Welcome! If this is your first time visiting, please note that this part 4 in a series on Whole Foods for the Family Table. If you’d like to read more, click the links to catch up on part 1, part 2 and part 3.
Greetings dear readers! I sincerely hope you’ve been enjoying this series on whole, unprocessed foods. It’s been good for me to gather my thoughts and resources into one collective place, and I hope you’re gaining something from it all too. If nothing else, I hope it’s at least piqued your curiosity.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been transitioning our family over to a whole foods diet for nearly four years now, but the road has been marked by small progressions. This wasn’t a lifestyle we dove into overnight. Instead, we’ve made little changes that over the course of the past several years have resulted in a drastic shift in our eating habits. As we’ve made this shift, I’ve learned quite a bit, including how to save money, as well as practices for making this lifestyle work with a busy family. Today we’re going to talk money-saving tips, and I’m sharing a recipe for an easy, budget-friendly whole-foods meal. Then in the next few days, I’ll share some realistic advice for making unprocessed foods work for your family without sacrificing your sanity in the process. Ready to save a little money? Let’s go!
My Top Money-Saving Tips for a Whole Foods Diet
- Meal plan.
This is (in my opinion) the single most important component to saving money on a whole foods lifestyle. Having a meal plan has been both my budget saver and my sanity saver. A meal plan not only prevents you from purchasing food items you don’t need, but it also allows you to plan meals around sale items and to stretch certain ingredients across several different meals. Not to mention the fact that it eliminates that blank-staring-into-the-pantry-and-wondering-what’s-for-dinner moment that often precedes take out.
- Eat at home.
The majority of foods served at restaurants are processed (at least to some degree), and unless you specifically seek a venue that serves organic fare, those foods are also likely to be conventionally grown. Then consider the fact that it costs approximately $40 to feed a family of four, and it only makes sense to reduce your dining out. If you simply cut out one restaurant meal a week, you could save $40. Put half of that toward an at-home dinner splurge (a filet of wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific Salmon, for example) and pocket the other $20.
- Shop the bulk section.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but shopping the bulk section really does help minimize grocery costs. Dry goods like grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, flours and more are all often less expensive when sourced from the bulk bins. Store your purchases in glass canisters or canning jars; it makes for easy accessibility in the pantry.
- Replace canned beans with dry beans.
This is an extension of number 3, but resist the urge to buy canned beans. Buy dried beans, and soak and cook them yourself. Just do it! It’s easy, really! You’ll get a lot more bang for your buck, and you can freeze left-over cooked beans for use in a future recipe.
- Eat seasonally.
This is simply a matter of supply and demand. Don’t eat strawberries in December or pumpkin in July unless you plan to pay a premium. Instead, eat the foods that follow the rhythms of nature. Your budget and your body will thank you.
- Buy whole chickens.
I’m not going to lie, whole chickens used to scare.me.to.death. What exactly was I supposed to do with it? And the thought of rubbing seasoning into the skin or stuffing the cavity with lemons or herbs freaked me out a bit. I finally got over my fear, and I’m glad I did. Pound for pound, whole organic chickens cost less than organic chicken breasts, and they can be stretched across two or three meals. If you’ve never cooked with a whole chicken, 100 Days of Real Food has a great recipe for whole chicken in a crockpot.
- Make your own chicken broth.
Once you’re done with the meat from the whole chicken, throw the carcass into the crockpot with onion, celery and carrots. Set the crockpot to simmer all day, then strain out the broth and freeze it for future use. Not only do you save money with homemade broth, but the nutrient profile of slow-simmered homemade broth is much richer than store-bought.
- Make your own pantry staples.
Things like crackers, granola and whole wheat bread are rather easy to make with just a little practice and some foresight. I usually make extra bread and granola to freeze, so I don’t have to make new batches all the time.
- Buy direct from local suppliers.
Meat, honey, eggs, wheat … if you can source whole foods from local suppliers, you’ll likely pay less than you would in a grocery store, and you’ll get a better quality product. I share some great resources for finding local suppliers in the previous posts, so feel free to start there.
- Pay attention to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15.
If you have to choose between organic and non-organic for cost reasons, those items listed on the dirty dozen should be organic, whereas those on the clean 15 can be conventionally grown.
- Eat meatless meals a few times a week.
We frequently eat meatless meals, which obviously reduces my meat expenditure and allows me to spend a bit more money on quality meats.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention coupons here. I don’t use them often; mainly because the majority of coupons are for pre-packaged processed foods. On occasion though, I do find a few for organic options here.
As I mentioned above, meatless meals offer a great way to stretch your whole foods budget. We eat meatless three, sometimes four times a week. When we do, we typically rely on legumes or eggs for our protein, and this dish is one of our favorites.
Not only is this recipe easy, filling and liked by all, but it’s also a nutrient powerhouse. Black beans provide support for digestive health and are a good source of flavonoids. Sweet potatoes contain anti-inflammatory properties and are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese. And kale—a fantastic source of vitamin A, vitamin K and vitamin C—contains anti-oxidant nutrients, anti-inflammatory nutrients and anti-cancer nutrients. Topped with a fried egg, which provides protein and fat for the fat-soluble vitamins A and K, this is a filling, well-rounded meal. We also love this sweet potato, black bean, leafy green combo as a filling for meatless tacos with a little sour cream. It’s a versatile food pairing, which makes it such a great recipe for nights you need an easy dinner. So have some fun and play around. Enjoy!
Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Egg Mash-Up
4 sweet potatoes
1 cup dry black beans
1 bunch kale (or other sturdy leafy green)
4 pastured eggs
Feta or other cheese as a topping (optional)
Chopped cilantro to garnish (optional)
Place the beans in a pot or bowl. Cover with water. Allow to soak overnight or at least four hours. Drain beans. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. (You can also add chopped garlic and onion to the pot if you would like.) Reduce heat. Simmer for approximately 2 hours. The beans vary in cooking time, so taste them periodically to check for doneness. When the beans are done, add 1/2 tablespoon cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice them into approximate 1-inch pieces. Lay the diced sweet potato onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Top the sweet potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, two teaspoons cumin and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat. Roast the sweet potatoes for approximately 45 minutes, checking for doneness during the last 15 minutes.
Dice the kale into small pieces. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, then toss in the kale. Sprinkle with salt. Saute until the kale turns bright green, then remove it from the heat. Remove the kale to a separate plate. Use the same pan to heat a dab of butter, then gently pour the eggs (two at a time) into the pan. Let the eggs cook until the whites are almost firm, then flip (taking care to not break the yolks). Cook until the yolks are done to your liking. Then simply assemble the plates with the kale, black beans and sweet potato. Top with the egg. Finish the plates with optional fresh diced cilantro and feta cheese (a cotija cheese might be good as well). Enjoy!
Now it’s your turn! How do you save money on an unprocessed, whole foods diet? Share your tips with us in the comments.