As a farmer and nutritionist, I sometimes get complaints about the high price of real food.
I know that it can seem expensive to eat quality ingredients, but when you really look at what you’re getting for your money, and how important it is to the health of our planet to buy sustainably produced food, there is no question that your investment can have high returns.
Ounce for ounce, real food isn’t really as expensive as you might think.
Here are six simple ways you can save a few bucks and still eat great food.
1. Seek out less-expensive ingredients
Buying in bulk can save you big money. Is there a sale on your favorite olive oil? Stock up and save! Ground meat, organ meats, 'trash' fish—fish that aren’t generally eaten in a particular region, such as carp in America—and unsexy vegetables like cabbage are better bets if you’re on a budget. At the farmers market, ask if they have "seconds”—vegetables that are blemished and not pretty enough for display.
Making a rich, savory soup from the roasted bones of a chicken or leg of lamb is they ultimate way to recycle. You get two meals for the price of one!
3. Grow your own food
A veggie patch is a great way to save money. Live in a city? Try planting container vegetables on a rooftop or fire escape, or look for an available plot at a community garden. The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook has tons of great ideas for urban gardeners!
4. Preserve the harvest
Freeze greens, can tomatoes, or make some sauerkraut. Not only will you save money, you’ll get to enjoy garden-grown produce in the middle of winter. (I teach you how in my book).
5. Buy local and in season
Local, seasonal produce is fresher than what you get at a supermarket and will last longer in your fridge. When you head to the farmers market, focus your shopping trip on what's seasonal. Is it June? Strawberries and greens are what’s on the menu in New England. Is it January? Get some local cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and onions for a warm and satisfying stew. It’s much more economical to build your weekly menu around what’s local and in season, and not whatever fancy recipe you crave at the moment.
6. Dine in
Once you gain some confidence in the kitchen and get used to eating fantastic home-cooked food, you’ll think twice before spending your money on junky takeout or a mediocre steak at the local pub. Stay in and spend half of what you would have at the restaurant on your own home cooking. Don’t have much time? Scrambled eggs with fresh garden herbs and veggies take less than five minutes. That’s faster, cheaper, and better for you than ordering a pizza!
Photo credit: CEBImagery via Flickr