Someone told me recently that although the food on my blog looks good, they would never be able to afford the way I eat. I was shocked by that statement. But realized that unless you really break things down, it can look expensive and even daunting to cook with organic and local food. Here is a beautiful example – a root vegetable tart that my mom made for us when we were visiting a few weeks ago. It was delicious – roasted veggies, with goat cheese crumbles in pie crust. Quick, delicious and healthy – and lots of leftovers!

In my last post, I talked about how you can make an awesome Shepard’s or Cottage Pie (depending in the meat, I found out – thanks Donald! ) with all the best ingredients, like grassfed beef and organic vegetables for under $3 per hefty serving.

Food quality is a topic I am seriously passionate about. I believe it is important and a right for everyone to have healthy food available to them. But starting on this journey can be a challenge and like everyone, it was a process for me when I first started. I pride myself in being able to put good, wholesome and nourishing meals on the table while staying within a very conservative budget. It is one of the ways I like to challenge myself in the kitchen. This is something I have been passionate about for a long time, check out my post from 2 years ago, about the cost difference between shopping at the farmers market vs. the grocery store. I know that there are not farmer’s markets in every area, but even if you have to drive 30 minutes – it might be worth the time and extra gas money in the long run. If you can’t find one in your area – Start a Container Garden, it is easy, economical and fun, especially if you have kids!

I have been hearing a lot of conversations lately online, in real life and in the media about how it is hard to afford to eat good food in this economy. I agree, this is a hard time for a lot of us, and I don’t want to make light of people’s very real struggles. That said, I really do believe that you can eat good food for less than a meal at a fast food restaurant, and even cheaper and healthier than the frozen food section of your grocery store, especially over time.

What does that mean? Well say a fast food meal is $3/per person if you use the dollar menu – you can get a burger, fries and a drink for $3. That is still more than most of my meals because in your own kitchen you can stretch meat and veggies and make enough ahead for leftovers (making more of something like a casserole, takes the same time and effort as making enough for one meal – and it saves you time later). This is especially true if you are cooking for a family. Burgers and fries for 4 is about $12 a mealtime for the whole family. It is hard to stretch a fast food meal or have leftovers, so once you eat the $12 worth of food it is gone. Not so with cooking at home and having leftovers.

But the deal is, you have to be willing to cook. You have to make food from scratch. That is where you have to make your stand and your change and take better care of yourself and family. People seem to equate scratch with spending hours in the kitchen, just like equating organic with expensive.  However, this is not true. By making your own yogurt and cheese, which literally takes minutes, you can actually SAVE money by eating organic – as the cost to make your own, is significantly cheaper than buying it from the store. It doesn’t have to take over your life or mean hours in the kitchen everyday! All you need is some planning. Once you have done it a few times, it becomes second nature!

Here are several posts to help you with scheduling that into a busy lifestyle & some quick starter meal ideas:

Making Your Own Convenience Food

Making Your Own Bread

Making Your Own Dairy Products

Three Easy and Healthy Breakfast Options

2 for 1 Chicken

Beans and Rice -The Ultimate Leftover Meal

Eating on the Fly: Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing

Recently I was at the grocery store. I had just stocked up on frozen organic berries for smoothies and organic meat (they were on sale) and I was getting all my dairy to make cheese, yogurt and kefir for the week (not a farmers market week). The woman in front of me had her cart, which was not as full as mine, with frozen dinners, boxed lasagna, bags of frozen meals – where you add your own meat, soda and a few organic veggies (she was trying)– enough food for maybe a week of meals. I made sure to take note of her total. When my cart was rung up, my bill was only $2 more than hers. I had loads of fruits and veggies, grassfed beef, organic meats, frozen organic berries, eggs, dairy and pantry staples – things I would be using over the next several weeks. I make sure to stock up my pantry and freezer with good healthy staples during sales – especially on the highest ticket items, like meat. I also visit my health food store and do the same – especially grains, lentils and flours.

I really think there is something here. But you have to do your research and make a schedule. Yes, on the surface, it may seem like eating organic is expensive – and it is if you are going for pre-packaged organic foods. But that is not what I am advocating here. I am advocating you to have fun in the kitchen, prepare whole foods and feed your family healthy and nutritious meals for less than the cost of eating every meal out, or takeout, or from the frozen food section. Try it yourself and see what happens!