Pay More, Eat Less: An Important Truth to Eating Naturally on A Budget

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There is no doubt that eating whole nutritious foods can often be more expensive than conventional processed food. Processed food has been purposely designed to be cheap, but at what cost? How can we possibly eat more naturally when on a budget?

When you pay more…you are more likely to eat less of it. Michael Pollan emphasizes this point in his book, In Defense of Food. When you spend more on a product, you will naturally savor it more! One of the greatest pleasures in being a homemaker is being able to prepare nutritious food that is delicious. We love it…we savor it…we don’t stuff ourselves. We enjoy our food!

Michael Pollan shares: “Overeating promotes cell division, and promotes it most dramatically in cancer cells; cutting back on calories slows cell division. It also stifles the production of free radicals, curbs inflammation, and reduces the risk of most of the Western diseases.”

1. Slow down and enjoy it – serve smaller portions!

If we slow down to enjoy our food more, it will give our body sufficient time to let us know that it is full. Plus, slowing down helps proper digestion, allowing our bodies to receive the full benefit of the food as well. I also practice this by purposefully serving smaller portions and keep the leftovers in the kitchen away from view. It is partly psychological – we stop eating when the plate is empty. In this manner, we naturally slow down more to enjoy it and then we will really be able to evaluate if we need more after the first plate is completed. The bigger our plate is, the more our mind and body think we need to eat it all before we are full.

2. Whole foods sustain longer.

Whole foods, such as whole grains (especially when soaked or sprouted) are far more satisfying that their refined counterparts. Refined wheat for example, has no germ in it. The germ plays an active role in telling our bodies when we are full. When this is removed, our body has no idea how to communicate this. When we eat food that is nutritionally dense, it satisfies the needs of our bodies. When we make our whole wheat pizza for example, Aaron and I will eat just two pieces each because it is satisfying, and then we have leftovers for tomorrow. When we eat out for pizza or take-out, we will be more inclined to eat 3-4 pizzas each because we need more! The refined flour is not providing the body with the nutrition it needs, so it tells us to keep eating until it gets it. Alas for overeating and obesity in our nation. Do you see how it can be more expensive to eat refined foods? You need more to satisfy, but at the risk of overeating.

3. Get rid of the snacks and fancy foods.

When we eat whole foods, we don’t buy the snacks (except for the occasional box of Jo-Jo’s from Trader Joes – my hubby’s special treat)! They are usually empty carbs that we don’t need. Whole foods keep us happier much longer. I have purposely not purchased snacks over the last few years in order to stay within our food budget. But it wasn’t till recently that I realized we really did not need them anyway. We honestly rarely feel a necessity for a snack…even among the children. Delicious green smoothies or soaked oatmeal will keep our bellies full. If we do need a little extra something, a piece of fruit, handful of frozen blueberries, or raisins will do us just fine. Snacky foods are just expensive and when we have them on the shelf in our kitchen we are just tempted to eat them. Did we really need them? NO! If we avoid buying them all together, it is not a problem! We are forced to eat the whole foods. ;)

Lastly, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. This is key! Read In Defense of Food or Real Food together or just highlight important points to your spouse. Watch Food, Inc together and discuss it. I did this while reading In Defense of Food, and my husband was astounded by some of the facts and then supported me more fully in our food purchases. When you are in agreement as to the importance of eating real food together, you will both be united in seeking ways to cut back in other areas in order to eat whole foods. If you are not on the same page yet, pray it out and still present them with the information in a gracious and appealing manner, and be patient.

That is our goal: use our food budget to buy real food, slow down to enjoy it, serve smaller portions, eliminate the snacks and drinks, and we are happy and satisfied! There are a few more ideas for eating naturally on a budget!

For more on this topic, visit my tips for eating nutritiously on a budget and my natural living on a budget topic index.

Have you experienced this? How do you seek to eat naturally on a budget?

This post is a part of Fight Back Fridays.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

39 Responses to Pay More, Eat Less: An Important Truth to Eating Naturally on A Budget

  1. Jenn April 23, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    Do you have teens? I find it's very very hard to buy fresh, organic, healthy foods and LIMIT their intake. It's just not happening!

  2. Chiot's Run November 7, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    I’m forever trying to explain this to people and they never believe me. I’m happy to find people of like mind. When we buy chickens from the farm they’ll last for 5-6 meals (sometimes more). You’re also a lot less likely to waste food when it costs more or when you’ve gone to the trouble to make something from scratch or grow it yourself.

    Growing a few veggies yourself is another way to include healthy foods in your diets for pennies. We eat tons of fresh veggies straight from the garden and they save money and time.

