Some of the primary considerations when it comes to making lifestyle shifts towards reusable goods and healthier foods is, of course, economics and accessibility. Here in LA there is a seemingly never-ending list of restaurants and markets where you can buy local, fresh, organic foods, but they tend to come with a lofty price-tag. While I’ve experienced (and shared) how small homes and reusable goods can save so much money and so many resources, I need some help on the topic of food. (It seems like nearly all of the money I earn goes into our bellies, and I’m really trying to be smarter when it comes to what we eat and how much we spend on it.)
I aim to make healthy, wallet-friendly, ethical food choices for my family, but it can be tough to check off all the boxes on this list for the majority of folks living on a tight budget in larger, fast-paced cities. By researching how to wisely feed ourselves and our families in a way that reduces waste, costs less, and is accessible to more of the population, we can better our bodies and our planet.
I wanted to learn more about this subject, and do so alongside youth and staff members from The RightWay Foundation, which is a local organization that I’ve been involved with for years. The RightWay Foundation works with current or emancipated foster youth to move from a point of pain and disappointment to a point of power, productivity, and self-sufficiency. This topic of healthy and affordable meals is important to many of the RightWay youth who are struggling to budget for healthy foods for themselves or their children, and/or find ways to eat healthy while juggling the realities of shared living spaces and busy work schedules.
For our discussion, we met at a sweetgreen restaurant, which I chose due their business philosophy and practices. sweetgreen believes that the choices we make about what we eat, where it comes from and how it’s prepared have a direct and powerful impact on the health of individuals, communities and the environment. (Note: This is not a sponsored post.)
sweetgreen operates with a transparent supply network, they cook from scratch, and they’re building a community of people who support real food. I also appreciate their focus on sustainability, from their brick-and-mortar designs and waste management to the food they serve. Society can’t afford not to think and eat sustainably, and sweetgreen takes steps to positively impact the food system.
Our specialist for the session was Lily Diamond of Kale and Caramel. Lily is a stand-out voice in the food community, and she uses her blog and social media channels to share her knowledge of ways in which we can invest in self-care without spending a penny, and eat healthy and beautiful foods on a strict budget in all types of kitchens, whether small, shared, temporary, mobile, or professional.
Lily offered some easy practices that I intend to look into immediately. A few simple highlights are below, but I encourage folks to browse her channels to dive into everything in deeper detail.
HEALTHY & AFFORDABLE MEAL SOLUTIONS (a sampling)
by Lily Diamond
Imperfect Produce is a delivery company sources “ugly produce” directly from farms and delivers them to your door. From their website: “Approximately 20% of fruits and vegetables in the U.S. never leave the farm just because they look a little different. Instead of ending up on your dinner plate, they end up left in the field or trucked to landfill. We think that’s crazy, and we’ve built a network of over 150 farmers and producers who agree. We buy their unloved produce, and they’re rewarded for their full harvest–not just for the pretty stuff.”
Multi-Use Food Staples
Did you know you can wash your face with honey? And you can moisturize your skin with almond oil or even olive oil— not just coconut oil? And use salt or sugar for body scrubs? The list goes on. While a bottle of oil might cost a bit more money up front than you want to spend, it can go a long way in the kitchen AND when it comes to skincare. (Which can save SO much money AND space.) Similarly, a single, larger container of Greek Yogurt can be used as sour cream, traditional yogurt, and even cream cheese.
Refillable water bottles will save you money. (A leak-proof bottle might cost, say, $20 up front, but can last for a lifetime. Seeing as how a bottle of water can cost around $3, it won’t take long to get your money’s worth.) Having reusable bags filled with bulk-purchase nuts, or carrying stainless steel containers of cut up fruits and veggies in your bag at all times will keep your snacks healthy and your waste minimal. (Carry a reusable roll-up utensil pack at the ready so you’re not tempted to pop into a cafe.)
Store Fruits & Veggies Appropriately
Think about where fruits and veggies are displayed in the market, and store yours accordingly. (For example, tomatoes shouldn’t go in the fridge.) This will help them last longer, and ripen naturally. Use bags like Ambrosia Bags to preserve freshness. They have a price-tag, but will save you money in the long-run by prolonging the life of your food and reducing your waste.
Make a Meal Last
Add nut butter to blended breakfasts to provide you with more nutrients and to better satiate your hunger, prolonging the amount of time until your next meal.
It can be so much cheaper and healthier to steam veggies and then mash/blend them (or fruit) for a baby. You don’t need expensive equipment to do so— a handheld grinder such as this will work beautifully. This also introduces your child to more adventurous tastes, and prevents them from consuming preservatives and other add-ins in processed foods.
Sincerest thanks to the team at sweetgreen for welcoming (and feeding) us during this wonderfully productive meeting.
For readers who want to learn more about The RightWay Foundation, or are interested in donating funds for us to purchase produce bags, food storage bags, and reusable travel bottles for the youth, click here to visit the website, or contact the Cottage.