Whole Foods Without Your Whole Paycheck

We originally wrote this article for DailyFinance, but it’s a topic we’ve wanted to discuss on OFB for a while now. We’d love to hear any thoughts/tips you’d add to our list.It seems the organic, all-natural, no blah-blah-blah craze isn’t just a passing phase. Green smoothies, cleansing diets, and “caveman” recipes will continue to flood your Facebook for the next millennium, so get used to it. The question is, have you, too, succumbed? It’s hard not to feel pressure to buy into the Whole Foods frenzy.

“I mean, can you really put a price on your health?” asks your friend as you both grimace down a wheatgrass shot. Well, no: You can’t put a price on your health (unless you’re planning to sell one of your kidneys sometime soon). But you can decide how much you’ll spend to eat healthy. Despite popular belief, you don’t have to sabotage your budget to do it. And while my husband, Johnny, and I don’t profess to be the healthiest humans on the planet (I’m scarfing chocolate as I type this), here are five ways we’ve found to eat healthier without selling our souls to Whole Foods:

Grow Your Own Food

Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in the daily grind that we don’t even register where our food comes from. So for those of you, like us, who need a refresher, here’s how it works: it’s grown… in the ground. You know what’s crazier? Anyone can do it! For about $10, you can buy a few packets of seeds that will yield all the leafy, juicy, all-natural fruits and veggies your body craves. And for you eye-rolling apartment-dwellers, don’t count yourselves out from this money-saving awesomeness for a second. Here’s a list of 66 things you can grow on your terrace or windowsill.

Say Yes to Farmers Markets/Co-Ops/CSAs

If you’re looking to save some major green on leafy greens, then farmers markets, co-ops, and CSAs are the way to go. And better yet, everything you get is local and in-season. Phrases like “genetically-modified” and “how am I eating strawberries in February?” can be banished from your vocabulary when you know you’re eating produce grown just down the street. And did I mention you’re helping your local community’s economy at the same time? All in a day’s purchase.

Choose Your Organic Produce Wisely

We’ve probably all felt the guilt of choosing cheaper produce instead of the organic selection that looks down its nose at it from just a display away.

While we’d love to buy organic all the time, sometimes our bank account reins in our healthy instincts. But don’t fret: There’s actually a lot of produce that’s mostly pesticide-free being sold without the organic label and expensive price tag. Fruits and vegetables with thick skins — think pineapple, avocado, mango, eggplant and watermelon, for example — can be grown with little to no pesticides. Other plants are more resistant to pests in general — and so require fewer pesticides — including broccoli, sweet potato, onion, asparagus and cabbage.

Eat the Staples (Not the Metal Kind)

For those of you really serious about going natural, get away from of the world of prepackaged goods and get back to the basics: whole grains, beans and legumes. They’re cheap and healthy, and you can stock up when they’re on sale since these babies won’t be expiring anytime soon. For whole-grain bread, channel your inner Martha Stewart, spend a few hours with your oven, and come away with a month’s supply for a fraction of the price you’d pay for store-bought. Just freeze the loaves you don’t need right away.

Have a Cow

Vegetarians may want to look away from this section. If you’re an unabashed meat lover like Johnny or me, and you’re looking for a cheaper alternative for grass-fed beef, there is hope! Grass-fed beef is incredibly reasonable when you buy in bulk. Depending on your needs, you can purchase a quarter, half, or whole cow (pre-cut and packaged, of course) and freeze it for up to a year. We do suggest investing in a deep freezer before bringing it home. And if you don’t see yourself eating that much beef in a year’s time, grab a few beef-loving comrades and split your cuts up. Save the T-bone and ribs for us, please.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to exist in a world where you’re the only person who forgets to bring a reusable bag. So if you resent your whole paycheck going toward a healthier, now-penniless version of yourself, we hope we’ve helped ease that burden. And the weight of eating healthy can now refer to something other than your finances.

What are your tricks for eating healthy for less? We’ve got years’ worth of ramen in our veins, so we’re all ears to any and all tips to help us detox with healthy, affordable goodness.