Tips for Eating Healthy While on a Budget

By Terry Grant
The statement, “You are what you eat”, may NOT be taken very seriously by the majority of people today.

However, as times goes on that statement is starting to show more of its truth. Many of our readers seem to be concerned with ways of eating healthy while staying on a budget. It is good to hear that many of you are concerned about the foods that you are allowing to enter your body.

I decided to write this post so that I can share the ways we accomplish eating healthy and still manage to pay the bills.

I wish that I could give one easy solution for all of our readers in regards to their dilemmas of healthy eating, but it is a little more challenging than you might think. I understand that NOT all of you live in the same countries, and due to that… some of these options may not be available where you live.

Nevertheless, I am sure you will still find the other information in here helpful and insightful when it comes to learning how to eat more healthy.

Organic Vs Non-Organic


Most of you should be aware of the organic produce labels that have been showing up in the markets for quite some time. If not, you probably need to get out more! 

Of course there are many studies that prove that eating organic food is a lot healthier for your body. The old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, might not remain true if your apple is covered in 56 different pesticides.

What is the likeliness of your apple having pesticides on it if it is not organic anyways? There is a very good chance, EWG tests showed that 92% of all the apples they tested contained two or more pesticides on them. In this situation eating an apple might HURT you more than help you.

It has been my experience that you can tell a difference in the taste with organic produce vs non-organic. This may correlate with the higher nutrient content in the organic foods as well as the taste of pesticide residue that is still lingering.

However, our bodies sense of taste is there for a reason, so if organic food taste better and is suppose to be healthier for you, then it appears to be a win-win situation. Although, we left out one variable, the cost of organic foods.

How could we leave out cost when everyone obviously has a food budget they have to stick to each month? Organic foods do have a heftier price tag on them and this is a little hard to ignore. However, it could be argued that since organic produce has MORE nutrients in them than non-organic, you can get by with eating less of the same produce and still get more nutrients.

Even so, everyone still has to have enough calories, especially if you are on a muscle building diet.  This is when going by the EWG’s list of The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15 comes in handy.

The Dirty Dozen List

The dirty dozen seeks to provide a valuable shopping list you can take with you shopping. This helps you to know which produce you should always buy organic. The list is updated yearly and the produce on the list does change, so it is good to keep up to date with it.

The list is numbered from the ones with the most pesticides to the least pesticides:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (Imported Non-USA)
  7. Grapes (Imported Non-USA)
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (Domestic USA)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens

The herb cilantro was just shy of reaching the dirty dozen. Testings found that 70.1% of cilantro contain multiple pesticides on them. The items on this dirty dozen list are the ones you should NEVER buy in their conventional form. Stick to buying this produce in its organic form, or if they are unavailable as such, then choose an alternative.

The Clean 15 List

It is time to move onto the clean 15. Keep in mind that just because it is labeled the clean 15 does NOT mean it is free from pesticides. The list simply states that these 15 produces have the lowest levels of pesticides, therefore putting you at less risk for ingesting large amounts of toxic pesticides.

Please note, I believe although they are labeled “clean”, itdoesn’t guarantee that they have as much nutrients as the organic version. It is true that they have less pesticides than the ones on the dirty dozen list, but tests prove that their nutrient value doesn’t compare to their organic cousins. Here I quote the findings in PubMed (a government site),  this is what they found:

“Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were non-significant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones. ”

See what I mean when I say you can get more nutrition by eating smaller quantities of organic than conventional produce? This means you DO NOT have to buy as much to get the same nutrient value compared with the conventional types. Nonetheless, if you do get conventional off the clean 15, at least you can sleep better knowing that they are not massively coated in pesticides.

Keep in mind that this list is numbered by the least clean to the most clean in regards to amounts of pesticides:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe (Domestic USA)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

Before reaching for one of the items on the dirty dozen, you can now look and see if there is a suitable substitute that you can use instead. This can allow you to reduce the amount of money you are spending on buying everything that is organic.

I would still recommend buying as much as you can afford organically to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to live a healthy lifestyle.

When looking at buying produce it is helping to take this in consideration. Here I quote “EWG” this is their explanation on following their guidelines:

“If you choose 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day from EWG’s Clean 15 rather than the Dirty Dozen, you can lower the volume of pesticides you consume daily by 92 percent, according to EWG calculations. You’ll also eat fewer types of pesticides.

Picking 5 servings of fruits and vegetables from the 12 most contaminated would cause you to consume an average of 14 different pesticides a day. If you choose 5 servings from the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll consume fewer than 2 pesticides per day.”

If you want a printable version of this list that you can take with you to the store you can download it ? right here.

Cleaning Non-Organic Produce

By now you probably realize that it is best to buy most things organically. However, depending on the place you live and the season, it is possible that organic is just not an option.

Here are a few tips on limiting yourself to the exposure of pesticides by properly cleaning your produce. By NO means are these methods going to eliminate all the pesticides from the produce, but they can help reduce a pretty good amount of them.

