Updated: Mar 10
Have you every tried to figure out what is the “best” food to eat when…
It’s the 6pm shopping cart clash in the health food store,
Your family or partner is bugging you about coming home quickly with dinner,
AND you’re already 2 hours past hangry?
I have…and typically, after I spend about 30 minutes staring at 20 different food labels, I almost always end up with an outrageous grocery bill and a cart full of bad food choices.
Eating healthy isn’t always easy when you are trying to make sustainable food choices, especially on a budget of either time or money. Plus, there are always so many questions to try and figure out. Like is it better to eat local or organic, to eat farmed or wild caught, to have vegetarian or cage free eggs… It can be pretty overwhelming!
So, I decided that in honor of National Nutrition Month, and my own health and sanity too, that many it's time for a resource guide to help y’all keep it simple.
For those who think eating healthy is a chore, lets break it down into some simple rules of conduct:
Eating healthy should be cheap!
Eating healthy should be fun! &
Eating healthy should be easy!
How do we make healthy eating cheap, fun, and easy? We break it down into simple steps that make you never have to sweat at the checkout line again!
Let's break it down!
1. Write down your food goals.
When keeping your time and budget in mind, its important to figure out what's important to you. Do you want more quality time with your family & friends, to focus on local foods, or just to make sure your favorite takeout joint doesn't get your entire paycheck? If you know what you want, what your main goals are, its easier to make a plan.
For me, my main goal is to spend less time shopping in a hurry, and know that I'm getting the highest quality food, while also supporting the local farmers & ranchers I care about!
Pick your main goals for eating sustainably & healthy, and make sure its guides you on your healthy food decisions.
2. Decide on your budget
Whether you can spend $200 or $1000 a month on food, or 20 minutes shopping on your couch vs 2-4 hours a week at the market will really decide what your priorities are. If you usually cook for yourself or your family, but just want a night or two off, that is easily achievable. If you are a busy entrepreneur, maybe you don't have time to do all the shopping anymore. Or, if you, like many of us right now, are on a shoestring budget, maybe you just need some extra resources to make it through the month without destroying your gut in the process. Its all doable if you outline your parameters.
I always like to choose a weekly budget, rather than monthly, because that helps keep me more in check. I also love food subscription services, like CSA's and butcher boxes, because I hate making bad hangry (so hungry your angry) decisions at the grocery store.
Pick your ideal time and money weekly budget, and let that help you decide what works right for you.
3. Start with small shifts
You can't change everything at once! Well you can, but often it end in disaster!
I always come up with 10 ideas on how I'm going to change my diet, or what I buy, and then end up overspending, or burning out on all the extra food prep that I didn't think these ideas would entail. So over time, I have learned that small shifts are the most sustainable and last the test of time.
Just pick 1-2 small changes, and start there. Over time, you can get to your ideal sustainable food goals, but just be patient, and watch the magic happen!
Sustainable Food Sources
Now healthy and sustainable don’t ALWAYS go hand in hand. But, since I am now working towards making my dream life more wholesome every day, I realized, why not? I should be able to have sustainable and healthy food at the same time, especially since I live in such an abundant food producing place like Southern California.
I know that not everyone has access to the same amazing local resources, thanks to the wondrous world of technology, we all have the ability to have many sustainable foods delivered to our doorstep, sometimes at a pretty reasonable cost too!
So here are a few ideas to get you started. If you have any more to share, please send them my way so I can add them to the list!
1. Cheap Sustainable Food Resources
Support Imperfect Foods
For those who don’t care if their fruits have a couple bumps or bruises, or if a label was stuck sideways on a package, there are many organizations that try to make sure these “imperfect” foods don’t go to waste.
Imperfect Foods is an online resource that supports many areas around the country. They source from local groceries and farms, and resell them in a CSA style subscription. They also source imperfect packaged goods, and have add on packages for grains, snacks, meat and dairy, making affordable grocery foods magically appear every week on your doorstep.
Food Bank is another amazing organization, that partners with local farmers and grocery stores to repurpose these foods for FREE. The Santa Barbara Foodbank even offers delivery to seniors, and pickups all over the area, as well as many resources for those who are having a hard time with basic grocery necessities.
Buy food in bulk
Bulk foods can really save a lot when compared to buying just single meal sized portions at a regular grocery store. I have much enjoyed knowing that for $30-50, I can always at least have a bag of beans and rice on hand for the low or no paycheck months of my life.