    For a snack we like to enjoy a raw milk latte or some warm spiced raw milk (usually with cinnamon, star anise & vanilla beans). We also enjoy a lot of herbal teas instead of snacks, they’re full of healthy goodies for your body and often help fight off sickness. I’m convinced herbs/spices are an oft overlooked source of nutrition and we should try to include more in our diets.

  3. Jenni Wilson October 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    I have read about food and health for 10 years now. I am passionate about many of the topics you discuss. It makes me happy to see you sharing so many valuable nuggets of healthful wisdom! Thank you for acting on such a powerful, personal mission!

  4. Jamie October 22, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    I appreciate your blog and the many others I’m reading regarding whole, real foods as I am beginning to make small changes in our diets thanks to finding Sally Falon’s book. I’ve read her book and many others who have taken up the real, whole food campaign. I’ve made small changes but feel guilty that I am not able to do more than what I can at this time. I am a single parent (I get no support from anyone or any government entity outside of immediate family)as I do not qualify. I live in MI the state with the highest unemployment rate–higher than the national average–so purchasing the foods necessary for the whole, real food way of life is a big challenge to the budget. I feel guilty putting food on the table I know isn’t nutrionally sound for us but I also need to get food in the bellies. Be thankful you have such great support (as it appears you are).
    I hope to one day soon incorporate more changes but as of now I am doing what I can with what budget I have.

    • Lindsay October 23, 2009 at 6:08 am #

      Dear sister, please do not feel guilty! Do the best that you can and ultimately your trust must be in the Lord. I cannot afford to get all organic as I may desire, or even soaking all my grains. With two little ones underfoot, alot of these “make it yourself” practices have fallen to the side. Relationships are more important! I would challenge you to not focus on what you cannot do, focus on what you can! You have made little steps and that is awesome. Feeling guilty or being fearful will not get us anywhere. I offer these suggestions in this post not because I think they will solve all the expenses of eating whole foods, but because they are little ideas that have helped us in that pursuit. I do know a family that eats rice and beans and vegetables with a little meat and they are healthy and fit (while spending $200 a month on food). You don’t have to make it too complicated. Keep it simple. Know that you serve a Sovereign God who cares for his children. You are doing the best that you can and that is success!

      • Jamie October 23, 2009 at 1:46 pm #

        Your reply definitely made me cry especially since you would counsel a complete stranger and with all I have endured in the last 5 years but especially the last year and half that has caused me to walk away from my faith and walk with Christ. It has been difficult getting back…not impossible I know just difficult.
        Thank you for the encouragement and I will try to remember your love spun words :)

        • Lindsay October 25, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

          Bless you dear sister! I was blessed to receive your comment. May I encourage you to press on to know the Lord. He truly love and cares for you! Hide in the shadow of His wings and allow Him to draw you to Himself. He who began a good work in you will complete it as His Word promises. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to email me. I would love to be able to serve you further.

  5. jessica October 19, 2009 at 1:33 am #

    this idea of portion control is sooo true, given the price of organics you feel like what you have between your hands is really valuable, and cannot be wasted. Really, this is how we should always treat food but since the prices are subventioned we really don’t calculate the true “value” of what we buy…i feel really responsable to use up every last bite of what we buy and waste nothing (leftover dishes, scraping kids plates clean). I have also learned a few things from the French over here…they are not obsessed with leftovers like americans, when they plan a meal for friends each part is calculated according to how many servings you need and is preapared as such, there is no appology for not offering a “second helping”. that said, the meal is served in “courses” so there is always more ot come if you are hungry…you don’t leave the table lacking. (Usually it is soup or salad, followed by a main dish/ meat with vegetable, then cheese with bread, and a dessert at the end (usually in individual portions).
    This concept can apply to other areas as well (cleaning products for ex.) my husband (french, i’m american) doesn’t really beleive in “stocking up” or bulk buying. He says “the more you have, the more you use”. There was a deal to buy one shaving cream get the second half-off, packaged together. He wouldn’t buy it because he didn’t “need” that much :) and i find it is true…when i have a huge bottle of something i use a whole handful (shampoo) when it’s near the end i use less, to make it last longer (like toothpaste) …i have found pump despensers to be good for this btw (all liquid products)…anyways just wanted to share a little and say i liked your post (and your blog!) :)

  6. KRISTEN'S RAW October 18, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

    Great post. Organic whole foods (all vegan, mostly Raw) is how my family eats. Nutrition is our medicine. :)


