WHAT? Aren’t organic foods like super expensive?
But wait, I’m not talking about organic necessarily. I’m talking about sustainability. Sustainable grocery shopping is not just about substituting your non organic foods for their organic equivalent, but much, much more than that. If you stay with me for a moment, I’ll show you how eating sustainably can save you money in comparison to the typical grocery purchases. And I will do so in 5 simple steps!
How much does the typical single person in America spend on groceries per month? According to loweryourspending.com, it is about $300. A family is going to be a little higher, but a lower cost per person because children eat less and it is more efficient to cook and prepare meals for more than one person. How much money do I spend per month on groceries? At $55/week and an average of 52/12 brings me to about $243. This number would be a lot less if I wasn’t triathlon training. Some of my meals easily top 2000 calories, especially when I eat a full dinner and I’m still hungry, so I indulge in a light snack of an entire box of Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese. The fact of the matter is that a sustainable diet will save you money. All you have to do is follow the below steps.
- Let the grocery store dictate what you buy, not the other way around.
One of the things I have to thank The Third Plate for, is the above revolutionary idea. A few months into my commitment to buy sustainable foods for $55/month, I was floundering. I couldn’t afford vegetables. I couldn’t afford fruit. I scraped by with some cheap organic grapefruit and bananas, wondering when I would ever be able to afford variety. But as I read the Third Plate, an idea became clear to me. In very many words, the author conveyed a very simple idea. Americans think that we can just eat better by taking what we are used to eating (apples, lettuce, pears, bananas) and making them organic. Or course things are more expensive! Since the American diet is now formed around the idea of eating what you want when you want it (regardless of food location, by products, etc) we are conditioned to eat unsustainably. We all pay a premium for apples or oranges that are shipped cross country, because an apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? Cheap grains that grow with wheat in crop rotations, like oats and barley, are regulated just to breakfast or animal feed.
So I changed the way I shop. Now when I go to the grocery store, I have a general budget for produce, grains, legumes, that sort of thing. I buy local and I buy seasonal, which (go figure) tends to be the cheapest items around of comparable quantity. This does mean I have to be adaptable. I have pears this week, and I have no idea what to do with them. I buy a decent amount of avocados being in California, and I’ve had to learn to do more with them than just add them on top of things like a garnish. Split peas were on sale this week, so I bought them instead of pinto beans. How do I cook these? My diet suddenly went from routine and boring, to being incredibly varied and diverse. And if you really love apples or tomatoes? Learn to can things, and have the best apple sauce or tomato sauce you can imagine all winter long.
We were not meant to eat the same thing every week throughout the year. Let your menu be dictated by the seasons and your geography, and your wallet will thank you. The world will too, because eating locally is one of the best ways to minimize your carbon footprint. To learn more about what is in season now, visit eattheseasons.com.
- Don’t buy (or minimize) the buying of packaged products
The logic behind this is simple. For any packaged product, you are paying for the product AND for the packaging. Not only does this create landfill waste if the product involves any sort of plastic, but it increase what you spend on food. I’ve checked it time and time again, and I save 50% by buying bulk spices, and another 50% by purchasing bulk olive oil. I can buy a $5-$6 can of organic oats, or buy two entire pounds of organic in bulk for less than $3. The only food items I cannot buy in bulk are animal products, like eggs, milk, and yogurt. This leads me to my next item.
- Minimize animal products
Animal products are expensive, because they are calorically inefficient. According to Time Magazine, industrial meat farming has the highest impact of any food product on our environment. Stanford University writes that it takes 8 pounds of animal feed to make 1 pound of beef (See below table). Most of the grain we produce in the United States is used to feed animals! I buy both soy milk and regular milk, and my regular milk is about twice as expensive per glass. As a non vegan, and someone who believes not everyone is genetically able to be a vegetarian, I think we can live in harmony and happiness with farm animals. However, they should never be the main component of anyone’s diet. One of the best suggestions I’ve read is from Food Renegade. She advises that if you have one animal product in a meal (like cheese or meat) to not have another. So if you have eggs, don’t put cheese in them. If you have milk with your breakfast, don’t have eggs. My lunches tend to be completely vegan, so I do like my dairy with my eggs, but all in all I only have about 3 servings of animal produced food a day (yogurt, cheese, eggs).
|Efficiencies of Animal Food Production From Stanford University
lb. live weight
|lbs. feed /
lb. edible weight
- If you must buy meat, buy the whole animal. (Or team up with someone and buy half a pig)
As Little House Living discovered on her blog , the cheapest factory meat is pound for pound the same price a buying a whole (and using it all) sustainably grown chicken. And you get can get chicken broth from it too! If you have a large crock pot, cooking is easy, and you can have much better nutritional bang for your buck. If red meat is more your style, learn from Life Hacker! Even non sustainable food eaters admit that buying an entire animal or part of one is more efficient than buying pre-packaged meat at the super market.
- Don’t waste food
Waste not, want not. Your fridge should be empty at the end of the week. EMPTY. Learn about yourself and your family. Learn how much you eat. Make yourself eat leftovers and those less than tasty creative experiments, because you frigging paid for them! This helps with fridge cleanliness too.
If you have any more tips, please post them below. In reality, a sustainable food budget is within the reach of everyone. Change what you eat, change how you shop, and waste not want not. Your wallet and the world will thank you.
This Week in Updates:
Happy labor day everyone! And welcome to the beginnings of fall! At the co-op where I shop it is all pears and apples all the time. I’m excited for an all new season, and for learning to cook all new things! Thank you to everyone who has given me ideas for what to do with my lovely batch of pears. I’m also getting crazy about cream cheese. I’ve put it in eggs (delicious! See below) and now I have this craving for biscuits with cream cheese for lunch. But how to make some cheap biscuits? Well, I’ll tell you next week!
Also, Jesse is coming over on TUESDAY NEXT WEEK! For a whole week too! This is such an experiment. Two very different people with very different eating habits in a 205 square foot apartment. People all over the world do it, and now Jesse and I will figure out how to do it too.
The Recipes: Jalapeno Popper Eggs, and Easy Sweet Potato French Toast
Jalapeno Popper Eggs
Holy crap are these good! They taste exactly like a jalapeno popper and I can’t get enough of them! Easy cheap and delicious.
2 Table Spoons Cream Cheese
1 pepper of your choice
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste
Sauté kale and pepper together in a pan. Beat eggs together in a separate bowl with 1 table spoon of water. When kale turns bright green, pour beaten eggs over the kale and the pepper. When the scramble is done, put it on a plate and top with salt, cream cheese, and red pepper flakes. Enjoy!
Easy Sweet Potato French Toast
You don’t need much sweet potato for these, but that extra sweetness and moisture makes them delicious! I had extra Dave’s Killer Bread from my trip with Heidi (never travel without this handy travel snack!) and wanted to know how to use it. I love easy French toast, but I had a can of sweet potatoes and I wanted to try adding it in.
5 pieces of healthy bread (I like Dave’s Killer Bread)
3 tablespoons mashed sweet potato
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Beat the sweet potato and the eggs together. Lay the bread in it, and let it soak on both sides. Cook in a pan on medium heat, flipping when each side gets brown. Stack, dust with pumpkin pie spice, and enjoy this healthy tasty treat with some honey!
If you liked both of these recipes, you might want to try the perfect scrambled eggs with fry bread!