Home Healthy Eating 5 Reasons You’re Spending Too Much On Eating Clean

5 Reasons You’re Spending Too Much On Eating Clean

by Erika Nicole Kendall

If there’s one thing that burns my toast, it’s listening to people complain about how much more expensive it is to eat healthier. I mean, I get it. When you’re used to buying cheap food that you can eat a ton of and still not be full, it’s hard to get used to buying food with a little cost to it that you can eat less of and be full much quicker.

It’s hard to accept that cheap food has consequences. It’s also sometimes hard to accept that cheap food is cheap because, to save the companies from passing the cost onto you, the good stuff has been stripped out. Good stuff. You know, the vitamins, minerals, nutrients… the stuff that keeps you thriving.

All that aside, it’s hard to jump head first into clean eating. All you really know is “no boxes, no bags, no cans, no bottled water, bon appetit!” Before you know it, you’ve spent $200 on fruits and vegetables that began to rot before you could even taste them all, and you start longing for the days when you could buy food with an expiration date of… next year.

Below, I have five guesses as to why you may be spending too much on learning how to eat clean. I know these are true… because they are exactly how I screwed up in the beginning.

1. You’re indulging too often. If you’ve made the attempt to swap out your doritos for chocolate covered cashews, and that means that you eat your chocolate covered cashews just as often as you ate your doritos – which means… you’re eating them every day – then yes, you’re overdoing it and you’re going to feel it in your wallet. The point of an indulgence is to treat yourself. It is a highly American principle (read: result of marketing) that it makes sense to “treat yourself every day”… especially with food. If you’re going to treat yourself every day, let it be with a nice hot bubble bath, a longer walk than normal or sitting out to watch the sun set. I know the last one is corny, but my daughter and I walk and watch the sun setting together like there’s fireworks out there. We appreciate simple. Simple is also free.

We really appreciate free.

My indulgence? Vegan organic dark chocolate truffles. $5 for a box of two, and worth every chocolatey bite. Know how often I get them? Once a week (if that.) My indulgence expenses for the week? Five dollars. Certainly not $3.50 every two days like it might be for those chocolate covered cashews.

Please note that people who suffer from this problem also often complain about “doing everything right and still not losing weight.”

2. You’re buying out of season. In the fall, I can buy sweet potatoes for $0.29 per pound. That’s right. I can get three pounds of sweet potatoes for under a dollar. Right now, they’re $1.29 a pound. Knowing how much they cost when they’re in season… why would I buy them now? In the winter, strawberries are $5 for a one pound container. Right now, they’re 2 for $3. Again… knowing this, why on Earth would I buy them in the winter? Each season has its own fruits and vegetables that can grow inexpensively, and therefore should be less expensive at your store. If you stick closely to what can be grown in that particular season (which means briefly familiarizing yourself with best options for the current season before you hit the store), you won’t over spend. Yeah, you may want your cherries in the winter… but please believe you will be paying a premium for it.

People who suffer from this problem often wind up not even wanting the fruit they bought – winding up buying it on a whim simply because they’re “surprised to see those in the grocery store this time of year.”

3. You think that as long as it’s marked “organic,” it’s OK to dig in. Not so. Let me explain before I get angry e-mails. Yes, organic is the ideal purchase for those who want to enjoy their food grown properly, without pesticides or other problems(although, if you want to avoid pesticides without purchasing organics, you can always just cling to this list), but just because a food is organic doesn’t mean that the calorie count is automatically decreased to zero! Organic foods, much like anything else, have calories. Sometimes, lots of them. And they affect your body in the same way as inorganics… so you must still be careful.

4. You’re buying too much at one time. Fruits and vegetables have expiration dates… and they don’t keep for years like your typical canned vegetable. If you buy too much at once, something is going to rot. It’s that simple. Spend a little time planning out your week’s worth of food and snacks – keeping in mind what food items you can use, re-use (using apple slices instead of whole apples means you have lots of slices to use in other dishes), and what will keep longer than a week (a bag of flour, for example) – and that’s the fastest way to save your dough.

5. You’re not exercising proper portion control. I see you over there… giant bowl of organic whole wheat pasta with raw milk alfredo and a giant slab of butter from the farmer’s market. You can’t do that! Not only is that crazy for your figure, but your wallet. Raw milk is almost $6! Why waste so much of it in such a way that doesn’t even affect the taste of your dish? Beyond a certain point, using “a whole bunch” of something simply doesn’t add to the taste of your dish. I flavor my dishes with herbs and spices, which allows me to use far less in the form of creams and cheeses and sauces. I don’t cut them out completely, but I use much less (case in point).

