Longer Reads

How to Eat Healthy & Green on a Budget

I wrote thisĀ feature article on “Eating Health and Green on a Budget” for ecomii.com‘s earth day celebration, and it’s being published today. Enjoy, and happy earth day!

Eating Healthy and Green on a Budget

You don’t have to spend a fortune to find food that’s nourishing for both your body and the planet. In fact, some of the most eco-friendly, nutritious foods are also the cheapest! Here are 7 tips for eating eco-healthy while watching your spending:

Eat Local

Seek out farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your area for the freshest, tastiest fruits and veggies. Local vendors and farmers leave a much smaller carbon footprint than typical grocery store produce, since the goods aren’t traveling across the country (or across the world) to reach the shelves. The longer it takes your produce to reach your plate, the more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients have been lost along the way. That fresh produce translates into better-tasting goods for you, and it’s usually a lot cheaper than what you’ll find in the store. An additional bonus is that most small-scale farmers don’t use as much pesticides and chemicals on their crops as large, mass-producing farms do. Don’t know what to do with that kohlrabi, celeriac or turnip greens? Just ask the farmer and they’ll be happy to share their favorite recipe with you.

Buy Bulk Bin Items

Many health food stores and grocery stores offer bulk bin items, and it’s another great way to save a ton of money while protecting the environment. Groceries cost a lot less when they aren’t wrapped in fancy, expensive packages. And less packaging means less waste filling our landfills and littering our streets. Buy your grains, nuts, beans, and spices this way if you can. You can store your grains and nuts in glass jars in the fridge to keep them fresher longer.

Eat at Home

It’s not a big surprise that it costs a lot more money to eat out than it does to eat at home. But besides saving you money, cooking your own meals gives you a huge health advantage since you know exactly what’s going into your food. Being in charge of your meals means that you can choose healthy, sustainable foods. Plus, it usually doesn’t cost that much more to double a recipe when you’ve already got most of the ingredients on hand. So make a double batch of your dinners and bring the leftovers to work for lunch. Brown-bagging your meal will save you a lot of cash over the year

Go Seasonal

There was a time that we could only eat what was growing in our backyards or stored in our root cellars. These days you can practically purchase any fruit or vegetable any time of year. If you buy fresh blueberries in March, they’re going to cost you a lot of cash. But if you buy a bag of oranges in winter, they’ll only cost you a couple of dollars. Go with what’s seasonally available and you’ll pay a lot less. Additionally, eating seasonally helps your body work with its natural rhythms and cycles. Green bonus: Seasonal farming works with Mother Nature’s natural cycles as well, improving soil quality by allowing farmers to have greater turnover of crops (and use less fertilizer).

Can It

Certain fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are healthier for us and the environment if “wild-caught” instead of farmed. These fish are high in Omega 3 fatty acids – and in flavor. But a pound of wild salmon can cost upward of $25, leaving those of us on a budget in the dust. Enter canned fish: a cheap, healthy alternative to your fish monger. Cans of wild salmon and mackerel are just around $2-$5. They make for easy, nutritious protein on the cheap.

Go Veg for a Day

Tofu and beans don’t cost much, they’re healthy for you, and they’ll fill you up like a hearty meat dish does. You can find great prices on beans and grains in bulk bins. As a recent ecomii article pointed out, The Environmental Impact of Raising Meat, it takes a gallon of gas to produce a pound of beef, eighty percent of U.S. grain production goes towards feeding livestock, most pesticides fall on the grain and grass used to feed cattle, and seventy percent of the rainforest clearing in the Amazon is to make way for cattle. Give your body and the planet a break by cutting out your meat consumption a couple of days a week. Channel your inner chef and discover some new recipes!

Eat Chocolate

Inexpensive, delicious, and actually good for us, dark chocolate is the ultimate dessert. And now some chocolate companies such as Endangered Species, Equal Exchange, and Dagoba are using organic practices and working with local communities to make chocolate that tastes as great as it is for the environment.