Everyone you talk to these days has been affected by the downturn in our country’s economy over the last few years. Either they’ve lost a job, or they known someone dealing with unemployment. Times are tough and money is tight for almost every family in our country right now. When money is a scarcity in your life, good whole foods often get moved down on the priority list. Buying the fresh, organic eggs for $4.50 doesn’t seem as important as it did before when you can get eggs for $1.99 and spend the two dollars on something else you need.
Some would rather give up their morning latte with double vanilla than give up the organic fill-in-the-blank. Others are not even given the option of cutting back on their groceries when a special diet is needed and WOW! the cost of alternative foods can get high pretty fast. So what do we do when we want to feed our families with nutritious foods and still keep the budget in check?
I don’t have an answer for all of us, but I thought I would share some ideas that I’ve found helpful for getting by and still eating well in these economically-challenging times.
1. Plant some of what you eat regularly: I planted my first garden this year. I love shopping for vegetables and fruits more than other ingredients and I find picking up my favorites at a farmer’s market to be rewarding and enjoyable. Not only do I feel good about helping others get by, but I like to see who grew my veggies. Yes, I love the experience, but I find I spend beyond my allotted budget. Not just because the prices are a little higher, but I buy much more than I planned because something is too beautiful to pass up. This year, I’m trying to keep myself out of the markets and get my hands into the garden. I paid near the cost of one trip to the market for my whole set-up. I’m not promising that I won’t buy produce, but this will help us supplement our produce budget with staples that we use frequently. I’m planting things that store well so I can stock up for the winter months too. If you don’t have room for a formal garden, container gardening is a great space-saving solution. For info on getting started on gardening, check out these great resources:
2. Use dried beans: This is a challenge for me, but one I’m trying to implement. Dried beans are far cheaper than their canned counterparts. Most stores have a variety of dried beans in the bulk section (which is tip 3) and a pound of beans is often less than a single can of said bean. They are more time consuming, but I’ve been trying to counteract that by cooking a big batch and freezing meal-size amounts for later use. You can find basic directions for all sorts of different beans on our website.
3. Use the bulk bins: If you have a food sensitivity, you might skip this step. There are some great finds to be had in the bulk bins and most foods are less than their packaged counterparts. Not only are not paying for the packaging, you’re not getting the packaging either. Just the simple flour, oats and beans that you want for a price that’s affordable.
4. Bake your own bread: If number 1 and 2 didn’t scare you off, this one is a real no-brainer. A good loaf of bread can cost upwards of $5 at the store. Making it yourself using the simple ingredients- flour, yeast, water and salt- can save you big $$ if your family eats a lot of bread. Bread baking is not as scary as it can seem and can be really quite simple. Many bread recipes can make 2-3 loaves at once, which you can simply throw in the freezer until ready to use.
Yes, you say, but where do I find the time to add all this into my life? I don’t know, but I do find that I’m spending more energy thinking about what my family eats than I have before and I find that to be worth the time investment.