Once I figured out these five tips, my grocery budget decreased like you would not believe. At this point in time, it’s actually FAR more expensive for me to buy processed foods, simply because I can’t make use of them in the same way as I would my fruits and veggies. Besides… I’m a darn good cook – I don’t want anyone else cooking for me. 🙂

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uhura July 23, 2010 - 9:57 AM

“Please note that people who suffer from this problem also often complain about “doing everything right and still not losing weight.”

This is so, so true. It took me a long time to stop using social gatherings and hanging out with friends as a time to forget about my nutrition for the day. “Oh it’s just one beer/some fries!” and “I’ve been working hard all week – I deserve it!”

As you’ve said so many times, it’s not just exercise, but how, what, and how often you eat as well.

Using unhealthy treats or even eating a ton of healthy food to “celebrate” or to create/enhance some emotional state is NOT okay for me. Now I plan my own snacks ahead of time and thanks to food journalling know exactly what calories I have “available” for eating out or if I’m caught on the go.

Kirsten July 23, 2010 - 10:15 AM

This was a great resource!

I’m fortunate to have my mother living with me, who does nothing but eat clean. I am finding it difficult to shop without her now, and I’m a grown woman!

What I appreciate most about this article is the sense mixed with cents. I have been chided about my inability to shop, but reading this article and the links to the others is arming me with some valuable information.

Knowing that in season makes a difference in price, came through trial and error. I thought I was catching great sales when I noticed that the strawberries were so much cheaper lately, but I didn’t realize what in season meant. The watermelon, grapes and mangoes are also a great buy right now. This also explains why the apples have gone up to $2.50 a pound.

What a little information can do…

Arleitha July 23, 2010 - 11:01 AM

I just found you website…through a friend on facebook, and you break down things like I have never seen before. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SITE. This is a REAL life style change. I must say I have dieted, exercised, and most recently went to a nutritionist (who by the way wanted me to keep coming like once or twice a month to get a little more info everytime…REALLY)
Anyway back to my point. I CANT stay off your site (I have to force myself to get off to take care of business…lol). I need to be better and want to be better.

I congratulate you on your Journey and putting it out there for me/us to see. I cant help but cry a little because you have broken so many things down, that anyone who really wants to conquer this beast, CAN.

I dont know you but I love you with GOD’s love.

Stay blessed and I hope to fill you in on my Journey

Eunice July 25, 2010 - 4:32 PM

Great tips, Erika! It’s so, so important to plan meals ahead of time. When I do that, I spend less on groceries and I eat out less too. When I get lazy, I end up going to Publix like 3 times in one week and spending way too much money.

I’ve been working on buying things that are in season. It makes such a big difference, not only in price but in flavor.

Samantha July 10, 2011 - 9:17 AM

I absolutely agree with Eunice, the most important is to plan meals ahead of time.

Kait August 5, 2010 - 12:28 PM

Thank you so much for this post! The part about portion control really hit home and I realized that I don’t need to be spending $60+ per week on JUST ME. I’ve now cut my spending nearly in half and really have you to thank for it!

April February 6, 2014 - 11:42 PM

There has been many studies showing that the one of the easiest ways to tell a persons socioeconomic status, is by their health. Hence poor people are more overweight and unhealthy because they just aren’t able to afford the healthy stuff. I love the website and everything, but maybe think about that before getting annoyed about people complaining about the cost of good healthy food. In season or not, its a fact that it is by far more expensive than boxed, some people just cant afford it.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 7, 2014 - 1:02 AM

I write – extensively about affordability. I can assure you that I’m compassionate to the systems and structures that affect wellness. I also do what I can to try to teach people how to make it more affordable.

That being said, when you look at the reasons that I listed in this particular blog post – which is, by no means, the end all be all of reasons why – I would hope that it’s clear that what actually “burns my toast” is when people make these particular mistakes and are complaining, not simply when people complain in general.

LaLa May 24, 2011 - 9:40 AM

So true…EVERYTHING in moderation…..

milaxx May 25, 2011 - 3:50 PM

I am far too broke to go nuts. I go to several markets and clip coupons for a reason. I’m also not married to buying only organic.