  7. Susanna October 18, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    Excellent post, Lindsay. Can’t wait to read the book! Our family still eats a lot even with whole foods and soaked grains, but I know it’s good food for their little growing bodies. I should try to use some portion control a little more for myself – thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Kelly Heavener October 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    I too get a little intimidated when I read this. I have been reading ” The Unhealthy Truth”. It is a book that has opened my eyes. My children are in school and I work full-time. Since reading this book, I have changed a lot of what we eat. I no longer buy go gurts, instead switching to Yo Kids yogurt tubes. I make my own lunchables with nitrate-free meat. I don’t buy anything with dyes in it. I live in Alaska, so it is hard to find “raw food” or stick to an all organic diet. My fruit and veggie choices are what ever are the freshest. I at least buy meat that has no hormones and stick to milk and diary products with no rBGH. Do you have any ideas on how I can pack a better lunch for my kids or implement more convenient healthy ways to eat since we are on the run a lot?

  9. M.I.A in Minnesota October 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

    I so admire your ambition for wanting to to serve your family whole and natural foods. I’m guessing you were raised in a home that felt the same way. I grew up in a typical American home where being served whole foods would have been very rare. No knock on my parents, that’s just what their generation did. SO with that, I know nothing about it, other than it’s expensive and time consuming. I am completely intimidated, and don’t know where to start. Getting my husband on the same page would be a miracle as well. What’s my very first step? I am slowly introducing natural cleaning products that you have posted recipes for on your blog (thank you), but the food part just scares me to death. Switching over makes perfect sense. I just don’t know how to go about it so that I won’t get burned out and give up. There are really no convenient places to shop whole foods in my area either. What to do, what to do. I’d welcome any ones advice who has been in my shoes! Thank you!

    • Kika October 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm #

      I wonder if you set an initial goal of modifying meal plans for two suppers a week to start if you’d feel that was “doable”; or maybe looking at what you’d normally buy/foods you eat the most frequently, which of these could you change over to healthier versions. Even setting simple goals like “we will drink more water” or “eat X number fruit/veg/day” could start you on a great path (unless you’re already doing well in these areas). I agree that if you try and change everything overnight you could become stressed and give up. Baby steps work well in my life.

    • Jodie October 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

      I was in your shoes less than a year ago. My idea of a school lunch was a bologna sandwich with processed cheese, chips, and some sweet treat. That is what I grew up on. It is completely intimidating and overwhelming. You need to take one step at a time. Less than a year into it I still have a long way to go, but I now make all of our bread (with the help of our Bosch mixer which I love and saved 6 months for), lunch is left overs, homemade soup, or a healthy sandwich made on our homemade whole wheat bread. I make a lot of our food from scratch, but still not all of it. I recommend finding someone else that is a little further along in the journey to help you. You might try to look for some small local shops that you can find healthy food at. There is one in my town that I never new existed and they can order just about anything I want. Just don’t forget to think in terms of baby steps or you will feel overwhelmed and want to give up! I tried to dive in and do too much at first and burned out. Now when I look back to where I started we have come a long way! You can too over time!

    • jessica October 19, 2009 at 1:10 am #

      don’t worry about making bread and fermenting grains and all that right away…i grew up with a mom who did these things and STILL find it difficult to implement with three toddlers to care for…however there are REALLY easy ways to change some important things…like just buy brown rice and whole wheat noodles instead of white ones (you may have to find a food co-op to order them in your area if you don’t have a grocery store with a healthfood section, i don’t know) then stock up on frozen veggies and serve some at every meal…make a big salad for the week with a homemade vinigarette (in a shaker and serve it too…frozen stuff is so easy b/c it’s already chopped and washed for you. just use salt/pepper olive oil/lemon juice for seasoning meats, fish, etc…instead of canned sauces, heavy gravies… and use fruit (dried or fresh for snacks as much as possible) hope some of those ideas might be useful…

      • M.I.A in Minnesota October 19, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

        Thanks for all the advice gals! I must be doing better than I thought. Some of these things I’m already doing, so thanks for the boost of confidence. : ) I think my next challenge I really need to revamp is snack time. I have a hard time thinking of healthy snacks that fill them up. My girls get sick of me serving them apple slices and peanut butter. : )

  10. Jessie October 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    I have been on the journey to eating “real food” and have read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, all of Michael Pollan’s work and just finished Nina Planck’s Real Food, which was fascinating and cemented my conviction to do everything within my power to bring real whole foods into my kitchen. My husband, while hesitant at first, has been enjoying raw milk cheeses, un-homogenized milk and yogurt (I’m working on finding a raw milk supplier-difficult in NJ) and rapadura in my baking. Even though it costs more, it is worth it. We can live without other luxuries in order to eat naturally. Thanks so much for bringing thoughtful awareness to nutrition-It is a high calling to nourish our families through the kitchen.

