June 12, 2009

Save Money on Natural Foods

Filed under: Food & Drink — Diane @ 10:07 am

Just came across this awesome post with 15 suggestions for how to save money when shopping for natural / healthy / organic foods.

I have to say, pretty much all the suggestions there are confirmed as good ideas by my own observations over years of “semi-pro shopping.” Buy in bulk (i.e. “stock up”) on non-perishables from the warehouse stores, choose wisely which fruits and veggies to buy organic and which to buy “regular”, fuggeddabout things like organic potato chips and cookies (they’re just not that good for you on a regular basis, organic or not, so save your money), shop store brands, join a food co-op, etc. Good ideas, all.

One thing, though, was suggestion #10, which was that you don’t need to buy organic frozen meals. Actually, I agree with that, totally. By the time it’s gone through all the processing it takes to get to the point of a pre-cooked, prepared, frozen meal, I honestly don’t think organic versus non-organic is going to make all that much difference. So spending the extra for a so-called organic frozen meal isn’t probably going to gain you anything in terms of health or nutrition.

Besides, as the author points out, most frozen meals are so loaded with salt, any potential benefit from “organic-ness” is probably going to be pretty much canceled out by the overabundance of sodium.

But I do take issue with the author’s contention that all frozen meals are high in sodium. Personally, I’ve had pretty good luck with the Healthy Choice line of meals. The ones I’ve tried, at least, have been fairly tasty (as these things go) and are relatively low in sodium. They tend to season with herbs and spices rather than loading up on the salt.

Personally, I usually go for their complete meals: meat, starch, veggie and a fruit dessert. They’re only about $2.50 at Wal-Mart, and if I shop the sales I can sometimes (often) get them for less (picked up some from Food Lion this past week for $2.00 each, for instance). For those who want to eat a little lighter or who prefer to add their own side items or dessert, they also have a line of “Natural Entrees” that apparently have no preservatives and no artificial flavors. Not quite organic, exactly, but better than nothing.

Could I make a meal myself that’s lower in sodium? Would it be cheaper for me to make my own? Probably yes on both counts. But with these I get a decent, low-cal, nutritious meal with that makes for a tasty and filling lunch, without having to do any work at all. Costs a whole lot less than going out to eat, it’s probably a lot better for me and it is way more satisfying than a sandwich. And all I have to do is grab one out of the freezer and I’m on my way — no muss, no fuss, no extra prep.

For me, it’s totally worth it. When I have the time to cook extra and package it up so I can take it in to work, I do. It’s just that with everything going on in my life these days, it’s rare I have that kind of time.

Oh, yeah, and I guess I should add that this is totally my own opinion, and I’m not being compensated in any way by the folks at Healthy Choice for saying any of this. It’s basically just Ye Olde Unsolicited Testimonial from a satisfied customer. :)

So I agree totally with the point that you don’t have to buy organic frozen meals… it’s just that I don’t think you need to avoid frozen meals entirely (or feel guilty about eating them), as long as you shop wisely and read the labels before you buy.

Otherwise, great suggestions! Read ‘em, follow ‘em.

— Diane

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