the Dirty Dozen or In-Betweens list with produce from the Clean 15 list. For example, use Pineapple in place of Strawberries or Nectarines. Sometimes I mix things up a bit. Suppose my recipe calls for three heads of red cabbage, which is more expensive than the green. I may buy one organic red cabbage and purchase two heads of the cheaper organic green cabbage. If none of the above options are workable, I will buy the organic version but purchase the bare minimum. Shop Around When we go grocery shopping, we usually hit 2-4 stores during our outing. After getting familiar with the stores in our area, we know which store consistently has the best produce. But, we prefer to purchase our bulk items elsewhere. It isn’t easy to go to three or four stores, but you don’t have to go to all of them every week. Familiarize Yourself With Prices: The more you get familiar with the prices of various items at different stores, the more money you can save. You may discover that certain things are cheaper at store #1, but other things are less expensive at store #2. Knowing this can help make your shopping expeditions more efficient and cost-effective. Write a List & Shop the Ads I suggest writing a grocery list instead of just going to a grocery store and walking around the aisles. If you are the type of person who walks in and shops the aisles, I suggest you at least grab a sales ad first. Planning In Advance Since my husband and I live many miles from town, I am pretty organized with meal planning and shopping trips. (This systematic, advanced planning stuff was not second nature to me. I had to learn it. (Indeed, circumstances forced me.) Deciding Weekly Menus Based on Sales I rely heavily on grocery ads to help me plan. Thankfully, most grocery stores post their sales ads online nowadays. Use the sales ads to help plan your weekly menus. Let’s say you notice that Butternut Squash is on sale. That would be the time to pull out your Mom’s Stuffed Butternut Squash recipe. Asparagus is also on sale, and your baked asparagus recipe would be a perfect accompaniment. Ah, finally, they have lowered their organic Spinach price. We will pick up several bunches for salads and green smoothies. Look at you! You Super Savvy Shopper, you’re eating healthy and saving smart. Those are the six tips that have saved us a lot of money over the years and made it affordable for us to eat healthily all year round. I hope you will find them helpful. Mangiamo! ( Let’s Eat! )

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