It is a common assumption that eating healthy is an “elitist” lifestyle, and is too expensive for the average person. I personally cringe at this comment, and think it’s somewhat of an excuse. Based on a recent Google search, I found that the average American spends between $127-$173 a week on food - to me, that seemed pretty high.
Though, back in my college days I would spend about $120 or so a week on pure junk - Lean Cuisines, sandwich meat, chips, and various other junk food that advertisers try to make seem “healthy”. I am certain I didn’t cook much, if at all, so it definitely was all boxed, processed food. And at the time I didn’t think I was eating all that bad.
Nowadays, I spend approximately $60-$80 a week while cooking a large majority of my food (vegetables, grains, fruits,). Side note, it was a huge budgetary relief when I became vegetarian. Ummm, those poor animals are expensive – then to factor in only eating grass-fed/organic meat – um bye. I also must stress that I don’t eat perfect – I love me some vegan junk food - including Whole Foods pizza (seriously, it’s my weakness). But overall, I try to be mindful [AF] about what goes into my body - I eat plants and that’s what I enjoy and what my body craves (along with dessert).
For me, my path really started many years ago. It began with consuming fast food constantly as a kid/teen> Lean Cuisines and slightly less fast food in college>No fast food and no microwavable food as a recent grad> Mostly organic/non-GMO fruits, veggies, meats>to January 2016 vegetarian, and March 2016 100% vegan.
I’ve had a number of people reach out to me for advice on meal planning, recipe tips, and what to eat now that I don’t consume animal products - and I always feel like this is the most challenging question. I don’t think my lifestyle or what I eat is weird or “not normal” but I have to take it back a notch and remember, not everyone is on the same path, or has the same goals, and more importantly - it won’t and doesn’t have to happen overnight.
My best advice for anyone who wants to make a change to eating whole, nutritious food – without spending a billion dollars a week:
1. Make a plan, stick to it. I personally struggle with this, but my best friend is a meal planning goddess, and it amazes me how she is able to flawlessly plan her and her boyfriend’s meals each week, and follow through with it. When sticking to a plan and meal prepping, the decision is made, you just need to follow through with it.
2. Shop the outside aisles. As my old boss/mentor used to constantly say, "to feel alive, you must eat alive foods." Eat all the fruits and veggies - every kind and color. Shop what's in season, shop farmer's markets, and you will eat be eating the freshest food for cheap.
3. Follow a routine. I am a little boring and I personally eat the same type of food quite often. My days usually consist of some variation of protein shake, a bottle of kombucha, tea, avocado toast and some sort of salad for lunch. Find what you like, then revolve your meals around that food - you'll be excited to eat it rather than forcing it down.
4. Try different things to figure out what works best for you. One of the biggest compliments I've ever received was from a dear friend who applauded me for my willingness to try new things to better myself in any way that I can. That being said, I have tried a lot of different diets, cleanses, and foods to see what makes me feel the best. I've learned everyone is different, and what works best for me may not work the best for you. Try things, be open minded and honest with yourself about what makes you feel optimal.
5. Surround yourself with positive influences. I am truly lucky to have an amazing tribe that values health as much as I do. It's never looked at negatively if I, or any of my friends choose not to eat a certain food - it's honestly very well accepted and encouraged in my group of friends. If you currently don't have that positivity in your group, I challenge you to BE it yourself, I promise you it will rub off on others.
It is possible to eat healthy and not break the bank. Even if you disagree with me, and think it is more cost efficient to eat fast food daily due to your busy schedule, think about your health long term. Think about the money and time you will save by staying out of doctor appointments, surgeries, and taking sick days. Invest in your body, it's your most valuable asset.