For many subscribers to United Black America, one of the biggest challenges to living a Black, conscious lifestyle is the cost.
Its hard enough to change your diet as it is, but throw in $1 cheeseburger specials and 20 piece fried chicken for $10 and it can be a daunting task. In this article, I offer some reasons why transitioning to a pant-based whole food diet is more cost-effective than those $1 burgers and “manager meat specials” at the grocery store, and offer you some tips to save money.
With the advice below, you may be able to not only save money but reduce your overall food costs!
Buy Plant – Based Whole Foods
Plant based whole foods are cheaper and healthier than processed foods. Studies have shown that plant-based diets not only destroy cancer producing cells in the body, but actually reverses cancer infection. Other health benefits include increases in energy, strength, healthy body weight, and a decrease in other illnesses that decrease quality of life.
Plant-Based whole foods are essential to living long, healthy lives. In places called “blue zones”, or areas of the world where people live extraordinarily long, pain-free lives, studies found in this book revealed that the one factor that each culture had in common was a plant-based whole food diet.
- The Okinawan diet includes brown rice, soy products such as miso and tofu, vegetables, sweet potatoes and fish.
- According to this study, Seventh Day Adventists live longer than the rest of the population thanks to a vegetarian diet that includes a high intake of fruit and vegetables, oatmeal, nuts and water.
- Nicoya is an isolated region in Costa Rica where the world’s healthiest and longest-lived people were found. Their diet includes orange, mango, papaya, corn, beans, rice, squash and eggs. The water in this region is also particularly high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
- Sardinians eat a Mediterranean style diet with whole grains, fava beans, vegetables, fruits, sheep and goat milk products and red wine. Meat is reserved for Sundays and special occasions. In one village of 2500 people there were seven people over the age of 100; a very high number considering that the ratio in the US is one per 5000.
Financially, plant-based whole foods like fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, oats, and unprocessed cereals are more cost-effective than sugary, processed cereals, chemically fortified dairy products, and meat. Pound for pound, the staples of a vegetarian diet —fruits, vegetables, beans, soy and rice — are less expensive than even the cheapest cuts of meat. If preservation is an issue, buy frozen vegetables! These are often half the price of raw vegetables and fruits, and have an indefinite lifespan when kept frozen.
Buy Seasonally From Local Farmers at Farmers Markets
Buying plant-based whole foods in season leverages the economic power of supply and demand: when supply is high, prices are driven lower. This is a factor that is best leveraged at farmers markets, since grocery stores source foods from suppliers who can grow genetically modified foods year round. A beginners list of foods and their seasonal schedule is available on Wikipedia here.
Not all farmers markets will be cheaper than your local grocery store, so do your homework and comparison shop. For instance, if you live in Washington, D.C. or Montgomery County in Maryland then prices will be far more expensive, but the Oakland Friday Market and the Decatur farmers markets in California and Atlanta are far more cost-effective. Just be sure the foods that you are buying from stores are organic and in-season.
Of course, we support Black businesses, so if there is a Black owned farm or Black farmers near you, take the time to support them. You can find a list of Black farms and farmers here, or contact the National Black Farmers Association here. If neither of those resources yield results, search for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in your area.
Depending on your storage capacity, canning, drying, and freezing fresh fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to cash in on seasonal foods that are lower in cost but higher in taste and nutrition.
In the summer when produce is plentiful, freeze fruits like fresh picked berries, nectarines, and peaches, or can tomatoes. It’s best to freeze vegetables like green beans, corn, snap peas or spinach after they’ve been blanched.
Start A Seasonal Community Garden
Seeds cost a few cents, a little time to cultivate, but can produce thousands of dollars worth of food over the course of many years. My grandmother, like most men and women from her generation, maintained a front-yard garden that she would pick from daily to prepare dinner for her children and grandchildren. A fig tree, pecan tree, and blackberry bush in the back yard not only fed us, but provided my grandmother with extra income. Follow my grandmother’s advice and plant a garden!
There are more benefits of a community garden than saving money
- Gardens build communities. Plant a garden, get community elders nearby involved, and use the garden as an academic tool for students from local schools. Adopt-A-Garden school programs are both successful and popular with students.
- Gardens create a sense of security. In the event that food prices explode (as they did during the depression) or whole food becomes inaccessible, having a garden can mean the difference between self-sufficiency or standing in food lines.
- Gardens improve the quality of food you consume. There is no question what goes into (or onto) food that you grow yourself. No pesticides. No filthy hands handling your produce. No genetically modified food. By using “heirloom” seeds, you can be sure that you are eating whole, healthy food.
- Gardening improves mental health. By leveraging a garden as a hobby, you naturally improve your sense of well-being and productivity in ways that other recreational activities cant.
Starting a community garden is easier than you think. While the mechanics of creating a community garden are beyond the scope of this article, there are some books on my shelf that I have used to lay the foundation for a revolutionary community garden. They are:
Eat Less Meat and Avoid Fast, “Convenient” Food
If you follow one piece of advice here, it should be this: eat less meat! Not only will you improve your health, but you will save money! In stores in my area, an average pound of ground beef costs around $5 and a pound of chicken breasts $4. Prices vary widely by cut, but these were just the standard, non-organic, hormonal varieties.
A pound of canned black beans, on the other hand, costs just under $1. Assuming a couple consumes a pound of meat combined per meal and eat meat in 14 meals per week – and then made the switch to the same amount of beans or some other low-cost vegetable or grain as a substitute – they could potentially save $2,200-$3,000 per year. Just making the switch away from meat for four meals a week would save from $600 to $800 per year.
The second best piece of advice for saving money is to avoid fast, convenient food. By planning meals ahead of time, you can avoid the impulse to buy fast foods when hunger strikes. Those $2 Taco Bell burritos cost you more in health depletion and food deficit than you think. A food deficit is an item that is consumed that gives your body a net loss in nutrition. As your body processes fast food, you actually lose nutrients, meaning you must eat more food later to counteract those burritos!
If you’re married or living with a partner, I strongly recommend that you all make the decision to eat and live consciously together. Its far more expensive to buy for two separate diets, and will decrease the pressure placed on you to eat consciously. If you are a teenager still living at home, make your decision known to your family and threaten to go on a hunger strike if your choice isn’t respected…and then have them read this site. (I’m only half-joking).