Digestive-Friendly Eating on a Budget

Eating healthy on a budget is challenging for anyone who has stepped inside a grocery store lately. Pair that with the limits of food shopping when you suffer from a digestive condition such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease and—well—eating healthy on a budget can seem almost impossible.

Here are nine ways to help you make healthy, budget-friendly food choices for you and your family.

1. You don't have to buy everything organic.

The higher cost of organic food doesn't necessarily mean higher nutrition. Recent research from Stanford University found no difference nutritionally between organic and conventional produce. "The organic food movement wasn't really created for nutritional purposes," explains Bernadette Armiento, holistic health counselor and founder of Shining Life Nutrition. "It arose from concerns of the pesticide residue in the food. What's most important is that you're eating fruits and vegetables."

2. But certain foods you should consider buying organic.

While not everything has to be organic, Armiento suggests choosing organic for the foods that you and your family eat frequently to reduce pesticide exposure (the Stanford research did find less pesticide residue in organically-grown produce). So if broccoli is on your dinner table a few times each week, it makes sense to spend a little more on organic to reduce pesticide exposure.

To help you decide which organic foods are placed in your shopping cart, refer to the following lists from the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that specializes in environmental and public health.

The Dirty Dozen

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries (domestic)
  • Potatoes

The Clean 15

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

3. Buy rice, grains, and pasta in bulk.

Buying in bulk–whether you buy in large quantities or from the bulk bin—is a smart money-saving move. Simply store the shelf-stable grains in glass or plastic jars and seal. What's more, you can freeze grains, cooked, or uncooked. When you're eating rice or other grains, rinse them thoroughly until the water comes clean, says Armiento. That helps to remove residue.

4. Buy more, pay less for protein.

Keep an eye out for sales on chicken and fish and freeze them for up to three months. Plus, frozen fish can be a bargain. To get the health benefits of salmon for a steal, buy canned salmon. Not only is it convenient, canned salmon is usually wild caught. Use it to make salmon burgers, salmon cakes, or as an alternative to tuna fish salad.

5. Use your freezer to be frugal.

If fresh produce will go bad before you can use it, why not freeze it to use another time? The best way to freeze fruit: After cleaning and cutting, lay them flat on a cookie sheet; cover with freezer wrap; and place in the freezer for about an hour.  Remove, and transfer to freezer bags. For veggies, blanch first, dunk in cool water, then pat them dry and freeze on baking sheets before transferring to bags.

Speaking of frozen veggies, the quality of store-bought frozen produce is really good, and it's less expensive than buying fresh, says Armiento. Watch the sales, buy organic when possible, and stock up on it.

6. Shop with the season in mind.

While perusing the produce at your market, opt for locally grown fruits and vegetables and/or ones that are in season. They'll be less expensive and more likely to be on sale.

7. Make a menu, then make a meal plan.

That way, you can shop accordingly, and produce doesn't go bad. With a little planning, you can take advantage of sales. And when you cook, think about how you can use extras toward a second meal. For instance, Armiento says that rice and quinoa dishes are perfect for freezing. Just make extra, and pop the leftovers in the freezer. (First, let the food cool, then put it in bags or containers.) Also, make double batches of foods you can tolerate during a digestive flare. This way, you'll still have nutritious meals at the ready.

8. Turn scraps into soup.

When cutting veggies, save the end of the carrot, the leaves of celery stalks, or broccoli stems for a veggie stock. Put them in a freezer bag and freeze. When you have enough, make a vegetable broth. Add water, simmer, and season to make veggie stock. Then strain and use as you would broth—as a base in soup, or liquid to cook rice.

9. Order foods online.

If you know your prices, you can score significant savings purchasing foods online. A huge range of natural foods—cereals, grains, oils, pastas—can be found cheaper, and some sites even offer free shipping.




Bernadette Armiento, holistic health counselor and founder of Shining Life Nutrition

Environmental Working Group's 2012 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Web. 2012. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/