Anybody who’s been grocery shopping lately knows that food can be expensive. Especially if you’re trying to avoid pesticides — “organic” foods are often even more costly than the regular non-organic varieties. I’ve written before about the Environmental Working Group’s guide to minimizing the pesticides in your family’s food without breaking the bank. They divide produce up into the “Dirty Dozen” (those you should always buy organic because their “standard” farming practices include the use of lots of pesticides) and the “Clean 15” (those you can relatively safely buy as non-organic and perhaps save a little money versus their organic counterparts).
Now, they’ve come up with another guide: Good Food on a Tight Budget.
This one covers a bit broader ground than the organic vs. non-organic lists, and is designed to help families who are watching their food budget to get the most/best bang for their bucks. They judged foods based on nutritional composition, pesticide contamination, artificial ingredients and price, and came up with a list of about 100 foods that offer what they deemed the best balance of food quality and nutrition at a reasonable cost.
A Good Balance
I’ve looked over the lists of foods they recommend, and honestly I can’t see much to complain about. I know there are some folks following one dietary plan or another who will object to one thing or another… the fact that the list includes any grains at all will grate on some folks’ nerves, while others will object to the presence of dairy or the inclusion of any kind of meat on the “protein” list.
But, you know, for a family eating a regular, everyday American-style diet, the recommendations they give are pretty good from what I can see. And if there’s something on the list you don’t like (or don’t approve of), nobody’s forcing you to eat it. It’s just a list of suggestions. Regardless of what your food budget is, this list can help you make better choices while avoiding expensive processed foods and empty calories.
And in addition to the foods themselves, they offer a lot of hints to improve your diet. For instance: look for whole grains instead of highly processed, eat more fresh veggies, limit sodium and fats, that sort of thing. They steer people toward more nutritionally-dense foods, like broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and greens. They recommend things like quinoa, barley and brown rice.
These are the kinds of things that all of us (not just people working with a tight food budget) should be doing!
Not Just a List
The thing I really like is that the site includes recipes to help people break the “prepared food” habit and links to all kinds of resources to help people buy and prepare wholesome, nutritious and tasty meals for their family, even when their food budget is very limited. I know for a long time that was one of my excuses — I didn’t have recipes for some of those crazy foods. Once my family started getting fresh fruits and veggies delivered every week from The Produce Box, though, I had to start figuring out how to use them or preserve them, or they’d go to waste.
And since (as a working mom) I don’t have all that much spare time, I gravitate toward recipes that are relatively quick and easy to prepare. And those that freeze well. Because those can be a lifesaver when you get home late and you need to put supper on the table but you don’t have any momentum left to do a lot of cooking…
Anyway, check out the website, download the guide, and start steering your family toward a healthier, more economical diet! :)