After posting Frederic Patenaude’s article about how to eat healthy for $3.33 a day, I was a little surprised at some of the responses.
Many of them were very helpful and gave some additional tips to serve as a resource for someone who wants to save cash on fresh produce and food, but a few had a tinge of negativity.
Now, look, I know about negativity. I’ve been a blogger for enough years to know just how negativity comes and goes in blog post comments. I guess when I was reading them the other day, I just wasn’t prepared for them — or maybe didn’t even expect them — particularly since the post gave some pretty good ways to save some money on food (and Frederic’s book does as well.)
Anyway, I can’t focus on those comments, but I just wanted to say this very simply to those people who weren’t so positive…
You can do and accomplish whatever you set out to do.
If you want to eat healthy, organic, free range, fair trade food and only spend $1.00 a year you actually can do it. I bet if you gave me 2 months, I could find someone who does. (They probably don’t pay for internet or cell phone service either, LOL!)
The caveat, of course, is that food finding may take up 12 hours of your day — making it hard to do anything else. So any time you see something like eat for $3.33 a day know that this is an example based on a certain experience. You may or may not be able to do it, but you may find a sweet spot somewhere close that works for you.
So maybe you won’t make it under the $100 a month, but what if you saved $100 using some of the techniques Frederic points out? This is a number that might make a huge difference in your life.
So lighten up my skeptical friends! We’re here to help. Not everyone may be able to hit the holy grail of free food forever, but they certainly can save some hard earned money to use at their own discretion.
Alright then, enough of that, let’s get on with 6 things that influence how much money you pay for your food and some tips to help you get your grub on the cheap.
1. Assess where you live.
Where you live, definitely affects how much you’re going to pay for food.
If you live in the country, then you may have to drive far to get a grocery store. But on the same token, you may have a lot of land to grow your own food. You may also have access to other farmers who do the same to trade or buy from cheaply.
If you live in the city, you will likely have less land, but more access to farmer’s markets or grocery stores. So this means transportation costs go down and food bills go up. You may still be able to get creative and grow on your property, or trade with your neighbors.
In a city or town, you’re more likely to find a CSA where you can get a nice bag of produce weekly at a decent price.
2. Beware of the “hippie tax.”
We’ve been through hundreds of towns and cities in the U.S. One thing that we’ve noticed is that the hipper the place, the more likely you’ll pay what I call a “hippie tax” for good organic food. So for instance, because “organic” and “farm to table” are buzz words here in Berkeley, many establishments charge more at retail stores or restaurants. This is essentially what a “hippie tax” is. You pay more for natural stuff because it’s popular now.
The good news is that if you get out of town just a bit, you can find the same produce and food cheaper. We have friends who live an hour north in Petaluma who get their greens and produce in bulk at a fraction of the price we do in the city. When they come down, they bring some greens for us too and we save money — “hippie tax” free.
3. How much space you have to grow your own.
This depends on whether you live in a city or the country, but it also depends on how creative you are. There are indoor planters that you can hand on your wall, you can make some pretty creative things with used palettes, and you can grown quite a few things in a really small yard.
No, if you live on the fifth floor of a New York City walk up, you might not be able to grow rows of corn, but you might have a little balcony to get some greens, herbs and tomatoes going.
If you search “urban gardening” in any search engine, you’ll find some pretty amazing uses of the smallest spaces.
Here are a few that I think are funky…
Coffee Can Gardening from Better Home and Garden
Urban Palette Gardening from Sarah Storm
4. How much you’re willing to look for deals.
Usually, most of the “I can’t do it” comes from a lack of resourcefulness — whether it’s intentional or unintentional, I don’t know — I’m not judging.
But when we traveled around the country, we found a whole bunch of cool ways to save money on food.
Some of these include:
- Pooling with others — buying in a group to get better pricing.
- Foraging — going out in the woods and gathering greens and whatever else is available in your locale.
- Smart kitchen use — learning to use everything in the kitchen effectively and efficiently.
- Eating mono meals — eating one food for a meal, so that you can buy in bulk and get better pricing for the week.
Nomi Shannon outlined some of these and more in an article for Renegade Health a while back here.
These are all great ideas that can help you be more resourceful and save some cash on food.
5. How much you’re willing to pay for luxury.
This, again, goes back to the city or country argument. If you’re not willing to drive to the grocery store, you may have to live in a more populated area, which may or may not mean more expensive food.
For us, we choose to live in a city because of all the benefits — not only the food — but the access to airports, cultural events, markets, restaurants, parks, exercise, etc. We also have the benefit of walking just about everywhere. We use public transportation about 2-3 times a month and our car just about the same. We’ve moved to a place where we can live our ideal lifestyle.
For us, it happens to be in the Bay Area which is super-expensive, but we know this and pay less for transit, more for living. We’ve OK with that — it’s a luxury we’re willing to trade for money.
You may not feel the same way, so there may be a different solution for you — ultimately, though, I think it’s important to compare quality of life and money about once every 5 years to see if you’ve found a balance between the two — based on your own personal and family needs.
6. Pay for food, save on supplements.
I don’t know if you’re the type who spends $0.00 or $1000.00 a month on supplements, but I do know this…
If you do regular blood testing, you can save a whole bunch of money on supplements that you don’t need to take. Basically, knowing what’s going on in your body allows you to take the right targeted supplements for you. This eliminates the feeling that you need to take all the capsules and pills some expert recommended to you.
If you have health insurance (in the U.S.) you generally can get a good M.D. to give you the right blood tests that will help you feel better and tell you the right supplements for your body at any given time — the insurance will allow you to get them cheaply too (sometimes only with a co-pay.) If you don’t have insurance, first, get catastrophic coverage (as I mentioned here) and, second, you can pay cash — usually at a discounted rate if you know your Doc — for the tests.
This will save you money, I promise. If you want to know the best tests to take, Dr. Williams and I have outlined them in this program here.
It’s not just black and white…
All six of these factors need to be considered to determine how much money you’re going to spend on food, but ultimately, if you’re resourceful I almost quarantee you’ll save over $100 a month — if not more — when you focus on ways to save money on food. What’s even better, is that this food can still be organic and non-GMO.
If you want some more ideas, please be sure to pick up Fred’s guide called “How to Eat Well for Under $100 a Month on a Plant-Based Diet” here (you also don’t have to eat a plant-based diet to benefit from what he shares.) With the coupon code jonny5, you’ll be able to even save $20 on the guide itself — and get a collection of recipe books that I think are pretty valuable as well! (This deal expires on Monday, March 11th, 2013.)