One of the biggest misconceptions is that eating healthy costs a lot of money. While this is simply untrue, I can see how this misconception came about. Looking at the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), which has a mix of plant foods, poor quality animal foods, and cheap, processed foods, it is overall not very costly. When people make the switch from the Standard American Diet to a diet with a mix of plant foods, animal foods of higher quality (organic/grass-fed/pasture-raised), and higher quality process foods (gluten-free breads, organic crackers/chips, high quality oils, etc.), the cost of food can sometimes nearly double or triple from the S.A.D.. While making that switch is definitely a step in the right direction towards better health, it can ultimately hurt your financial health, and thus, the misconception that "eating healthy costs more" forms.
Now when someone makes the switch from the S.A.D. to a diet with a heavy emphasis on plant foods, and little to no animal foods and processed foods, the costs can remain the same as the S.A.D. or even be cheaper! The best part about making that switch is that it is SO great for your health as well. While limiting or removing animal foods from your diet may pose the question of "where would I then get my protein from?", you should know that you can actually get plenty of protein from plant foods, such as, beans, lentils, whole grains, seeds, leafy greens and even vegetables. Not only will these plant sources of protein be better for the environment (and the animals themselves), they will also be better for your wallet! Beans, lentils, whole grains and other plant foods cost so little and can be found in nearly every grocery store. Below is a list of foods that are very cheap, yet are amazing for your health:
... the list could go on and on! Essentially, all plant foods boast amazing health benefits at a very low cost.
To add on, the debate about organic vs. not-organic could impact how much you spend on food as well. My rule of thumb is that if you eat the outside/skin of a plant (apple, berries, broccoli, etc) you should try to buy organic, and if you don't eat the skin (melons, avocado, oranges, etc), organic isn't necessary. You can also refer to the Environmental Working Group's clean fifteen and dirty dozen list below. You'll want to always buy the foods on the dirty dozen list organic since those are the foods that tend to be treated with the most pesticides, where as, the clean fifteen list are good to buy non-organic.
* One thing to note about the clean fifteen list - even though sweet corn is on this list, it remains one of the most heavily genetically modified (GMO) foods in the U.S., which poses a host of other threats to our health. With that said, it's best to buy corn organic.
In addition, buying organic produce when it's in season will be less costly, compared to buying organic produce when it's not in season - for example, you'll pay a hefty price when buying berries in the winter when they're not in season. If you really want to buy organic produce when it is not in season, your cheapest option is to buy them frozen. Frozen organic berries and other organic plant foods will almost always cost less than buying those foods fresh and not in season.
Another topic around eating healthier, while trying to save money, is the concept of dining out. Yes, dining out can be pretty expensive, especially if booze and multiple courses are involved. While cooking in will always save you money in the end, there is one thing to note about eating plant-based while dining out. If you haven't already noticed while dining out, the cheapest items on the menu are usually the ones without animal products! Now I know eating out can sometimes be tricky while trying to eat plant-based, but my tip for ordering out when there really isn't a plant-based main dish, is to look at what side dishes are offered. You can usually make a main dish with the sides that are offered - for example, sauteed spinach, steamed broccoli, rice and potatoes are usually offered.
Lastly, to show you an example of a days worth of plant-based eating that is very low cost and filling, I put together a sample menu for you to reference below.
Breakfast: Oatmeal cooked with water, topped with a sliced banana and a pinch of cinnamon
Snack: A sliced apple or orange
Lunch: Burrito bowl made with brown rice, black beans, sautéed onions & green peppers, chopped tomato, and shredded lettuce
Snack: Celery stick topped with peanut butter and raisins
Dinner: Curry made with cauliflower, peas and potatoes
To sum up, eating healthier does not have to hurt your financial health! As I explained above, including more whole, plant-based foods in your diet can not only help your health, but also your wallet. It is my hope that everyone can get access to this information, because I know there are so many people out there that believe the Standard American Diet is the only way of eating they can afford - and unfortunately, it's a diet that you really can't afford, health & financial wise, to stick with in the long term.