Like oil prices, higher food costs have some families struggling to make ends meet. Global food prices are nearly 45 percent higher than they were at the end of 2006, though they’ve fallen 8 percent since early summer, according to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund. The higher cost of eating may cause some families to question how they can eat healthy on a budget. Research firm Packaged Facts’ “Natural and Organic Food and Beverage Trends in the U.S.” report, released in September 2008, shows the economic downturn has negatively impacted the demand for organic food.
The higher-than-usual cost of food isn’t expected to wane anytime soon, the study predicts. Meanwhile, the report on organic and natural food trends shows that people are still buying those types of food and drink products, but not as much as they used to. The organic market grew 17% between 2006 and 2007, but is projected to grow only 15% by the end of 2008.
The economy may feel shaky, but keeping a tighter grip on your wallet needn’t mean eating poorly. The perception that healthy food costs more isn’t true if you also shop with an eye toward a healthy deal. Prevention magazine offers these helpful tips for eating on the cheap:
• Cook at home more often. Cook at home more often. One week’s groceries can cost as much as a single restaurant meal. But cooking doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Make it fun by involving your family: Give your kids age-appropriate tasks (little ones can pick the stems off string beans, older kids can peel carrots). Studies show that meals eaten at home are more nutrient-rich, and that families who eat together have better communication.
• Go veggie a few nights a week. Or add veggies to meat to “extend” it—which will also boost the fiber and antioxidant content of burgers or meatballs. Beans make the basis of many yummy entrées, such as black-bean burritos.
• Buy in bulk. Buying healthful foods like brown or wild rice, oats, nuts, and dried fruit in bulk is a win-win-win: You eat healthier meals, you save money, and you keep excess packaging out of the waste stream.
• Invest in some help. Treat yourself to fun new kitchen gadgets that will help you prepare healthy food. Look for a deal: bread makers, for example, can be found at discount stores for $20 to $25. You can make three loaves of whole grain bread from a 2-pound bag of flour for $1.79, compared to buying one loaf for $3.89! With all-natural ingredients and no preservatives, homemade food can be cheaper and much healthier than supermarket fare.
• Buy local and in-season. Look for local produce at your farmers’ market or local grocery store. In-season fruits and veggies are chock-full of flavor, and if they haven’t been shipped across the continent they may cost pennies per pound. Load up when you see a great deal—you can freeze the extras for up to 6 months.
• Join the club. Warehouse clubs like Sam’s, Costco, or BJ’s offer great savings on everything from dry to frozen (and sometimes organic) goods. Just be sure to stick with what you really need; don’t even look at those giant tubs of low-cost candy.
Published on: October 27, 2008