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Eating Organic For $7 A Day

Read this on MSN today, thought i'd share with the rest of the class.

Work the Healthy Combinations

Before pricing produce, Smith outlines several healthy combinations of food that help when on a tight budget.

“The first is balance,” she says. “About a quarter of your plate should be protein, one-third veggies, and a quarter to a third starchy carbs.” For the rest, fill it out with any of the three, along with a smaller amount of healthy fats.

Combining certain foods helps complete a meal, says Smith. One mainstay combination for this Healthy Eating on $7 a Day mission is beans and a grain.

“Beans have protein and good, complex, starchy carbs,” says Smith. “Rice alone is not going to last you as long as it will when paired with beans.”

The next combination is a grain and vegetables, topped off with a plant-based protein like almonds or tofu. The third meal combination is a salad with adequate protein and fat, and some type of carbohydrate.

“In this case you would use nuts or eggs on the salad, and then on the side you would either have whole grain bread, or a cup of bean soup, or hummus.”

Smith’s fifth combination for healthy eating—pairing vegetables with fish or meat—is out, at least on a regular budgetary basis, for the $7-a-day shopper. Most meats and seafood are too expensive. Which brings us back to the produce aisle.

Next: Eat Your Veggies

Veggies and Fruits

“I eat dairy and fish once a week, meat about twice a week,” Smith says. “But clearly, on $7 a day it’s got to be much more of a plant-based diet because if we go look at the prices in the meat department and the fish department, even in smaller portions, a lot of those foods are pretty high dollar.”

Smith suggests vegetables and rice as a breakfast choice. “They are balancing, they make your brain work better, they alkalize your system, they help with stress,” she says. “And they have a natural sweetness.”

Smith starts with vitamin- and mineral-packed organic broccoli at $2.99 per pound, or approximately 60 cents a serving.

“You don’t need a whole pound of broccoli,” she says, “and you can use the stem. A lot of people throw the stem away. Sometimes it is too fibrous, but a lot of the nutrition is in the stem.”

Next, she eyes the price of organic cabbage, at $1.49 per pound. “That’s half the price of broccoli,” she says, and it gets the nod. So do carrots, at 99 cents per pound. Nutrient-dense chard, spinach and kale, all are organic and more expensive at $2.49 per pound, but they’re economical because a little goes a long way.

A head of red-leaf lettuce is $2.49, or approximately 62 cents per serving. “Cabbage greens, carrots, chards—those are all peasant foods,” says Smith. We move on to root vegetables.

When asked about choosing between leafy greens and root veggies, Smith mentions turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, yams and winter squash as starches. “I wouldn’t compare these to broccoli. I would compare them to starches,” she says. “The green vegetables are going to have more antioxidants. The root vegetables are under the ground. They are going to have different vitamins and minerals.” Smith says if you eat potatoes, be sure to eat the nutrient-rich skins.

We turn to organic fruit. Exotic fruits are out.

“Fruit is expensive—even apples—so fruit is a luxury,” Smith says. But we find apples, pre-packaged in plastic bags, at $2.50 for a pound and a half, or 25 cents each, and pears for about the same price. Bananas are a good choice too. Smith suggests garlic, onions and ginger for flavoring meals and nixes these organic choices: Avocados ($2 each); pre-mixed salads ($5.99 per pound); peppers ($3.99 per pound) tomatoes ($1 for one). Smith suggests buying organic canned tomato sauce instead, at $1.69 for 14 ounces. Oranges, at $3 a pound, also get the slip.


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Fri. Feb 23, 10:48am

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Thanks for this info :-)

Friday, February 23, 2007, 10:50 AM

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That's a good article.

I'm not much of a cook and I find plain rice & veggies boring. Anyone know of a healthy, low sodium, lowfat sauce to drizzle over this combo to make it more appetizing? I'm trying to find a better choice for breakfast and this combo may be it.

Friday, February 23, 2007, 6:26 PM

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salsa? could be kind of like a breakfast burrito.

Friday, February 23, 2007, 6:43 PM

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eating organic on a tight budget

impossible, unless you bake your own bread and only eat that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 3:56 PM

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I love salsa and cheese

Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 5:26 PM

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I agree with 3:56. Impossible.
As a vegetarian who tries to stay on a budget, I don't always get the organic carrots or the organic broccoli, etc. It is usually 3 times as expensive. Some things are worth it (berries and bread perhaps) but others just aren't.
Going to a fruit stand and farmer's market helps.

Monday, September 24, 2007, 12:13 PM

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If you're interested environment-wise, locally grown / produced food is more important than organic.

Monday, September 24, 2007, 1:04 PM

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organic on a budget

Consider gardening for the more expensive vegies, such as tomatoes. You'd be surprised how easy it is, and it's exciting to walk outside and be able to pick your own! And quite cheap!

Friday, April 04, 2008, 3:32 AM

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I think the article illustrates that you might not be able to eat what you usually eat (and get by on the $7/day), but that it can be done.



Friday, April 04, 2008, 9:32 AM

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$7 a day for one person?

To me, that's extremely expensive! I feed six people three meals a day for less...Seriously. Our grocery bill (which includes cleaning, hygiene, and other grocery purchases as well as food) is around $600/month currently and there were six of us until February, when the eldest of my three adoscent boys moved out on his own.

I do what I can, but we've got to eat. I grow a garden; our freezer is full of locally-raised beef; we buy beans and wheat in bulk and I bake nearly all of the bread we eat.

Friday, April 04, 2008, 12:27 PM

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