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So you’ve set out to eat healthier. Your first step? A trip to the grocery store to load up on all of the foods that you’ve learned about in books, documentaries and websites. It’s an exciting, empowering experience…until you get to the checkout and find out that your total price is more than you expected. You start to panic ‒ how can you possibly eat this way on your budget?!
Are you tired of feeling like money is holding you back from enjoying delicious food? Good. If you’re fed up with feeling constrained then that means you’re ready to make a change. Have you have been avoiding organic foods because you’ve been convinced that they’re not worth it, or worrying and/or complaining about the cost of eating a whole foods plant-based diet? By the end of this book you’ll have a whole new perspective.
Advertisements and conversations may have us thinking that it’s too expensive to eat well, while this book delivers the truth. You don’t need to be rich to enjoy the finer things in life, whether you consider that a bag of macadamia nuts or a night out at a nice restaurant. All you need are a few tips to understand how, when, and where to spend your money. You now have an abundance of advice at your fingertips (literally), which can save you thousands of dollars a year.
There is something for everyone in here, no matter how much money you have in the bank, where you live or how you’ve been eating up until now. My aim is to inspire, educate and empower you to make the best food choices for yourself, and this book will help you come up with a plan. Don’t be afraid to stretch outside of your comfort zone and cut yourself slack when necessary. You don’t have to do anything perfectly or 100% ‒ focus on progress instead of perfection and know that change, no matter how small, is better than standing still in an unhappy place.
The pages to come include what I’ve learned over a decade of being vegan and educating myself about how food impacts our health and the environment. While I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or scientist, I am a researcher and the information has been pulled from hundreds of sources and years of personal experience. Since it’s impossible to cover EVERYTHING on healthy vegan living, I have plenty of resources for you to check out at the end of this book.
I want to congratulate you for embarking on the journey to feeling your best and living the best life possible ‒ not everyone has the courage to jump in and make changes like you, so you deserve a giant virtual pat on the back. In buying this book, you’ve made a commitment to yourself to lead the life you desire without stress. I’m proud of you!
Are you ready to jump in?
Buying organic means that you’re ensuring that no synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetically modified ingredients are in your food. It also means that ingredients are grown in harmony with nature through farming methods that maintain and replenish the fertility of the soil. High quality soil provides optimal nutrition, and similarly, our water system is protected from polluting chemicals. It’s a positive choice for our health, the environment, wildlife, farm workers and communities, which is helping us create a more sustainable future.
One could say that nature intended us to eat pure food and that consuming chemically “enhanced” food is unnatural. Earlier I mentioned the perspective that if you can’t pronounce something, don’t eat it, so why would you want to consume a concoction of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, preservatives and additives on and in your food that is grown in sewage sludge fertilizer, heavy metals and polluted soil? Um, no thanks. I’ll remind you again that you are what you eat, so why would you want to eat fake food grown in a dead ecosystem? Organic food is top of the line, and you deserve to consume it because you don’t have a discount body!
You’ll often hear or see the phrase, “Buy organic whenever possible.” What’s possible is relative to what’s available based on where you live and the time of year, as well as your budget. If it’s challenging for you to find organic foods that are convenient and affordable, here are some tips:
Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified certification. Genetically modified organisms (aka GMOs) are plants that contain genes from another living organism; one odd example is inserting fish genes into a tomato (I don’t know about you, but I find that quite creepy). GMOs are a very hot topic in the food industry, as well as within US politics, and people opposed to them typically have concerns about creating superweeds, killing beneficial insects and contaminating the food supply. I follow the precautionary principle in this case, because I’m not willing to take the risks associated with GMOs.
Opt for foods that are labeled Pesticide Free or No Pesticides. This means that there is an absence of, no significant amount or no detectable amount of synthetic pesticides in the food. This is especially important to know when shopping at the farmers market, because not all farms can afford the organic certification even though they’re not spraying chemicals on their crops ‒ simply ask them if they spray or not and they’ll let you know. Synthetic pesticides are a known danger at high exposures, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible because they’re simply not meant to be in our bodies.
Know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. These lists highlight groups of foods based on their likelihood to contain high amounts of pesticides, and are updated annually by the Environmental Working Group. This will be covered further in the Shopping Tips section.
Buy Veganic. This terminology is growing in popularity, which means that food is grown without the use of toxic sprays or chemicals and is fertilized without animal remains. Specifically, this means the manure your food is grown in won’t contain blood, bone meal and fish emulsion that may carry dangerous diseases. Talk about a wake up call.
Wildcrafted or Wild Harvested. Sustainable harvesting of wild plants in their natural setting. Farmers pay careful attention so that the same botanical resources can be naturally harvested every year.
Foraging is second best to growing your own food. While you give up the control of choosing what’s grown, foraging is free and doesn’t require a green thumb! Simply look for wild plants growing in nearby parks, forests and other green spaces ‒ you’ll probably be surprised at what’s in your area or in a neighbor’s yard. In my Los Angeles neighborhood there are many trees along the street with oranges, figs, kumquats and avocados. There are some websites listed in the Resource section that will point you towards specific locations of nearby trees and bushes. It’s like going on a treasure hunt!
You can find local colleges, plant societies, professional foragers and nature centers who offer free and low-cost foraging tours. Or, do it on your own with a field guidebook to make sure you find the good stuff and avoid poisonous plants. Next thing you know, you’ll be spotting edibles all over the place ‒ it’s become a really fun game for me in LA. To be polite and protect natural resources, pick from common plants, take only what you need and leave plenty untouched.
Check in with your neighbors about their food plants. Chances are, they are overwhelmed by the bounty of fruits or vegetables that grow in their yard and are happy to share. My best friend’s parents live across the street from my parents in Massachusetts, and they have a fantastic organic farm with kale, squash, raspberries and more that they give me free reign of whenever I’m in town during growing season. You can also look for urban community gardens who may have a produce giveaway or trade program.
There’s really no reason to call Whole Foods Market “Whole Paycheck.” It’s actually quite simple and common to get great prices there. In fact, I often find products at the same cost—if not cheaper than—Trader Joes, big box markets (including Walmart) or the farmer’s market. Plus, you can’t beat their selection of delicious organic, vegan products. They often run one day deals, which can include discounts of at least 25-50 percent off products. Pay attention to signage in your local store and subscribe to their newsletter and/or social media accounts to stay in the loop.
The easiest way to find great deals at Whole Foods is to pick up a copy of “The Whole Deal,” which is published every other month and is available in stores and online. Inside you will find $50+ in coupons, 10+ recipes, meal plans under $5 and money saving tips. Just look past the products and recipes involving animals or use a plant-based substitution. You can also visit the “More For Less/Whole Deal” section of the store’s website to print as many coupons as you want!
Few people realize that Whole Foods employs Healthy Eating Specialists, who are there to answer customers’ questions about the foods that they offer, assist them in making the healthiest choices and suggest nutrient-rich recipe ideas. It’s like having a free consultation or shopping trip with a nutritionist!
In most cases, it’s not extremely cost effective to do your entire shopping at Whole Foods, especially if you’re buying packaged products and specialty items. These items are mainly responsible for the reputation “Whole Paycheck” and are where the biggest markups happen.
It’s important to mention that not everything sold at Whole Foods is organic, non-GMO or healthy. Many people believe that the store’s high prices reflect products curated for optimal health. Unfortunately this isn’t entirely true. Be sure to check the ingredient lists.