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Healthy Across America on a Budget: The Nutritious America Road Trip

By Abra Pappa for NutritiousAmerica.com

3000 miles, 8 days, and 500 bucks to get across the country. Could you do it?

Last week my business partner (and best friend), Karen, and I embarked on an adventure across the country to see if it was possible to eat healthy in as many states as we could for as little money as possible.

For nearly a decade Karen and I have been counseling clients on the benefits of a natural, organic, whole food diet. Our company, Nutritious America, works to inspire people around the country to lose weight and clear up various health problems by changing how and what they eat.

In our work we tend to hear a lot of the same “issues” from clients about their struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Topping the list is, “It’s too expensive” and, “Healthy food is not convenient or readily available.” It was time Karen and I put these “issues” to the test.

We have both lived in large urban environments for over 15 years, where healthy food is readily available. I have a farmers market literally 3 blocks from my apartment, not to mention multiple juice bars, organic restaurants, and a Whole Foods Market all within walking distance. Is healthy food expensive? It depends on how you look at it. I spend money on food. I spend money on healthy food. I live by the philosophy, “pay the farmer today or the doctor tomorrow.” I choose to spend my money on food rather than expensive clothes, shoes, or bags. It’s a choice I make. However, I have always firmly believed that healthy food should be affordable for all people in this country. Is it possible to eat healthy and not break the bank? Is healthy food readily available in small towns across the country?

We wanted to find out. This was clearly just a small sampling. In 8 days we stopped in 8 different cities and had less than $30 per day per person for food.
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Challenge: Buy 30 Days of Groceries at Whole Foods on a Poverty-Level Budget

Have you ever pictured yourself doing a happy dance in the grocery store because you could afford oranges? No? Me neither, but that’s what happened during my 30-day challenge to feed my family of three at or near the poverty level. There were also moments of frustration and a few tears shed. Here’s how it all started …

I was roaming around a section of the USDA website where they keep track of over 8,000 families and what they spend every month for groceries. This helps them set four different budget levels: Thrifty (near the poverty level), Low, Medium, and Liberal.  Amounts are broken down by gender and age; kids and the elderly account for less money than 20-something guys, for instance. 

If you think this is a futile exercise and a waste of taxpayer money, you’d be wrong. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s likely that the courts will assess child support at the “Low” level, no matter your income. The food that our servicemen and women are served is budgeted at the Liberal level. So this monthly assessment by the government has a bigger effect than you might realize.

When I looked at the numbers, I realized my family was living at the “Low” level, but that wasn’t taking into account how often we eat out (two to three meals per week between lunches and dinner). The amount we spend does reflect us eating a lot of organic foods. Plus, we can sometimes be too wasteful; I cringe some weeks at what we throw away. It’s not just a waste of money, but a waste of resources for the planet.

Could our family live at the Thrifty level? What would it take? And what if I tried doing this while only shopping at Whole Foods, aka “Whole Paycheck”? And then what if I also threw a dinner party for eight as the very last meal?

I contacted Whole Foods and suggested a bet. If I could feed my family of three for 30 days exclusively from items purchased at Whole Foods for $491.10 they would reimburse me for my food. If I didn’t make it, they’d owe me nothing. The budget worked out to $16.31 cents per day total for all three of us. In case you’re wondering, here’s what we bought for the month.

Whole Foods said yes, my family was gung ho, and we were off on January 1st, shopping for over 90 minutes, trying to figure out what we could afford.   
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Eat Healthy While Still Saving Money

Diana Johnson (@DianasaurDishes on Twitter) is a recipe developer, cooking instructor and food blogger who loves teaching people how easy and affordable healthy cooking can be. Visit DianasaurDishes.com for her delicious, easy and healthy recipes on a shoestring budget!

I work on a regular basis with low income families who are trying to change their eating habits. The biggest barrier they seem to have in common is not a lack of desire for healthy eating, but the feeling that healthy food is more expensive and therefore unattainable. Here are a few of my favorite tips for saving money on groceries in the quest for a healthy diet.

Utilize your freezer.
A freezer is one of the greatest tools you have. In fact, if you have room for a standalone freezer they’re easily found on Craigslist and can save you a lot of money in the long run. Fruits and vegetables are more affordable in season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a variety of produce year round. Freezing is one of the least expensive methods of preserving. You can also create cheap recipes like soups and stews in bulk and freeze them in smaller portions for fast and easy dinners.


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Dr. Oz Shows How to Stay Healthy While Saving Money

Tune in Tuesday, October 18, 2011 to The Dr. Oz Show to learn how to get healthy on the cheap.

Many people are over spending in order to stay healthy. Dr. Oz will be showing easy ways to stay healthy and save money at the same time. With his tips on how to save on items such as supplements and prescriptions, Dr. Oz says he can show people how to put $1,000 back in their budget.

Dr. Oz will also be displaying $1 quick fixes to our most annoying health problems. Be sure to catch this great deal of an episode!



6 Tips to Eat Vegan on a Budget

By Becky Striepe for Care2.com

There’s a common misconception that a vegan diet is also an expensive one, but I don’t think that has to be the case at all! Sure, if you eat lots of fake meat products and load up your cart with out of season veggies, a vegan diet can definitely break the bank. If an omnivore ate nothing but filet mignon and fancy cheeses, that would get pretty expensive, too, right?

The keys to stocking a vegan pantry without maxing out your food budget is pretty simple: eat real food, and cook from scratch when you can. Does that seem easier said than done? Don’t fret! Here are some tips and tricks for eating a healthy, vegan diet without spending too much money or giving up too much precious free time.

1. Cook from Scratch
Cooking from scratch probably sounds time-consuming, but with a bit of planning it’s very easy to work this into your schedule. Pre-processing your food can go a long way. I don’t mean canning, though. I mean soaking beans and chopping veggies. When you get home from the store, cut up your veggies before you put them away in the fridge. If you know you want to make a bean dish, soak the beans overnight to speed up cooking time. It’s so much easier to make a meal after a long day when some of the prepwork is already done.


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