Your life will turn out completely differently when you are eating well and you understand food, because what we eat changes everything. You literally are what you eat. Food is the only thing we partake in that becomes part of of our blood, our organs, our thoughts, our feelings. Therefore you determine how you define yourself based on the food choices you make. What and how you eat is a metaphor for everything else you do in your life.
Having said that, I understand that many people are in a very tight financial situation. U.S. food prices will jump between 3% and 4% this year, the U.S. Agriculture Department forecast, after rising in 2010 by the slowest rate since 1962.
I don’t be promote shopping at one specific supermarket over another, though I believe each type of food shopping experience can be beneficial. I’m talking about your traditional supermarket, your local health food store, whether it’s a national chain, like Whole Foods or an independent provider, and your local farmer’s market.
A couple of generalities to keep in mind:
- Pay attention to sales. This might seem obvious, but we can get so immeshed in a pattern that we end up buying the same brands or the same produce items without considering cost. Even your local Whole Foods, which might seem more expensive than other supermarkets at first glance, always have sales on something, so read labels and cost compare. The same will go for the Farmer’s Market. Especially if you go shopping toward the end of the day, vendors will often offer deals in order to get rid of excess produce. Be open to change. Also, I do encourage using coupons if it doesn’t feel too stressful and time-consuming for you. Almost all supermarkets have monthly circulars so check those out and clip coupons. Now, don’t buy an item you don’t normally buy simply because you have a coupon... that food might go to waste because it’s not something you normally eat, so you aren’t saving yourself money. But if it’s a brand or a similar brand of something you normally buy, then by all means, clip coupons!
- Foods are priced based on convenience.Consider boneless, skinless chicken breast, baby carrots, bottled salad dressings. Sure, they’re convenient. But, in general, foods that take out the prep work for you will factor that into their higher cost. So, as you get more comfortable and creative in your kitchen, consider what’s worth the money. Is it worth the few extra minutes it takes to chop your own carrots? It’s healthier to eat them with the peel on, so all you need to do in your own home is wash them and chop them. Then you’ve cut carrots ready for the week to eat with dips, to throw over a salad, or to steam with a dinner.
- Consider Long-Term Benefits and Costs. It’s no surprise to anyone here that we are in a health and financial crisis in this country. In March 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the National League of Cities, saying, “In the 10 cities with the nation's highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and obesity-related diseases are roughly $50 million per 100,000 residents. And if these 10 cities just cut their obesity rates down to the national average, all added up they combine to save nearly $500 million in health care costs each year... Childhood obesity creates childhood medical problems, meaning parents are less efficient at work.”
Where you are today will reflect where you are in the future. Yes, it can feel challenging to reform the way you eat today, maybe you just aren’t convinced that you can eat healthfully and stick to a budget. But think about what not eating healthfully will mean for you long-term. You may not notice a major difference during an individual meal of diet soda and a Big Mac but consider long-term the effect that has on your health and your longevity. Then, consider the effects of those consequences on your finances. It’s not cheap to be sick. I’m not trying to be quite so matter-of-fact about this, but truly, if you compare the cost today of buying a few more organic items or eating less processed foods to the cost of being sick or having a sick family member, you’ll see a major difference. Start the change today... you can’t afford to wait until tomorrow.
Especially if you are a parent, you want to mirror healthy behaviors and priorities, around food and money, while your children are still impressionable.