Hi Sweet Friends,
Ever since I started sharing my journey from Hot Pockets to whole foods, I’ve often heard that it’s difficult to afford a healthier lifestyle. I won’t argue with you there. Real food is pricier than processed food made in a lab or a factory. And you will certainly see a jump in the grand total on your grocery receipts. But over time you’ll get the hang of it, and I promise it will become more manageable. There’s always a silver lining, my friends — and the price “jump” can be more of a baby bunny hop.
Today I’m sharing my top tips for saving money on nourishing, plant-based foods. But before I dive in, I hope to inspire you with this one statement:
Do your best to invest in yourself today, your future depends on it.
Even on a limited income, we can each make small upgrades that have a massive impact on our health. And get this, your body will be so grateful that it will reward you tenfold. It will literally move mountains when you give it the slightest improvement. Now let’s get started!
Here are my go-to tips for nifty, thrifty plant-happy shopping:
1. Budget and meal plan. First step, set a comfortable budget. Then, examine your fridge and pantry. I bet you’ve got a lot of goodies in there. Next, map out your menu with my easy meal plan. Don’t skip this step, hot shot. Kitchen champions succeed not because they are the best of chefs, but because they plan their arses off. With more experience, you’ll get the hang of it.
2. Buy bulk. While navigating the grocery store head straight to the bulk bins and stock up! As your bulk food staples grow, you’ll have shorter shopping lists and an arsenal of inspiration for your home-cooked meals. Added bonus: Display your beautiful beans, grains and spices in mason jars throughout your kitchen. Home-decor, Crazy Sexy style!
3. Shop local: Farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Farmers markets are a great place to buy organic foods on the cheap. In-season produce is almost always going to cost less, so try to be flexible and cook with the harvest. A CSA is another thrift-tastic way to eat with the seasons. If a CSA half-share seems like more veggies than you could eat or afford, see if a friend wants to go in on it with you. You can also freeze a portion of your haul for later or make a green juice! Here are some great websites for finding a market or CSA near you: Local Harvest, Eat Well Guide, Farmer’s Market Online.
4. Learn the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen: If you can’t afford a 100-percent organic lifestyle, don’t sweat it. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s lists to determine your priorities for organic purchases. They even created an iPhone app. Now that’s handy!
5. Stock up on the essentials during sales. I know it may seem like I’m giving you mixed messages, but if you arrive at the supermarket and there’s a big phat sale on organic bananas, snag those babies! They may not have been on your meal plan, but you can cut them up, freeze ‘em and pop them in your smoothies or soft serve ice cream later. The same goes for dry staples like grains and beans that aren’t going to go bad in your pantry.
6. Grow your greens. As you’ll see in the coming weeks, we’re starting our first vegetable garden (I’m so excited!). It’s exponentially more economical to grow your own food. Whether you live in a studio or a McMansion, there’s always room for a few pots of greens. A two-dollar packet of mixed lettuce seeds will support your salad habit for months. If you’re a city gardener, check out You Grow Girl, Garden Girl TV and Urban Homestead. For country folks like myself, check out The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible and Four Season Farm.
7. Cut back on restaurants. Aye, Chihuahua, do those restaurant bills pile up! Rather than escaping to the local Denny’s, make your kitchen the new hot spot. Fabu cookbooks, romantic dinners at home, potlucks, picnics and rowdy get-togethers all make dinner a family affair. I’m not saying that you should never step foot in a restaurant again; just try to limit your visits.
8. Make your food last and get creative with leftovers. Wash and store your produce in Debbie Meyer Green Bags (they extend life expectancy). And when your produce looks like it’s about to go south, resuscitate it in a delicious stew. How about leftovers? Don’t toss them. With a little TLC, leftovers can be transformed into fresh new meals. Batch cooking is another way to save time and money. Double or triple your favorite recipe and freeze the leftovers for a quick and healthy meal when you’re in a pinch.
