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How A Single Income Family Can Afford A Whole-Food Diet

Like many of you, we are a single-income, larger-than-average, (1.8 or more children), homeschooling family.

And both my husband and I come from a rich, Dutch heritage.

In other words, whether or not we need to be, we enjoy frugal living. I'm also a lover of nutritious, from-scratch, whole-food cooking. Overtime, we've found that you can have one and the other! Here's how we can enjoy a mainlywhole-food diet on a budget (we still eat take-out more often than I'd like to admit!).

Cheap foods that are good for you

1. Whole grains. Oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa are cheap! For ultimate nutritional value, choose any of these grains and soak them for a hearty breakfast that'll keep you energized all morning.

For a fabulously healthy, gluten-free, blueberry-muffin smelling breakfast, pour 1 cup of steel-cut oats, brown rice, OR quinoa in a crock-pot. Add 1 1/2 cups of almond milk, 1 1/2 cups water, 1-2 Tbsp of ground flax seed, 2-3 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, 1 cup fresh blueberries, cinnamon, sea salt, and sweetener (honey, maple syrup, stevia, or brown sugar) to taste. Stir. Cook on low overnight. Alternately, try using diced apple and a handful of walnut in place of blueberries.
2. Beans and legumes. Beans are one of the cheapest proteins available and can be used to replace meat in a meal. Given a good, over-night soak in purified water, they are a highly digestible form of fiber, complex carbohydrates, iron, and folate - ideal if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.

Our favorite way to enjoy beans are in chili, taco salad, and brownies (there's a Special Agent Brownie recipe in Trim Healthy Mama that's absolutely fabulous!).

3. Eggs. Eggs are one of the very few complete proteins available to us (they contain all 9 essential amino acids), contain only 70 calories, and are chock full of nutrition. Besides being excellent sources of protein and good cholesterol, they also contain iron, vitamins A, D, E, and B12, folate, selenium, and lutein.

Eggs can be cooked quickly in a variety of ways (hard or soft-boiled, fried, poached, scrambled) and provide great structure and texture when added to baked goods.

We enjoy them on their own and in omelettes, crepes, breakfasts bakes, and pizza crust.

Foods worth paying more for

No matter how tight our budget, there are certain foods I don't cheap out on as we feel the extra dollars are insignificant compared to the health benefits. We'd rather "pay the farmer than the pharmacy," as the saying goes.

1. Oil. It's a safe bet that anything you can get in a big plastic jug for $4 is not good for you. Vegetable oils and margarine derived from cheaply grown or genetically modified plants like sunflower, corn, soybean, canola, safflower have little nutrition to begin with and are chemically altered and deodorized in order to make them palatable. Our bodies were not meant to consume them.

Opt instead for healthy saturated fats that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These include butter (preferably organic), coconut, olive, and red palm oil.
2. Fresh, local, organic produce. We can't afford to purchase all of our produce this way, but we try our best to grow or purchase the infamous "Dirty Dozen" organically as these fruits and vegetables contain the highest pesticide residue otherwise:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes
12 fruits and vegetables that contain the contain the least contamination we don't worry about paying the organic price-tag for:
  • onions
  • avocado
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • asparagus
  • bananas
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • papaya
  • kiwi
3. Dairy products and alternative beverages. Although we use several cultured forms of dairy, we don't drink animal milk products as they are difficult for the body digest. If it was legal to purchase raw cow's milk, we would certainly give it a try!

Instead, we use coconut or almond milk. They contain high levels of vitamins A & D and are lactose free. They cost slightly more than pasteurized, hormone enhanced cow's milk, but since we rarely use it for more than our morning smoothie, we don't notice a difference in our grocery bill.

As our budget allows, we try to purchase higher quality dairy products like kefir, greek yogurt, cream and cottage cheese.
4. Meat. Cheaper cuts of meat are usually that way because they come from animals that are pumped full of genetically modified grain products, growth hormones, and antibiotics - the sole purpose of which is to fatten an animal up as quickly as possible for slaughter. Food Inc. is a fascinating documentary that explains how the food industry is making us sicker, fatter, and poorer through this process.

