Before I had my own successful business and an expendable income to spend on high-quality food, I was a poor college student living with my fiancé, budgeting everything we did in Washington, DC- one of the most expensive cities in the country. Before that, I was the daughter of a middle-class family who grew up eating the Standard American Diet made of processed and fast foods because my dad was busy building his business while my mom took care of my brother and I at home. We just didn’t have the money or knowledge to buy high-quality foods at the time. I remember hearing stories of our water getting shut off, my parents struggling to make ends meet, and so on during my childhood.
I’m sharing this because I wasn’t always consuming healthy, organic, trendy, expensive foods like you see today- most of you don’t know this other side of my story because you just simply weren’t around for it. I still vividly remember when my mom switched the house to organic foods when I was in middle school- it caused a wave of defensiveness from the whole family and confusion about why she was making these big changes to begin with.
Looking back, she was the catalyst that led me down this path into holistic health, but at the time it was pure confusion. My dad would complain about grocery bills going up, and my brother and I complained about food not tasting the same. But still- my mother held to her guns. We eventually made the long-term lifestyle change towards better health, our palates changed, we learned how to cook delicious, nutrient-dense foods- and it all started with my mom. Thanks mom 🙂
When I got to college, I started learning more and more about the power of nutrition and the affect food has on our physical and mental bodies. I knew if I wanted to be a good D1 track athlete and healthy young person, I needed to keep up what my mom had taught me- to continue to consume healthy, high-quality foods. But how could I do that with such a small budget?
Enter Stu Crowell- the man who would eventually become my wonderful husband. Stu came from a family laser focused on sustainability, frugality, and intentionality. Stu went through some health challenges himself as a young kid and witnesses his mother overcome breast cancer and a heart attack at a young age. Likewise- an importance placed on food, lifestyle, and mentality was on Stu’s radar just like it was mine.
Stu and I would grocery shop in college together and budget the crap out of our lifestyle as college students. Pretty much all the money we spent together and individually went to food and health- Grocery shopping, supplements, quality cooking products to prepare foods, etc. I asked for a blender and mixer in college for Christmas as well as supplements and protein powders- ha! We understood at a young age that health is wealth- if you don’t have your health you don’t really have much else. So we put our money towards health any chance we got, and I’m really grateful we started this habit as young as we did. It wasn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.
Studying Global Public Health in college instilled in me the belief that Health Is A Human Right. It’s crazy to me that socioeconomic status has such a massive impact whether or not someone’s physical and mental outcomes in life will be a strong foundation or a weak one in their lives. I’ve been blessed and grateful to be able to take care of my own health and to adopt a healthy lifestyle throughout many financial seasons, and I want you to know that it doesn’t have to take hundreds of thousands of dollars to eat healthy. You CAN be healthy on a budget. I know this because I spent most of my life living this way, and I’m excited to share some of my tips and tricks with you, as well as a full budgeted meal!
Now that I’ve gotten older, it’s crazy to me how trendy and “elite” being healthy has become. You see it everywhere you go, especially on instagram and other social media outlets. People (myself included) are constantly showing off new, expensive brands with amazing products that seem out of reach to the budgeting family of four, or single 20-something trying to figure out adulthood. I find myself between a rock and a hard place often times when I’m sharing a new product I love, knowing that most people may not be able to afford it. The great thing, though, is that most of these products are just extra fluff- things that are not necessary to a healthy, whole-foods based diet.
Eating healthy can be quite cheap and quite simple. Here’s how:
- Eat with the seasons- its often cheaper and likely hasn’t traveled as far to get to you. Check out this Seasonal Food Guide to see what’s in season near you!
- Shop at local farmers markets when you can. Farmers markets are full of in-season fruits and vegetables and are often not nearly as expensive as most super markets.
- Find a local grocery store that sells local produce at great prices- this is exactly why Stu and I shop at Natural Grocers! They have the BEST prices on local, in season produce. Check out their Store Finder to find a Natural Grocers close to you!
- Buy things in bulk when they’re on sale! Have a favorite product? Stock up and throw it in the freezer if it’s on sale! It might be more money up front, but if you can swing it in the moment it’ll save you money in the long run.
- Look for sales and coupons on the products you love that cost the most. Get ahead of the game on this one, and do what you can to reduce cost but keep the highest quality available.
- Strive for organic produce, but know that any produce is better than none at all. Prioritize your organic produce- buy organic when you’re planning on eating the entirety of a food and conventional when you’re not eating the outer layers of the food. For example, buying an organic apple is more important health wise than buying an organic avocado or banana. You’re eating the ENTIRE apple, but you’re not going to be eating the outer layers of the avocado or banana peel.
- Check your local areas for meat and produce CSA’s (community supported agriculture). This way you’re getting local, quality foods at a fair price and also supporting your local farms.
- Make your own dressings and sauces from scratch instead of buying name-brand expensive kinds. Suggested ratio’s for a simple dressing are a 2:1 ratio of fat to acid, and then toss in your own spices and flavors. For example, we like to use a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to lemon juice, then add in chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and mustard. PERFECTLY delicious and fresh dressing.
- Buy plenty of sweet potatoes, squash, and other cheap, complex carbs in season in place of cheap pastas and grains. Nutrient density is key!
- Buy cheap cuts of meat and slow cook them. Most tough cuts of meat like pork shoulder, ribs, chuck steak, shank, etc. are all WAY cheaper (even at high quality) because they’re tougher meats. Toss them in a crock pot or pressure cooker for easy, cheap meals. Save the fat/lard for cooking!
Following along with this idea of getting more intentional about eating healthy on a budget, I wanted to share a meal with you guys that I made last week with ingredients from Natural Grocers. This meal will serve a family of 4-6 (depending on the ages of your kiddos) and is BURSTING with flavor. The entire meal cost about $45.. thats $7.50-$11.25 PER PERSON. This meal is 100% organic, pasture raised, and so on. Again- HEALTHY DOESNT NEED TO BE EXPENSIVE. It just takes some more time and intention, and often times some more planning.
- 1 head red leaf lettuce, chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 3 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles
- 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
- 1/2 tablespoon mashed garlic (I microplaned mine, about 3 cloves)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Chicken Bake
- 3 pounds bone in chicken thighs
- 2 pounds red potatoes, cubed (could sub sweet potato)
- Sauce For Chicken Bake
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons mesquite grilled rub from Natural Grocers
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1/2 tablespoon mashed garlic (microplaned, about 3 cloved)
- Preheat oven to 375 and set out a large baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, add cubed red potatoes and chicken thighs. Set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ingredients for the Sauce for the chicken bake. Whisk vigorously until completely combined, then pour over the chicken and potatoes and mix until chicken and potatoes are fully coated.
- Spread chicken and potatoes on the baking sheet evenly, and bake in the oven for 60 minutes or until golden brown.
- While chicken is cooking, chop your red lettuce greens and add them to a large salad bowl. Add your toppings and cover in the fridge until chicken is ready to eat.
- In a mason jar or other glass container, add all ingredients for the salad dressing and shake vigorously until all ingredients are combined. Set aside.
- When chicken is done, let it sit until cooled enough for serving- about 5 minutes.
- While chicken is cooking, dress your salad with the salad dressing and toss.
*This post is sponsored and paid for by Natural Grocers, a local grocery store I visit frequently and truly love! All opinions are my own.