9. Buy used. Buying a new juicer or blender may not be in your budget, but what about a used one? Craigslist, eBay — even your friends and family — might have an affordable, gently used model. In the meantime, you can still juice with any old blender and strainer (cheesecloth or nut milk bags work great!).
10. Skip the bells and whistles. If you’re like me, you definitely have budget leaks, aka knee-jerk spending at Amazon, Target, Starbucks and on all those raw food goodies. Identify where you can tighten your belt and invest in your company (you are the CEO of your health after all), not someone else’s. Don’t let transforming your plate be intimidating or cost prohibitive. As always, you don’t need to upgrade everything all at once. Make a plan and pace your bank account.
Such wonderful tips, thanks Kris! xox
It does take some planning but with a commitment to your health, its an investment in longevity!
I love your tip re: meal planning! That’s definitely a way that I can save money. Thanks Kris!
I found this product a while ago. Works so well, I have bought some as gifts and will be buying more. We belong to an Organic Co-op..so keeping what we get fresh for as long as possible it important to us in our buying plan. I reviewed it for a blog I contribute too. Highly recommend it.
Love the reminder I am the CEO of my health Kris.. and extending that to ALL of my purchasing needs!
My top tip is to choose and plan where to shop. Combined with meal planning, this is a killer combo! I now travel across town once a week to shop at a store that is A LOT cheaper than the one that is closest to where I live. I’m saving so much from meal planning and shopping in this way!
Also, meal planning will help ensure that nothing goes to waste. That, and a juicer will make sure you get maximum nutrients for you bucks!
I remember once hearing you say that if organic cucumbers are just too darn expensive, use conventional ones: just remember to peel them. Good advice! Thanks Kris Carr! Xo
Everyone can grow sprouts, year round, no matter where you live. Just get in the routine of starting a new jar each day and then you’ll have a lovely jar full of sprouts each day. Keep in mind too that pulses can be not just soaked but actually sprouted. I don’t eat them raw even when sprouted but they cook up in no time and not only are less fartalicious but you lose a lot of the phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient.
Advice how to start sprouting? I’ve seen from buying the kits to just soaking seeds or grains, and also found differing length of time for soaking. Any tips for an easy start on this?
Thank you much,
It’s almost unbelievably simple. Big things, like lentils, can soak for a while, little tiny seeds get rinsed and drained at least once a day. The little sprouts poke out and for lentils and other pulses, that’s a good time to cook lightly if you cook, or let go a bit longer if you want to eat raw. The little seeds sprout fast and it’s easy to eat a jar a day in our household, so I just keep starting a new jar every morning. Also good for fermenting if you do that!
Kyra, thanks, that is a very cool story and I’m glad you are movnig forward with this and having fun. It is amazing how it feels holding that book in your hands, isn’t it? Thanks a ton for the great comment and I hope you keep movnig forward. Any questions on anything as you run up against it, feel free to ask here or e-mail me. I tend to have opinions on things. (grin)
Fantastical tips girl!!
Adding to the grow your own tip the cheapest way to get a powerhouse of concentrated nutrients is homegrown sprouts!! I grow all my own and even take rhem when we travel
peace and raw health,
I’m going to try that this fall when our local market shuts down. Sweet pea greens/ sprouts are now one of our weekly must have. This thanks to Kris and her advice in a post about juicing for newbies to start with mild greens including sweet pea. We were finally able to try them this month and they are sooooo good raw or juiced.
