5 Tips to Eat Well on a Budget

What does it mean to eat well?  Is it eating to your heart’s content?  Being restrictive?  Extravagant?  Is it consuming foods that nourish mind, body and soul?  Is it something anyone on any type of budget can indulge in?

Eating well on a dime seems almost oxymoronic.  After all, doesn’t eating well mean eating organic – which is more expensive?  Let’s first categorically determine what exactly it means to eat well.  In order to espouse a new paradigm of eating, we must examine and clearly define our beliefs around food.  We cannot be consistent in any type of lifestyle shift if we are not clear about why we are doing it.  Clarity lends itself to commitment, and commitment lends itself to discipline.

As a certified Holistic Health Coach, mindful eating principles form the foundation of what I teach my private clients and the participants of my 40 Day Healing Journey liver cleanse and lifestyle overhaul program.  I find that most of the concerns expressed by my clients and cleanse participants are equating eating well with elitism, as well as feeling overwhelmed with the seemingly contradictory definitions of what is good for us and what is not.  So let’s explore the wide spectrum of applicable requisites for eating well and the “5 C’s” I apply to my conscious carnivore lifestyle. Eating well is a holistic approach to nourishment – which is inclusive of not just our own health, but also the health of the people and the soil that grows our food.

Eating well is:

CONSCIOUSNESS: Reclaiming your health, having a general understanding of what is in your food and where it comes from, and acquiring the tools necessary to navigate through this toxic world is not a luxury but a duty.  Your body is where your soul resides.  It is not any less valuable or important than the mind or the soul in spite of what we’ve been taught.  This hierarchical construct placing the body in the lowliest position is an inherited belief we must question.

Tip #1:  Shop at farmers markets!  Get to know the farmers who cultivate the crops that make it to your table.  When you buy directly from the farmer, you cut out the corporate middleman where most of the profit is made.  The farmer receives a bigger profit, and you ultimately pay less for food grown without chemicals.  If you create a weekly farmers market budget, you will go far in maximizing your nutrient intake.  Fresh fruits and veggies should make up the bulk of what you eat.  And buying locally grown foods reduces your carbon consumption – the main driver in climate change and resource depletion.

CERTIFICATION: Some say eating organic is elitist.  This claim is based on the notion that organic products aren’t available at the same prices as conventional foods.  Therefore they are the privilege of those with more money than the average person. But let’s try on a different perspective.  Our beautiful Mother Earth has been pumped full of synthetic poisons, forced to reproduce at unnatural rates for profit, and has had most of Her precious seeds tampered with and genetically modified for manufactured outcomes outside of the scope of interdependence with other species. The men, women and children who tend this atrophied land are exposed to dangerous levels of carcinogens and chemicals approved by the FDA – but not tested for safety – resulting in increased rates of cancer and birth defects among their populations.  Our groundwater is polluted with these synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and our environment tainted with the airborne residues.  All of these damages incurred as a result of our collective demand for cheaper goods.  That is the luxury.  That we can actually choose between conventional and organic.  And that our choices impact a greater industry that creates more of what we choose.  Wouldn’t you agree that this choice we as consumers have is where the true elitism lies?

Tip #2: Learn to read labels!  Unless they are certified organic, avoid products containing corn, canola, soy or cottonseed, as the vast majority are genetically modified (GMOs). If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t buy it.  Only buy packaged goods that are certified organic, and stick to packaged foods that contain five single ingredients or less.  Even better: avoid refined, manufactured and processed foods as much as possible.  Your waist, your wallet, and your well-being will thank you!

CONSUMER CHOICE:  Awareness is key when deciding what we are going to choose as fuel.  Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are food-like substances formulated in labs, not in soil.  They are a product of post-industrialism and scientific experimentation, and not of natural selection and evolution. And the FDA currently allows over 10,000 unregulated or underregulated additives into our food supply.

Tip #3: Buy in bulk.  Single ingredient items like grains, legumes, seeds and nuts are the easiest way to ensure your food is safe.  And if you work with a weekly food budget, you can buy smaller portions by the pound in the bulk section of your supermarket and save money! Did you know that over 30% of the food in your fridge ends up as waste?  You can save money simply by buying only what you need. Lentils, beans and rice are very inexpensive and healthy staples you can buy in bulk. Buying in bulk also helps you steer clear of GMOs.

COOKING:  Creating meals with love, awareness and creativity is an art form worthy of learning and claiming.  This world is set up in a way that most people eat food produced in factories by machines, and out of boxes and cans.  In many cultures (including my own), cooking meals is ritualistic.  It is a way of conveying love and even ancestral information.  DNA is contained in every living thing.  DNA is what informs all life forms how to evolve.  It is this sacred information that keeps us connected to our ancestors.  We have become so disconnected from the very land that sustains us that we lose information meant to be transmitted through the meals we enjoy.  Learning to cook culturally-specific meals once made by your great grandmother is one of the highest forms of eating well.  Eating then becomes a ceremony instead of a passing moment we take for granted and include in our multitasking.

Tip #4: Become a kitchen ninjaCreate a weekly menu plan and take time to cook.  A menu plan will also help you curtail impulsive shopping and overspending on food that will very likely go bad because you didn’t get to it on time.  Even if you are still trying to figure out how to make rice without burning it, cooking is a life skill we all must continuously develop. Watch the Food Network and google recipes. Cooking the majority of your meals ensures that you have say in what goes into your body and how you participate in the global marketplace. It also will save you tons of money!  Prepare meals you can freeze for the future (like vegetable lasagna in small pans and soups and stews in mason jars filled ¾ of the way so they don’t explode).  Your frozen meals will be much better for you than Lean Cuisine ever could be.  Take care of your future self!

CELEBRATION:  Eating well is inextricable from pleasure.  Food is to be enjoyed and savored using all of our senses.  It is not to be feared, demonized, or rushed through.  We are programmed to perceive eating slowly and thoughtfully as a waste of time and a hindrance on the quest to “getting things done.”  That is a patriarchal perspective.  Embrace your femininity and submerge all of your senses into full participation in self-nourishment. We have become so desensitized from ritualistic and communal eating, that we often resort to eating on the run and snacking throughout the day without savoring the flavors and aromas that accompany a well prepared meal.

Tip #5: Slow down.  Chew your food completely to improve digestion.  Pacing yourself has the added bonus of helping you create a more intuitive relationship with your body.  If you don’t rush through a meal, your body will send clear signals of satiety and you’ll realize you actually don’t need as much food as you thought you did.  That in itself will save you money!  Make your dining environment beautiful.  Buy plates and silverware that make you happy.  Thrift stores and discount stores like Ross have wonderful finds for a glamour girl on a budget.

So you see, truly eating well is comprised of not just our own health goals, but also the well-being of the people who grow our food, the resources required to nurture it from seed to fruit, and the environment that it is a part of. All of a sudden with this realization, making the best choices in how we nourish ourselves becomes a necessity and a priority.  Not something left to chance or convenience.

Keep your life simple.  Get rid of the excesses in your life that truly have no place and make room for pleasure and awareness!  When you see you don’t need as much, you have more time and more money to invest in the very best for yourself.  Your body is the dwelling of the Divine Goddess within.  Begin taking steps to make your life the most beautiful altar.

By: Erika Elizondo, H.H.C. // Image of Erika by: Lluvia Higuera

Feature image by Diana Rodelo

Learn more about Erika Elizondo, H. H. C. at A Healing World.

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