A peek into my penny-pinching grocery cart

September 6, 2009


“Eating healthy is expensive!” Aughhh that sentiment is like nails on the blackboard to me! Every time I hear those words I swear a little part inside of me dies. Because what a cruel, cruel world we must live in if eating properly is out of reach for the average person.

Except…it doesn’t have to be that way. Despite advertising, despite the food industry, despite the friggen USDA food pyramid – miraculously, it really is not expensive to eat healthy. I swear on my Mark Bittman cookbook. In fact, it can even be cheaper when done the right way.

But of course, here we are, trying to define “healthy” to a generation of Americans brought up on Chewy Chips Ahoy and Jenny Craig. We’re a messed up bunch. After all, what is “healthy”? Is it a 100-calorie pack of chips? An organic soda made with evaporated cane juice? Oh, I know…how about Tofurky?

Get the heck out of here. That’s all marketing, doing what marketing does best – making big bucks!

Healthy eating should not include processed food. Man-made stuff, y’know? As in…stuff that didn’t exist before the industrial age. And all those people who helped create and market these modern foodstuffs? They need to get paid. So Tofurky is not cheap. Nor is it healthy. Because it’s not food. Even if it cost $1.00 I’d still say you’re getting ripped off because it is not food, it’s not something your body can use. It’s just…filler.

Ok, rant over.

I often hear people say that a trip to Whole Foods easily costs them $300. So every now and then I like to give you a peek into my shopping cart and prove that you can shop at a natural food store like Whole Foods and spend way, way less than that. (Even when you buy organic, which I do 80% of the time)

The photo above is from today. From the food we bought, we’re planning to make:
– A double batch of sesame soba noodles
– A double batch of stir-fried greens with tofu
– A double batch of chole/chanaa masala with basmati rice
– 1 lb. homemade ghee (clarified butter)
– Veggie slaw to bring to a picnic
– 2 lbs. tandoori chicken also for the picnic
– A batch of creamy cauliflower soup
– Breakfast for the week
– Oh yeah and our cats can eat, too.

This is going to be more than enough for the two of us for the week. Wanna come over for dinner? Our bill came to $117.96.


Not convinced? I’ll share another cart-full. This one was special. We relied heavily on the bulk section, buying grains and beans that cost only pennies yet create meals for a week. And we bought no meat, only some eggs. Animal products are expensive, especially when they are of good quality. Fortunately, most people don’t need to eat meat every day of the week.


And the bill? $54.74.


Whoa! See, you can do it! Here are some tips for eating real, healthy, wholesome food without breaking the bank:
1. Cut back on animal products
2. Eat more beans and whole grains
3. Learn to adore the bulk aisle, buy only what you need
4. Drink water, cut back on bottled beverages
5. Eliminate prepared/processed food
6. Use what you have already, even if it means changing a recipe a little.
7. Plan, plan, plan. Don’t put it in your cart without knowing what you’re going to do with it.

Bam! Your bill will be slimmer, and frankly…so will you.