The Financial Impact of Eating Whole Foods

The Financial Impact of Eating Whole Foods

After years of indecision about what to eat, I recently made the leap to eating whole foods and nearly eliminating all processed foods.

The indecision was due to the massive amounts of conflicting information out there.  I just could not decide which way to go – eat grains or exclude them?  Eat meat or go vegan?  Is organic worth it?  What would the financial impact be?  How would my family react?  And on and on.

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I watched a close friend take her family vegan for a year, then add back in meats, eggs and some cheese, but limit the breads.  During that time, we talked a lot about how it went for her, how she felt eating various ways and what ended up working for her in the end.  I feel like I got to gleam valuable information from her process, without having to go through it myself.

As part of a bigger personal process, I just made the leap one day to eating whole foods.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, I just took things one step at a time – one meal at a time, one snack at a time.  At first I went to the store every day or two to buy more fresh foods.  I gave myself a break about that, because I did not want to buy too much and then have it go bad.  I just focused on myself, since that was easier than throwing out a bunch of food and making my family make significant changes.

After a month of eating this way, I looked back at the financial impact and it turns out that I spent about 25% more than usual eating the whole foods way.   Of course, that is not going to be the same for other people, so let me share some thoughts on ways I saved and things that might have impacted this amount.

I stuck to the produce, meat and dairy sections for 98% of my purchases.  I bought tons of vegetables, fruits, some meat, dairy (mostly yogurt) and eggs.  I also bought nuts and dried fruits.  This also included one large run to Costco, which focused on the same – fruits, meat and nuts.  I have not made the move to buy organic because most of the foods I am buying are in season and supplied by local farms (therefore traveling less).  That feels good enough for now; I will re-evaluate it this fall and maybe make some changes then.

Although I am not forcing this way of eating onto my family, we have changed a bit what is offered during meals.  There are a lot more vegetables available at every meal, because I am eating them.  And there are more fruits available for the same reason.  So by default, I am buying fewer processed foods, even though we have not eliminated them by any means.

While there has been a bit of a decline on eating processed foods because I am not eating them, they are far from eliminated from our house at this point.  The biggest reason for this is that up until now, I have shopped sales, stocked our pantry and we eat from there.  This was actually one of the things that was holding me back on switching to whole foods.  But, I think it is working fine because the kids are still eating that stuff up and I am just buying more healthy alternatives as those things run out, or we are learning to live without or we buy it and eat it in moderation.

Our garden is going strong, but it is no where near large enough to provide the bulk of our vegetables.  Unfortunately, that means that we still have to buy the majority of our food.  It has been fun to supplement with garden fresh tomatoes, beans and herbs, though.

If you are considering adding in more whole foods to your diet, I recommend that you take small steps and make small changes over time.

Just like any major change, success is long lasting when you take things slowly.

About Michelle Schahn

Michelle manages a beautiful, chaotic life of kids, home, community involvement and work. She is the author of the blog Counting Willows.


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