  11. Stacey October 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

    OK. I completely agree w/ all you said. My problem is, I’m nursing. I already have a high metabolism so you can imagine how difficulut it is to keep weight on while nursing. In my attemtps to produce enough milk for my babies and keep enough fat on me, I have given to eating larger amounts at meal times and frequent snacks. What would you suggest to help me keep weight on while nursing w/o over eating?!

    • Bethany January 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

      I’d love to see an answer to this post! Same situation. I’ve developed a lot of food allergies because of candida as well, and so when there is a meal I really can eat, I go crazy and eat a lot of it, but still nursing so it doesn’t stick (yet!) I feel like I over eat too much. I know part of the problem is self control though. I need to slow down and savor it. Great post.

  12. Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen October 16, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    Excellent post. I think that a large part of our obsession with overeating has to do with lack of the nutrients and complexity of flavor found in natural foods. Portions in our home are small – which surprise people when they come over – but we use every bit and, more importantly, savor it all.

  13. Jodie October 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    I read all this and am left wondering what we are doing wrong! We have really tried to switch our food to whole foods with the hope they would be more filling. We went from cereal to soaked oatmeal and a kefir and berry smoothie for breakfast, but we are still hungry a couple hours later. The only thing that is filling for breakfast seems to be eggs. I would love to start eating less to save on the food bill, but it is hard when you really are truly hungry!

    • jessica October 19, 2009 at 1:01 am #

      a lot of people do say that adding protein helps you feel fuller longer…you could try adding nuts or nut butter (to your oatmeal or smoothie) that might help, if you don’t want to cook eggs …personally i feel like i have a very active appetite and it is a real battle inside if i “decide” not to eat between meals. I think the best option if you really are hungry is fresh fruit. Ideally, nutrtionally, fresh fruit should really be eaten alone (like for a snack or a breakfast of all fruits) because it is digested so quickly…if you eat it at the end of a meal it gets “blocked” in the stomach with the other slower-digested elements and starts to ferment…not ideal. So maybe you just need to eat more often! my husband is NEVER hungry between meals (or very rarely) and can not understand my apparent “obsession” with food…

      • ~M October 20, 2009 at 10:35 am #

        Adding chia to smoothies helps you feel full for a really long time. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water or unsweetened herbal tea between meals to make sure you’re really hungry, and not thirsty.

      • Becky February 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

        I have read that about fruit too, that it should not be eaten with meals. But then I came across an article that pointed out how fruits have digestive enzymes in them that actually help to digest your meal. Papayas have papain- which digests protein, and pineapples have bromelain that digests protein. And my guess is that other fruits probably have other enzymes that digest protien too. Maybe even some that haven’t been discovered yet. So it looks like we don’t have to worry about that after all.

    • Randi/The Muffin Lady December 12, 2010 at 10:31 am #

      I think that this article is terrific! Yet I would argue with the statement that healthier foods are more expensive, as I do not find this to be true and I’m in Colorado where fresh produce often comes from neighboring states, with the exception of a couple summer months.

      Whole foods come in 2 varieties these days:
      Fresh Organic Foods and Organic Raw Ingredients
      Fresh Foods and Raw Ingredients

      As a culinary author I thoroughly understand the promotions of Organic foods, as they are cleaner in a sense. But I believe that any type of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, poultry, fish, etc is much more healthful than any food that has been previously prepared and/or prepackaged with excess salts, sugars and chemicals.
      And when you conside purchasing these prepackaged goods, although they may seem to cost less, your actually paying for the packaging and chemicals, not the food within.

      For example soaking raw oatmeal is great, yet it is more expensive than a container of steel cut, old fashioned Oats, and old fashioned Oats are just as healthy as raw organic oats, and more so with the addition of fruit or nuts. Yet those little individual convenient packages of oatmeal, are loaded with sugars, salts and ultimately cost you more—-in price and because they increase the want for more food before the next meal!

      And sure when you cook, eat and serve food, one of the best ways to control weight gains, while still eating healthfully is to control serving sizes and offer fresh fruit as a dessert or addition if still hungry.

      You say that you feel fuiller when you consume eggs for breakfast, that’s because eggs are a source of protein. And if you were to add some fresh spinach to your eggs, most likely you won’t be snacking before lunch! I have lots of healthful tips like this in my new cookbook: LOVE MORE FEED LESS.

  14. Tracey October 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    In Defense of Food is one of my favorite books ever! Thanks for emphasizing some of these points. One of the things I struggle with the most is keeping those snacks out of the house. I think we have gotten so used to having them in the pantry that we feel deprived if there’s not something there for us to snack on, especially in the evening.