Although more expensive, grass-fed, locally raised, organic beef and chicken is a far more nutritious alternative and of much less consequence to your health.
5. Sweeteners. Sugar is cheap, appeals to our pallet, and is easy to come by. Consequently, diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart failure, and a host of other health concerns are also the norm. We stay away from refined sugar as much as possible and use raw honey, pure maple syrup, and stevia instead.

While they should still be used in small quantities, these sweeteners contain healthy enzymes and minerals which are difficult to get from other foods. They also have a healthier Glycemic Index which means they don't mess with your blood sugar levels in the same way refined sugar does.

Where to get healthy food for less

1. Garden. Anyone can grow their own produce, even a little bit. Be it a pot on the balcony of your apartment or a 3 acre market garden, all you need is some seed, soil, water, and sun and you're in business.

We put in a large raise bed last year for free - my husband made a tarp in exchange for a truckload of triple-mix and I used the gift cards I got for my birthday to purchase our seeds and plants.
2. Farmer's Market. Farmer's markets are great places to find local, seasonal produce, cure meats, eggs, honey and maple syrup at a fraction of the price you find in the store. Plus, farmers generally care about individual relationships with their customers and often offer a faithful buyer further discounts and "throw in a little extra."
3. Local Farmer. In the fall, we often purchase 1/4-1/2 a cow from a Christian farmer who grows his beef organically. We get to choose how we'd like it butchered and our freezer is well stocked for several months. We estimate purchasing our meat this way saves us 30% of the store price.

If we had the space for it, we'd love to keep our own chickens. We go through plenty of eggs around here! Thankfully, they are cheap to come by! We buy them from Brad's co-worker whose family keeps organically raised laying hens as a sideline business.

In the summer, we pick our own berries, freeze most of them, and turn some into sauce or jam. A relative of ours keeps a bountiful raspberry patch where we can come and go as we please.

It didn't work out last year because of pregnancy complications, but this summer, my mom, sisters, and I plan on putting up other produce from local farms that we don't grow ourselves: peaches, pears, carrots, pickles, etc.

4. Bulk Stores. I buy most of our grain from The Bulk Barn. We often receive coupons for $3.00 off a purchase of $10.00 or more (which I can easily spend in one visit!). I blend whole kernels with my Wondermill and the stuff I purchase pre-ground (flax), I purchase in small quantities as it goes rancid quickly. I purchase my organice herbs, teas, sea salt, and spices from The Bulk Herb Store.

I also purchase soap and other dried goods here like coconut, almonds, walnuts, and cranberries.
5. Grocery Store. You can save money at the grocery store by using coupons, ad-matching, checking the clearance shelf, and purchasing store-brand non-perishables like brown rice and tomato paste.

The clearance shelf where everything is ripe and ready, is a wonderful place to get greatly discounted produce. If you have a juicer, freeze your juice into Popsicles for a healthy summer treat or into ice cubes for slushies. Peppers and onions can be cut up and bagged for pizza toppings, apples turned into sauce, and mushrooms sauteed in butter for a fine steak topping.
6. Online. I must admit to rarely purchasing groceries online. I prefer to see the product myself. The exception to this is the extra virgin coconut oil I get from Tropical Traditions. The quality is truly remarkable. We use it a lot, especially in desserts like Chunky Cream Pops, Skinny Chocolate, and Peppermint Patties. I'm thankful it regularly goes on sale for 40-50% off.

In the interest of full disclosure, some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products I use personally. Your purchases through these links help support Growing Home. I humbly thank you for your support! Linking to: Mind Body Sole, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots At Home, Frugally Sustainable, Natural Living Raising Arrows, Time Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, Homestead Barn Hop, The Better Mom,