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Charge Up for Good Health

Spend Less, Eat Healthier

The bottom line on your grocery receipt got you down? Here are some simple, healthy ways of changing...

If you’re one of those shoppers who refers to Whole Foods as "Whole Paycheck," you’re not alone. Yes, eating organic and fresh can be expensive, but quality food is something we should be willing to pay for. In fact, food in general is something we should open our wallets for: In 1963, it was estimated that Americans spent 33 percent of their budget on what they ate; today, that has dropped to 6 percent.

While the idea of spending less on food sounds good, we’ve sacrificed quality for cheap quantity, something that can often be seen in our medical bills. Eating fresh, unprocessed food (repeatedly suggested by Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle and other food and nutrition experts) is the healthiest choice we can make in our diets. So here is how to save money without sacrificing quality.

1. Hit The Bulk Bin

Why buy a pound of quinoa for $6 when you can get three times the amount for the same price? Buying in bulk is the most efficient way to cut costs without sacrificing quality. And what you get is usually the exact same product as the one in the fancy package. You’re just not paying for the brightly colored labels, which means less waste as well. If your local supermarket doesn't offer bulk bins, bring it up with a manager -- they make sense for everyone’s bottom line.

2. Bring your own bag.

Think the three bags you consume each week when you do groceries aren't a big deal? Well, if you take those three bags and multiply them by 52 (weeks in a year), then imagine everyone else you know doing the same thing, you begin to see how much plastic and paper is wasted. If we take the initiative to cut down, companies will cut back as well -- and you'll be saving money while helping the environment. Some stores, like Whole Foods, already offer a discount for each bag you bring.

3. Cook!

You'll spend less and have control over what you’re eating, which strengthens your connection to what you’re putting inside your body. This is important in a nation where many of our meals can be picked up in bags. Not only has the amount of money we spend on food gone down over the past four decades, the time we spend in the kitchen has too. That’s a shame -- cooking is healthy and brings people together.

4. Grow Your Own

Sure, we don’t all have plots of land to grow an acre of vegetables on. But most of us do have windowsills or small outdoor areas where we could fit a pot of tomatoes or squash, or a small container of rosemary, sage or peppers. It’s one thing to buy fresh ingredients, but when you get your hands into some soil, it creates an even more important connection to nature. And it’s good for your bottom line too: A few sprigs of rosemary will cost you $3 at the market, but an entire rosemary tree costs only $4 and regenerates itself.

So take the time to learn how to grow your herb garden. You do have to put some effort into the process (I too once felt I had anything but green thumbs), but it’s worth the time and energy, which are really minimal for maximum -- and delicious -- results.



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