During the pandemic, one of my friends turned me onto Azure Naturals as a monthly bulk food club. Here, you place an order by the order date, and can pickup all your goods when they come to your area on a certain pickup day of the month. They offer organic resources, and many hard to find gluten and dairy free items as well, all at an affordable price.
Shop at your Local Co-op
Food Co-ops or Cooperatives are typically consumer owned health food stores. Their members help guide the company towards what products they want to support. Although membership is not required, they do provide amazing discounts for members and often provide great resources and events for the community as well.
Our local co-op, the Isla Vista Food Co-op, has been supporting the student population and nearby families for over 40 years. They offer fresh produce from local farms, healthy snacks and sandwiches, and education about healthy eating on a budget. Their Strategic Priorities (created by their democratically owner-elected Board of Directors) are “Healthy Food for All”, “Local Food Support System”, and “Environmental Stewardship.”
Support your Local Farmers through a CSA Box
A CSA Box, or Community Supported Agriculture Box, is a weekly to monthly veggie subscription box from a local farm or farm collective. It makes eating with the seasons very accessible and affordable, no matter what your budget or family size. Many CSA’s are now offering different sized veggie boxes, or even snack packs or juicing boxes, depending on the subscription. For only 25-45 per week, you get an amazing box filled with a variety of seasonal fruits, veggies, greens, and spices, and sometimes you can even have them delivered to your door.
For a listing of Santa Barbara CSA’s, visit Edible Santa Barbara
I have personally done both Farm Cart Organics, and Local Harvest. Both offer delivery at an affordable price (so you don’t even have to leave your home), and offer add on grocery items from various local vendors.
2. Fun Sustainable Food Resources
Shop at Your Local Farmer's Market
For those who are looking for a wholesome community experience, the local farmers market is always the best place to be! I long miss the days that I used to roam the farm stands and tasted fresh fruits from local orchards. I have become an avid CSA shopper since the days of COVID, however I hear they are safely open, since they are in the fresh air and sunshine. Especially if you like to meet and greet your local farmer, or listen to live music by the stands, it is an amazing way to get out into your community and meet like minded folks!
For a complete listing of farmers markets in Santa Barbara, visit SBFarmersMarket.org
Make learning to cook with fun meal kits!
For those who don’t know how to cook from scratch, Meal Kits are a great way to learn! These prepared kits come with everything you need to make a few dishes, including ingredients, spices, recipes, and sometimes videos too. It is a great way to have a fun date, or get the whole family involved. There are now meal kits for every type of diet, and focus on local or sustainable food resources.
3. Easy Sustainable Food Resources
Butcher Boxes Delivered right to your door
For those who don’t mind doing the prep, but want to avoid the grocery store, here is a way to support your local ranchers and save a lot of time sourcing! Now, many local ranchers and butchers offer online stores and butcher boxes to make grass fed and pastured meat options easier and more affordable! Just google Grass fed meat in your area, and see if there are any ranchers or butchers that offer it in your area.
For hormone free (and VERY affordable) butcher boxes in Santa Barbara, try Shalhoob’s Butcher Shop. They offer free delivery on orders over $60.
For Butcher Boxes of grass fed and grass finished beef, pastured raised chicken and heritage pork, all sourced from Southern California Ranches, try Larder Meat Co.
Nowadays, many local fish companies Get Hooked are also offering a subscription service similar to a CSA.
Healthy Meal Subscription Services
Instead of grabbing take out or ending up with a cart full of bad decisions, try a healthy meal subscription service that makes eating right all the time a synch!
For Gluten, Dairy and Refined sugar free, Try Methodology. They offer meal delivery services that doesn’t impact our landfills, by using reusable glass containers instead of plastic.
Eating healthy & sustainably should ALWAYS be affordable, fun, and easy. However, it isn’t easy unless you create a simple system that works for you. Take some time to figure out when you have time to shop & cook, or if you don’t, purchase things online and have it delivered to your home! Don’t use the excuse of “I don’t have time” to treat your body poorly, when we have the means to take care of ourselves made so easy for us now days!
In the Herbal Apprentice Program, we walk you through how to do simple life hacks, like food prep & building in your daily self-care rituals, so that get you to design a healthier life that truly works for you. For those interested in learning how to grow their own food to truly be know where your food comes from, you can also check out our Holistic Gardener course.
In the end, it just comes down to keeping it simple and making small shifts so that eating more sustainably is actually sustainable for you as well!