Monday, June 13, 2011

5 Ways to Afford Whole Foods on a Budget

We've all heard the advice, "Eat more whole food." But what exactly is whole food? And is it affordable?

Picture of lettuce

Whole food is unprocessed and unrefined food. Simply, if you can imagine it growing, it's probably a whole food. For example, a potato is a whole food, as opposed to a potato chip that has been cut, salted and fried.

While whole food has the reputation of being expensive, there are many ways to add delicious, healthy whole food to your diet, while also sticking to your budget:

  • Buy seasonal: Fruits and vegetables are cheaper — and tastier — when purchased in season. Shop your farmers market or co-op to find seasonal items like asparagus in the spring, strawberries in the summer and kale in the fall.
  • Embrace the bulk bins: Do the bulk bins at your market scare you? You’re not alone. But buying from bulk bins is an affordable way to add spices, dried fruits, nuts, beans, legumes and grains to your meals. First, you are not paying for packaging, labeling and advertising from canned or pre-bagged foods. And second, you only buy what you need, so you're less likely to throw away food.
  • Grow your own: Even if you have a tiny apartment, you can grow fresh herbs and lettuces in your kitchen window. With a deck, you can add tomatoes and pepper plants. And with a sunny yard, your opportunities are endless. Growing your own food is an inexpensive (and rewarding) way to eat more veggies.
  • Use your freezer: When you see whole food on sale, stock up and freeze. This is a great way to save on local or organic fish, poultry and meat.
  • Reduce waste: Don't let leftovers go to waste. Freeze leftover soups, stews, sauces and casseroles. Or use leftovers from last night's chicken dinner to make a delicious sandwich or wrap for lunch at work.

Use these tips to increase the whole food in your diet, and your heart — as well as your wallet — will thank you.

— Lisa Arose, BS, MBA, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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