Now that we have managed to get rid of our debt, our next big goal as a family is to be able to eat clean on a budget.
I am a believer that you really are what you eat. If you are eating lots of processed, junk foods then you are likely going to feel like junk. However when you start to cut those out, and focus on eating clean, whole foods, well.. you yourself will feel whole, better, and have more energy.
Sadly the world we live in makes it easier to get processed junk food than it does healthier choices. Fast food, and packaged snacks are everywhere! Foods labeled as “natural”, and “healthy” are usually anything but good for us. I am going to be writing a lot about our family’s commitment to clean eating over the coming months. My hope is to inspire you to make some changes to your own diet, all while still being able to stick to your budget.
These six tips can get you off on the right foot to clean eating on a budget.
- Define Clean For Your Family “Clean eating”Can might be a foreign term for you. You need to decide what clean eating is going to look like for your family. Personally, I need to be realistic about this. My kids are going to get invited to birthday parties, play dates, etc. There are going to be things that might not be considered clean eaten at these events. They also won’t happen every day, so I am okay with it. We are following more of an 80/20 rule in our home right now. That means that 80% of the time we are striving to eat by what we have defined as clean. The other 20% we realize that in our culture junk food is everywhere, and we have to let some of that be okay. Here are some of the clean eating rules we have set for our own family:
- Nothing “white”- We are staying away from white flours (think bread, pasta, etc.), white rice, and the hardest for the kids, sugar. WHOLE Grains only! Think oatmeal, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc.
- Only nature made colors – Food dyes are everywhere in the US. Other countries have banned many of the commonly used food dyes here in the US. If we all know that they are bad for us, and some studies have linked them to cancers, ADHD, and countless other illnesses.. why for the love does our government still let them in our foods? No thank you.
- No antibiotics – This one is one of the most expensive to change, but so important. No conventional meats from animals that were treated with antibiotics and who knows what else. You might as well be taking a dose of the medications yourself when eating these. Drug free, lean meats is what we are striving to have. Better yet, go meatless!
- Go meatless twice a week – This is one way that we are stretching our clean eating budget, and making healthy changes. We are using other forms of protein at least two times a week for our dinners. Black beans and eggs are a great source of protein, and I have lots of meal ideas around those.
- Lots of fruits and vegetables – I am a believer that even convention produce is better than none. So, try to stick to the dirty dozen if you can. If you can’t afford it, or do not have organic produce readily available in your area, something is better than nothing. My grocery cart is at least 60% produce weekly.
- Healthy fats only – Stay away from unhealthy fats. Stick to things like coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, and nuts. Though, all in moderation.
- Beverages matter – Water is your friend. You should aim to consume half of your body weight in water each day. We have cut out soda and juice completely. Adults, this also may mean no alcohol. Alcohol is definitely not part of clean eating, and we rarely drink anyway, so this was not an issue for us.
You will need to look at the things on this list, and in your diet overall and determine what you want YOUR family’s clean eating plan to look like.
- Start Fresh It is going to be hard to convince your kids that an apple is a better choice for a snack if you have a cabinet full of twinkies (What even are half of the ingredients in those?). Now, food costs money I get that. So I am not telling you to throw it all away. We made our adjustment slowly. Even though I didn’t want to let my family eat some of the poorer choices in food that we had, they ate some. We did bring some food to our local food shelf, and some was given to friends. It just needs to not be in your house. Don’t worry, you’ll need the space for all of the GOOD foods you are going to bring in. Clean out all of your cabinets, fridge, and freezer. Having a clean organized space for all of your whole foods will make you want to keep it that way.
- Learn about the “Dirty Dozen”. Eating clean doesn’t have to break the bank. Let’s face it, organic foods cost more. If you are in a position that you can afford all organic everything, then by all means do! However, we just do not have that room in our grocery budget. THIS list put out every year from EWG is a great place to start. They rate produce by the dirtiest, and the cleanest in way of how much chemical pesticides are used on them. If you are going to buy organic, make sure that you are spending that extra money wisely. Then make sure you know which stores in your area carry organic at the best price. Local farmers markets are usually a great choice for organic.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare Before I even step foot into a grocery store I have prepared. This means going over our calendar for the coming week. I make sure I know which nights we have somewhere to be and might need a portable meal. Then I plan my menu for the week. I use my Printable Meal Planner, and plan all three meals and two snacks. From there I make a list of what I don’t have already and head to the store. I also use my shopping day to prep foods for the week, such as cutting veggies, batch cooking, etc. Anything I can do to make the week go more smoothly.
- Check your storage – Eating clean, real food often requires proper storing of these items. Our kids love hot soup, casseroles, or salads, etc., in lunches. So, each of them has a stainless steel thermos that we love. These keep foods hot enough they have to blow on them at lunch. We also have a Yumbox Panino for lunches. I can’t say enough about these containers! They don’t leak, so you can send things like yogurt, applesauce, cottage cheese, and not have it get on everything else. We are on the third school year with ours, and they’re still going strong. We also have several sizes of insulated bags, and coolers for when we leave home. This way we can always bring our own food, and avoid the drive-thru.
- Give it time – My last piece of advice is to give it time. Cleaning up your family’s diet is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a process. You will need to take the time to try different whole, clean foods and recipes in order to see what will work for your family. We worked slowly on cleaning up the bulk of our diet. It took about three full months before everyone was used to the changes, and we felt like we were where we wanted to be. There are still “treats” here and there, but they look very different than they used to. Our kids no longer ask for candy, and in fact two of them got tons for their birthdays, and it is all sitting unopened in bags. Taking baby steps with your plan will ensure that this is a lifestyle change that sticks.
I hope that you are inspired to start on your own journey towards clean eating. This is a learning process still for us, and any tips you have are appreciated! Feel free to comment below.