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How to Eat Well on a Budget

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When Wild Things begin the 90 Day Challenge, one of the first things they wonder is: how am I going to make this affordable? Now of course those Living WILDFIT know that it does even out with money saved on packaged food, daily fast food, and medication. However all those veggies can add up, especially when you’re feeding a family! We all know it is worth it to invest in your health. We also know it would be great to save some money at the same time. So, here are some of the team’s best tips for eating WILDFIT on a budget: 

1. Buy in Bulk

Let’s start simple! When you buy things in larger quantities it costs you less. This goes for both your pantry staples (nuts, seeds, flours, dried fruit) and packaged foods. This also saves you time on shopping trips and environmental impact due to less individual wrapping. Some businesses provide online storefronts, others are warehouses, and a third are community organizations. All have their costs and benefits, depending where you are in the world and whether you are in a city or country. You will need to do a bit of investigation to find what works for you.

Often if you are seeking to eat only wild caught fish, game and animals raised far from CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations). It means a hefty price tag, but this isn’t always the case. In many places where there are farmers markets you can plug into a CSA (community supported agriculture) and receive bulk orders of produce, eggs, and meat. It is much more efficient to purchase a side of heritage pork than a few chops. In the same way you can find community supported fisheries so that you purchase an entire tuna, rather than a couple steaks. Using your purchasing power in this way also supports your local economy and the environment. There is less travel, waste and generally better practices involved. 

Of course if this is not an option for you, membership services like Butcher Box and Thrive Market become a good options. They have no brick and mortar store and so can charge less for quality goods. Warehouse stores do have a certain appeal, however those with smaller kitchens and less storage tend to prefer zero waste bulk food stores. You bring your own containers and pay by weight for most staple household items. In times when it may be difficult to get out to a store, it is nice to also have options like NaturalZing and Sun Food Superfood which are online bulk stores that deliver.

2. Embrace your Inner Grandma

Yes I am talking about reading flyers, looking for coupons and shopping sales. This is a natural extension of buying in bulk. It usually just takes a bit of added awareness when it comes to how and where you shop. Many stores offer an online or emailed weekly flyer. By spending a few minutes each week planning your meals based on what is on sale and shopping for specific items based on prices, your savings add up. 

If possible you can also shop wholesale, which may mean buying the less aesthetically pleasing, yet still delicious foods. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have the extra time to invest in these habits. This can also work against us as when we shop under pressure and without planning . We can end up spending 25% more in the store and wasting a lot of what we do bring home.  

If you eat meat, you may also want to consider expanding the cuts of meat that you are purchasing. Often we believe that if we are cutting out filler foods it means filling our plates with steak and boneless chicken breasts at every meal, but this is not necessary. We like to encourage eating nose to tail, a more traditional way to consume animals. One of the most economically and environmentally friendly ways to approach working with meat. 

When you start exploring cheaper cuts, organ meats, bones and tallows you open yourself up to not only savings but also a more diverse set of nutrients than sticking to conventional cuts.Just make sure to choose certified organic, biodynamic and 100% grass fed for the cleanest sourced products possible. Intimidated to try it? Another great reason to reach out to a local farmer or butcher! 

3. Learn how to Avoid Spoilage

The biggest part of not wasting our produce is planning what we are going to make each week. Many of us are idealistic shoppers, wandering along without a list and simply picking up what looks good. This can feel nice at the time, but if you are not a home chef you can end up with incompatible ingredients, doubles of what you already have and older produce that gets pushed to the back rather than getting used up first. 

To avoid this romanticized version of shopping, use a weekly menu plan. By avoiding spoilage, you can use up all of your food and put your budget to new ingredients. Again, this takes a bit of practice, but it enables you to stop composting most of your produce! You can also take steps to keep what you do buy fresh. For example, keep nuts and seeds in the fridge, clean and store root vegetables properly. Keep greens damp so that they will keep for weeks, rather than wilt in days. Another great tip is to learn different flavor combinations with herbs and spices. You can use a vegetable like broccoli in a number of different ways without becoming tired of it.

4. Buy Seasonally

A huge cost of produce is the shipping and packaging, so buying from local farmers can save you money. Educating yourself about the seasons of your favorite foods will help you plan your meal plans to include them, and not be opportunistic. When you buy from local farmers, it also gives you the opportunity to learn where your food comes from and what it is grown with.

These farms will usually have specific things becoming available in certain weeks. Farmers will often overshoot on what they bring to market. If you go later in the day you can often buy up the excess at half the price per pound as you would pay in a conventional supermarket. 

Seasonal eating generally means either eating a lot of something for a few weeks before switching to something else, or prepping things for your freezer by washing, chopping and placing fruits and vegetables in silicone bags with labels. This does require a larger freezer, however long term I think that this is my biggest money saver. It gives me the peace of mind of knowing that I am supporting the local economy, lowering my carbon footprint, and saving some money on a farm to table product. 

5. Invest in your Cooking Skills

The most expensive groceries we buy when we switch to a healthier diet are “clean” pre-packaged foods. Processed food is cheap because it can be made in large factories from subsidized source products and many different additives can be used to extend the shelf life. When we start buying organic, paleo and keto products we can be shocked at the prices. Often they reflect what these things actually ought to cost when they are made of  quality foods and packaging. Surprisingly, this is where the bulk of our money goes, buying convenience products like soups, fruit snacks, chips, dips, dressings, jerky and trail mix. 

A consideration when you want to save both time and money with groceries is: “what do I eat a lot of that I could easily learn to make a lot of?” This lets you look objectively at the products you are purchasing and start making just a few more things from scratch. Maybe you see that you eat four containers of hummus a week at $6 a piece, and you can start making and freezing batches in the blender for $1.00 each. Maybe you only use one jar of hot sauce each month, so it is better to buy that. These decisions will be completely come down to what you spend the most on and use the most of. The more volume of something you eat, the more worthwhile it will be to learn how to make it. Learn how to cook so you can eat well on a budget.

6. Make an Action Plan

Now that you have these ideas sparking motivation within you- don’t wait! Action plans will help you plan out so you can eat well on a budget. Take a few minutes to create an action plan to put these tips to work. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  1. Do I have a CSA or ButcherBox in my area that I can take advantage of? 
  2. Are there online stores or co-ops that can supply me with bulk nuts, seeds, teas, and other high quality pantry items?
  3. Can I subscribe to a few local grocery stores’ weekly flyers? When can I set aside some time to peruse them?
  4. Have I taken action to make a weekly meal plan or a few set plans for my WILDFIT seasons? If not, can I make time to check out this WildFit Meal Prep Step by Step article?
  5. Can I make some time to study food seasons, storage and using new recipes with some other WILDFIT community members?
  6. What are the most valuable products for me to make at home and when can I make time for that?

Do you have some great budgeting tips to share with your fellow Wild Things? Please share in the comments below! 

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