Hi Kriss! Thank you for you crazy sexy tips:-) do you cut your veggies before putting in those bags or you leave them whole? I just really struggle for room in my fridge. I also find even though my fridge is at correct temp if veggies go near the back of shelf like celery, as it has to to fit, it freezes it. Any fridge tips? xx
Some people pre-cut to save time which is totally fine. I don’t as I’ve read in many places that pre-cutting, washing etc too far ahead can reduce nutrients and best to do just before use. But if pre prepping works for you and means you’ll actually eat the healthier food then go for it. There’s lots of good info online for storing produce. Just do searches such as “best way to…(store or keep carrots fresh etc)” and you will find lots of info. Maybe Kris and her team will cover this in a future blog?
regarding your fridge freezing things, is your fridge an intergrated unit in your kitchen? I mean is it housed in some cladding to match the rest of your kitchen? If so, the problem is that the back of the fridge doesn’t have enough ventilation for the fan/vents to maintain the temperature and cool the whole fridge evenly. If it isn’t an integrated unit, it could be that the fan at the back or one of the filters is in need of a clean, or the back of the fridge is too close to the wall. Another common reason for this is if your fridge is overstocked or your thermostat needs to be replaced. Trial and error may help you with this.
I like the term I am the CEO of my health– nothing beats picking fresh home grown green. I started with lacinato kale and Swiss chard.
Kris, Great tips. I am so looking forward to seeing your garden grow. Jo-Ann
I have ckd and have been told to carefully limit potassium and phosphorous and sodium. How to eat this way and avoid beans,and other foods that are high….
Potassium isn’t as much a problem as sodium and protein are. Beans not only are a high protein food, as a seeds, but both contain significant amounts of anti-nutrients (these are reduced by about half by soaking/sprouting). Other than those two food categories, this seems like an almost ideal diet for you, or at least a good basis. You don’t say what stage you are, and your dietary needs will get adjusted, but really, this is too complex to ask random people on the internet. Talk to your nutritionist and doc, but veggies in general are your friends.
I cook with http://www.thefresh20.com for the vegetarian/vegan plan and it saves me tons of money. There is very minimal processed food (once in awhile pasta or couscous) and very healthy. Every week they send me a menu and I go shopping. It even tells me the approximate cost per item. I also save my beans and dried bulk items in glass jars.
Jane, how much is it for the fresh20 program?
Shop for fresh produce at ethnic groceries. Asian greens are less costly and more plentiful there than in a regular market. Also, I wash any conventional produce with water and a bit of white vinegar, in the hopes (belief) that the vinegar helps remove pesticide residue. What do you think?
OOOH great idea, so many little asian style shops around now and the produce always looks fresh and really green.
This sounds crazy, but wash veggies in a squirt of dish detergent in a big bowl of water, then rinse. It’s routinely used as a natural pesticide, removes as much of the bad stuff as possible, and no, your food won’t taste soapy. But greens retain a bunch of pesticides and it isn’t really a bargain to buy non-organic.
Thank you Kris!
Like your tips but what about single people? Buying bulk is difficult because i end up wasting it! I would love to see tips for singles. Love your website and your work!
I agree with all these tips! Going to the store with a plan, when you’re well nourished is so huge! I have also found that here in Phoenix area the bulk bins can be great but aren’t always the best deals, for instance I can usually find raw almonds for $4-5 a lb, but some other things are more than they are conventionally. Loved the tips! I recently started prepping most of my veggies within 1 day of getting home and have found that 1) they last longer, surprisingly! And 2) it cuts waaaaay down on cooking and juicing time. I usually cut them in the various ways I need and stick them in a ziplock bag with a paper towel in it. When the veggie gets used the bag gets washed and reused!
On the west coast we have a store called Fresh and Easy. They have a discount area for groceries that are about to expire. I shop that area first and stock up on the veggies& fruit I will need for the next couple of days. I also buy out whatever good quality meat they have. I can freeze the meat when I get home and thaw it the day I need it.
Great tips! And so true that our health is worth the investment.
Hi Kris – I’ve been alkali zing for a few years now but am recommitting since reading your book. Here’s no denying its the closest thing to using the force in our galaxy! Quick qu – are the dirty dozen still dirty if you’re buying organic?
No. Those are the ones you want to buy organic so then they will be clean. :). Conventional dirty/organic clean on the dirty dozen