    • Randi/The Muffin Lady December 12, 2010 at 10:43 am #

      What kind of snacks—

      Prepackaged or homemade????

      Sure crackers are a snack, but graham crackers are more healthful.
      Potato and Corn chips, can be substituted with Homemade Potato chips, or use slices of cucumber instead of a corn chip when serving or munching on salsa.
      Fruit Crisps make a nice mid day snack, epecially when prepared with canola oil, cinnamon and oats.
      1/2 cup of plain yogurt mixed with a teaspoon of honey and maybe some fruit, is much healthier than grabbing a pre-mixed variety–prepared with high Fructose Corn Syrup.
      A bunch of frozen grapes is much healthier on a warm days, then a frozen latte, ice cream cone, or frozen yogurt could ever be.

      CANDY: Make your own using dark chocolate broken bits or chips with fruits, cereals, nuts etc. is much less expensive than relying on something prepackaged.

      There are so many healthful alternatives to prepackaged snacks, you just got to get creative when wanting to eat healthier.

  15. Katie October 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    Ah, such encouragement once again! :) My chiropractor and I were talking about this very thing the other day! Thank you for your ministry :)

  16. tarena October 16, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    I completly agree with all of these! We too have been eating less and my husband has noticed that naturally he has lost weight (because of healthful food too!)!
    I was also thinking recently that it would be nice for us to follow the lost practice of serving in courses. The salad, then a soup, then the main dish, then some fruit.
    I bet this would help with slower and smaller portions! Although it would result in more dishes!

  17. DarcyLee October 16, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    Great information, Lindsay. I’ve been struggling with this very issue. I always look forward to your posts.

  18. alexis October 16, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    This is so true–I’ve noticed that we eat way less when we eat whole, nutritious foods. We too have cut down on unhealthy snack foods and instead eat popcorn (we cook it on the stove, not the micro!), trail mix made from raw nuts and seeds or fresh fruit. Eating a whole foods diet is a bit more expensive, but I just consider all the $$$ we save on dr. bills–my family is rarely ill. You can’t consider it a waste of money, but an investment in the health of the family!

    • Lindsay October 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

      Yes, we are huge popcorn fans over here as well! And of course the occasional delicious homemade ice cream. Love it! I definitely think it is an investment in your overall health allowing real food to be your medicine!

    • the monkey's mama October 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

      I completely agree with this post but LOVED what was said in the second to last sentence of this comment–when you eat whole foods, you don’t get sick! My husband tends to eat the SAD (standard American diet) more than me or our daughter and he is sick a lot whereas we rarely get sick! So nice!

  19. Erin October 16, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    I like what you said about getting on the same page with your spouse. I am wondering if your parents/in-laws believe the way you do about food. Do you live by them? My husband is sort of on board with whole foods. He believes it (not as much as I do), but when we’re at our parents’ houses, they are CONSTANTLY giving us junk (and our kids junk). And then he piles it in, because, hey, Mom and Dad gave it to him! Not to be rude, because they are so awesome, all of them, but they don’t believe in whole foods. We live close to both sets of parents and see them a lot. I was wondering if you could give suggestions how to get on page with them. I’m not sure they’d read In Defense of Food. And if they did, I’m not sure they’d change their diet. Anyway, love your blog. Thanks!

    • Lindsay October 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

      Yes, we live by both sides of the family. One is more health conscience than the other. The auntie’s love to give Karis candy and graham crackers, and various snacks. I don’t stress over it though. A special treat now and then will not kill her. She doesn’t get those things at home, so the majority of her diet is real food. I feel like it is part of building family relationships. You could try to graciously ask for them not to give excessive treats or at least to ask you first. But then again, unless you are over there very frequently, I would encourage you not to fret too much over it. You do your best and trust the Lord for the rest!

  20. Lani October 16, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    I have now been soaking our breads, oatmeal, pancake mixes,etc for about 1 month, and was immediately impressed because my children were feeling fuller with about half the food. I am certainly going to continue doing this.

  21. Fruitfulvine2 October 16, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    I do find that I feel fuller longer when I eat the healthier grains and drink enough water. So there is no need for me to eat a lot between meals. Good article.

  22. Miranda October 16, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    Just wanted to let you know that I have SO fallen in love with your blog. Your blog made the list of happy places I’ve found during my “Mono Vacation”. Thanks and nice to find you!

  23. Naomi October 16, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    I really appreciate this. My husband and I have been living in Europe, where it is so cheap to buy home-grown, seasonal produce. I have been thinking about what I am going to do when we return to the States and found this article very helpful!