A Whole-Foods Lifestyle Can Be Affordable

By Patrice Lockert Anthony

basketA whole-foods lifestyle is possible for low-income individuals and families. Good health, vibrant health, begins with whole foods. Most of our grandparents cooked, gardened, and ate what was available. They didn't cook meals to satisfy each person in the family. Their children ate what was prepared.

So many things are tied to vibrant nutrition. Children do better at school. Adults do better at work. A whole host of medical conditions (obesity, hypertension, diabetes, etc.), which often plague the poor, are positively impacted by a whole-foods diet, but we have to want it. We have to want it for ourselves and for our families. We have to want change. Change that incorporates mostly whole foods will change lives.

Cost-wise, we are negatively affected if we buy convenience foods, eat out a lot, don't cook from scratch, don't plan meals, don't garden, and don't have a mindful food practice in place. Eating anything that has been boxed, packaged, cooked, or served to you or for you hikes up the price of our food costs. Period. Avoid this option whenever possible if money is an issue. Eating out is an obvious source of hiked-up food costs. If we're really trying to keep a lid on those costs, this should be used as a rare treat.

Cooking meals from scratch is the best thing we can do. These meals are more flavorful. They have a better chance of including the whole family in the process of meal planning. Cooking from scratch helps to ground the idea that good food and good food preparation matter. We get to experiment with taste, color, texture, spices, seasonings. More than anything else, if we want to change how we and our families view food, we'll need to be hands-on as often as possible. It matters.

Planning meals helps us incorporate healthful tips and foods. It helps us be more mindful about what we are trying to do for ourselves. For our families. Meal plans also help us cut down on costs. If we know ahead of time what we want, we can compare prices, adjust our lists, take advantage of great deals. Meal plans can also help us create healthy versions of fast food (convenience eating).

Everyone can garden. I think everyone should garden. If we choose to garden, we can. The cost savings is ridiculous. Cornell Cooperative Extension has a program through which we can exchange seeds, save seeds, or access free seeds. Buying packets of seeds costs very little compared to what we get in return. Need land ... a little plot of dirt? Ithaca has a community garden. We can pay $40 annually (and scholarships are available if that amount is unaffordable); after that, cash outlay is for seeds only. The garden provides tools and everything else we need to make our garden grow. It's great exercise, you get gobs of great veggies for a minimal cash outlay, and your neighbors will love you because there is usually plenty of extra. There are also small strips of land around apartments; there is container gardening and community-supported agriculture. Possibilities abound for lowering costs and changing lives. We have to be willing to do what is necessary.

Mindful planning. Mindful cooking. Mindful living. We spend purposeful time thinking about what we want for ourselves and our families. We make a plan. We think about our impact on the Earth and each other and we decide to act differently. We find out what whole foods are. We incorporate them into our diets. We do it in such a way that it saves money. We garden because it's good for ourselves, our families, our spirits. We garden because it's possible and it helps make our lives better. And because the food that graces our tables from the garden is so incredibly tasty.

We can save ourselves. We are unnecessarily afflicted by diseases and unhealthful conditions. A whole-foods dietary practice can and will change that. Let's get with the program. It is not only cost-effective, but could help put money in savings. Be willing to cook, experiment, try. Be willing to do what is necessary to change your life. It's a journey. I'm right there on the journey with you.

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