How to Eat Healthy Without Busting Your Budget: The New EWG Guide

In the last few years since books by Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food: Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much) and movies, such as Food, Inc., have gotten wide distribution, many people are either learning about or recommitting to a healthier way of eating. One thing I hear quite a bit is concern over the expense of eating healthier…which is ironic in many ways. 

People willingly shell out more money on:

  • doctors & prescriptions for illnesses related to a nutrient-poor eating regimen
  • fad diet foods and programs that are not always well-balanced or sustainable
  • junk/processed foods that seem inexpensive but leave you hungry, under-nourished and do not contribute to your health
  • sports paraphernalia like gym memberships and exercise machines and gadgets that will go unused
  • not to mention the many other “unnecessary” things.

Yet, people-of all income brackets-say they have a difficult time justifying paying a little more money to nourish themselves and their families with fresh food.

That said, the fact is more and more Americans rely on federal and local food assistance programs, and many others are just feeling the tightening of the belt of a struggling economy. That makes buying nutritious food more difficult.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an online guide this week to offer a little assistance, called “Good Food on a Tight Budget.”  Consider how EWG put together their guide to identifying nutritious, affordable foods, from their website:

English: Logo of the .
English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A single person relying entirely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, must subsist on $6.67 per day. Members of a large family on SNAP receive about $5 a day per person (USDA 2012). The limited food that can be bought with these funds must be as nutritious as possible.

Environmental Working Group’s “Good Food on a Tight Budget” project aims to help people with modest food budgets find the healthiest foods.

Environmental Working Group
Environmental Working Group (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“EWG assessed nearly 1,200 foods and handpicked the best 100 or so that pack in nutrients at a good price, with the fewest pesticides, contaminants and artificial ingredients.”

The homepage says, “Inside the guide you’ll find our simple tips for eating well, quick lists of best foods , tasty recipes, easy tools for tracking food prices and planning your weekly menu and a blankshopping list to help you stay on budget.”

Here are a few notable aspects that jumped out at me: Under each food category, foods are listed with helpful pictures and icons that make easy to read such information as “best buy” or health-related information, including recommended consumption limits. For cheese, for example, there is a healthy tip symbol to draw attention to this tip, “Eat less cheese. Use it for flavor, not to fill up. Low-fat cheddar, Colby, Monterrey and mozzarella can have a lot less saturated fat but may have more sodium (salt) and additives.”

The recipes included in the guide include a wide variety of “from-scratch” basics such as oatmeal, step-by-step soup, veggie dip, baked fish, and “make-it-a-meal” salad (which my husband and I enjoy doing).

The separate pages that list resources and tips are very helpful as well.  Many of their tips are ones you will have seen or will continue to see Marilyn and I include on our blog, such as:

  • Plan and save. Make a meal plan and shopping list. Use the food you have and the deals you find in store ads and coupons.
  • Cook and freeze large batches.  Save money by cooking at home more and eating out less. Store food properly and throw less away. (My favorite shelf life resource is  Check out Marilyn’s favorite food storage chart)
  • Buy in bulk and stock up during sales.
  • Grow your own.
  • Soak and cook dried beans to save money.
  • Vegetables about to go bad? Freeze them or make soup.
  • Whole or cut-up bone-in chicken can be a money saver. Buy family-size packs on sale and freeze.

Check out this and other guides published through the EWG website.

As I often say, Health is Wealth!

~Aimee, TFF