  1. Use a mixture of 1 part apple cider or white vinegar to 3 parts water. You can even store this in a spray bottle for easy usage. Some produce, such as lettuce, might need to be soaked in the solution to make sure the whole item gets treated.
  2. Use two spray bottles. In the first one, get 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide and mix in 3 parts peroxide and 1 part water. For the second bottle use 3 parts apple cider or white vinegar and 1 part water. Spray produce with the peroxide solution first and then spray it with the vinegar solution and wait a minute or so. Then just rinse it with water and you are ready to roll. (This is a little more effective in pesticide reductions)
  3. Use a mixture of ½ cup water, ½ apple cider or white vinegar, ½ tablespoon of baking soda, juice from ½ a lemon. You can put this mixture in a spray bottle and spray your produce with it. Leave the solution on for 3-5 minutes and then rinse off.

Free-Range Organic Meats and Eggs

We have now reached the next topic dealing with free-range organic meats and eggs. This is a touchy subject and some might NOT agree with my ‘ethical outlook’ on how animals should be treated. Regardless if this is the case or not, you should still be concerned about the quality of the meats and eggs you are eating.

I have for a while been against the horrible treatment of factory farm animals, only so these companies can cut costs and make more profit. Of course they argue that by making the animals go through ‘hell’ and by mistreating them they are doing us all a “favor” by making meat and eggs cheaper. In someways this can be true.

However, by looking at the negative aspects of these types of meats and eggs, it leads me to believe that they DO NOT seem to be doing us a favor at all. In fact, I am pretty sure the end consumer is the last thing they have on their minds.

I actually have a theory, that if free-range organic meats and eggs were more of the ‘norm’, it would result in the cost of them being a whole lot lower. This is as simple as supply and demand.

We have an abundance of nasty, poorly treated, chemical and antibiotic infused meats on the market in the US. It only makes sense that it would be cheaper than the rare high quality versions.

If the table was to turn and factory farm meats and eggs start making way for more free-ranged organic versions, then I am sure the price will start to come down a little.

Let’s take a look at the nutritional aspect of it being organic and free-ranged. Animals have to eat and most factory farmed animals are not fed the best foods nor do they live in the best conditions. Some of the reasons for this include the following:

  1. They eat foods that their bodies were not designed to consume, such as corn or leftover animal byproducts.
  2. Their foods contain those same pesticides as mentioned above, as well as herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers.
  3. They are kept in close, cramped quarters, do not get any exercise and are often threatened by illness and disease.
  4. Due to illnesses they are continuously on antibiotics and other drugs to keep them “healthy” or as healthy as they can be under these conditions.

As you might expect, all these things that are happening to the animals in turn get passed onto us when we consume them. This might be the reason why antibiotics have become less effective on people than in comparison with the past.

The other benefits of eating organic grass fed free range meats is that they contain higher levels of omega-3′s than the factory farm versions. Actually the factory farms contain high levels of omega-6′s due to the types of food they get fed.

As you may know, omega-3′s play a huge roll in proper functioning of the brain, hormone levels, heart health, and are great at keeping inflammation down.

High amounts of omega-6′s on the other hand, can increase inflammation levels in the body and has been linked to an increased risk of getting many diseases such as: cardiovascular disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer just to name a few.

Basically, you have a higher risk of developing some of these inflammatory diseases when your diet consists of too many omega-6′s and not enough omega-3′s.

Places to Shop

I am aware that we have readers from all over the world. My goal here is to try to give you helpful tips that can solve your shopping problems, so it is easier to eat healthy while remaining on a budget.

Sometimes the places you shop can be the problem as to why things cost so much and are lower in quality.

My brother and I tend to pick two different places to shop at. Who knows, it’s very possible that we may add another in the future. In fact, a new place opened up near us that allows local farmers to sell their products.

Typically, we go to a healthy grocery store called “Earthfare” once every 3 weeks to stock up on the good local free range meats, such as: bison, chicken and grass fed beef (we get enough to last for 3 weeks.) We also get cage-free eggs from a local farm, organic produce and other items that are not sold at your typical grocery store. 

Then we use “Lowes Foods” or a “Harris Teeter” grocery store for the other weeks to buy a mixture of organic and clean 15 fruits and vegetables, wild caught sockeye salmon, cage-free eggs, frozen organic fruits and veggies and whatever else we need. Once we run out of organic meats we head back to get more. Here are some good recommendations for trying to find the best places to buy your food at:

  1. Earthfare
  2. Wholefoods
  3. Local farmer’s markets
  4. Local farms
  5. Growing your own food

Going to your local farmer’s market or local farms can save you a large amount of money on your groceries. You can even ask the farmers (the ones who actually grow it) how they grow their food and if they use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

You might be pleasantly surprised that their produce might be very close to being organic but they might not have wanted to fork out the extra cash to get the certification saying it’s organic. The other good thing about shopping locally is that your produce is fresher. It is fresher because it DID NOT have to take a road trip across the country or world to get to your grocery store.

Here are a couple nice websites where you can search for farms or farmer’s markets near your area that you can purchase your groceries from.

Now We’re Finally Eating Healthy

I hope I answered some of your questions on how to eat healthy and still be able to pay your bills. I would at least try to find as many fruits and vegetables as you can in their organic versions to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of nutrients that these produces provide.

If you thought there was little to NO difference between organic and conventional products before reading this, I HOPE the veil has been lifted from your eyes. Seems like common sense to me, that if pesticides are designed to kill things, then maybe we should NOT be eating them or they might kill us too.

Keep eating healthy,

Until next time,
Terry Grant

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