Tracie June 25, 2011 - 2:36 AM

I am trying to convince my husband of this very same principle. My cooking style is very different than his: I prefer to buy a sack of potatoes b/c I can pull 3-4 very different meal sides out of it. He’d prefer to buy boxed mashed potato flakes. I buy boxes of pancake/waffle mix b/c I’ll make about 20-30of them on a Sunday morning, feed the Fam & freeze the rest to be served as a quick breakfast during the week. Hubby would prefer to buy them frozen & prepared.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 25, 2011 - 5:12 AM

…and it’s even easier to put together your own pancake mix. 😉

Just tell him it saves money this way. Husbands usually like the money-saving angle. LOL

dvine August 31, 2011 - 9:45 AM

u know that is so true.. i’m not a fresh fruit n veggie shopper but i recently started.. when i see the prices i’m like really, and then i sit back and think like this isn’t always the price for this.. so thanks for reminding me about the seasons.. yes, i over do it to.. i’ll buy all this fruit and it’ll go bad b4 i can finish it.. can u say pissed and $$$ wasted..

kaye January 29, 2012 - 6:19 PM

Funny..my husband buys everything boxed and prepackaged and chides me for making stuff from scratch..he would rather buy boxes than make pancake mix from scratch..its his dime I just go along with it.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 29, 2012 - 6:23 PM

Nuh uh – if y’all are married, that’s BOTH OF Y’ALL’s money! LMAO!

aisha February 3, 2012 - 8:19 PM

Plan your meals around the sales paper. I am on my way to buy wild caught shrimp for $5lb. Then avocados for .69 each.

Edie May 5, 2012 - 7:39 PM

Thank you so much for this list. I definitely need to be reminded and so does my family. Great resource!

Diane May 6, 2012 - 11:49 AM

Ethnic grocery stores save me a ton of money. Coconut water is $1.29 there for 17 oz. but it’s $2.29 for 10 Oz at the regular store. Jicama, tomatoes, hummus, plantains, tofu and so many other things are way cheaper. And I learn about other cultues too.

La-Ronda Antoine May 7, 2012 - 7:12 AM

It is expensive to eat healthy if you’re feeding your whole family this way. I fed a family of give this way. It makes a big difference.

pam May 26, 2012 - 12:43 PM

Love this article!! I started reading it thinking that I might have something to add (seeing as how I’ve been eating mostly clean since 1983-although I fall every now and again), but Erika girl, you nailed it!! I hope everyone takes your advice.

Yoli Ouiya July 8, 2012 - 7:12 PM

Having run a green and organic catering business for 8 years, i know how to save money… Every month i post coupons and discounts on how people can shop smarter…eating clean just isn’t about what you eat. It is also about what you put your food in, for example storing your food in plastic. Gmo (genetically modified foods) i believe prohibit optimal health and weigtloss bc the nutrients are just not the same…re the weight body absorbs nutrients which is why buying certain foods organically is essential.

Dee February 1, 2013 - 4:06 PM

I agree with a lot of your points but only for a certain group of people. A lot of people can’t afford this life style. I just think of a family of 4 maybe on foodstamps & that may not cover much already. The person who has to catch the bus & might only be able to go that one time a month. Or the person who just simply is allergic to certain things. Or who has to choose between rent, or food,meds, or check to check.Growing up we had beans & rice & corn bread to fill us up but we also had ramen noodles made as a meal to stretch. Not Every low income family are jobless they just simply dont make enough.I personally get full pretty good off veggies but I have to eat tons more to equal my daily intake for the day & fall short a lot or my intake cause im just not hungry.I am a living a pescatarin life style & seafood is maybe a 1 or 2 times a week thing.Juicing / smoothes I love but is a lot to make just for me without my family. Kids love the homemade apple & spinach or just apple juice then apple sauce that’s left. But that’s a lot of apples.

P.s Not fully agreeing doesn’t mean I don’t Love the site anymore!!! Just my feelings..

Olivia Lane March 25, 2013 - 8:10 PM

Awesome list! Thank you. Rule 1 is my favorite. I’m reminded not to eat all my organic jelly beans before Easter.

I love that you include watching the sunset as a treat. It totally is!

Lee March 25, 2013 - 8:28 PM

This is a problem that my mom is having with my dad. He doesnt understand the whole “portion” thing even with the clean food. He makes these gigantic salads that takes up a good amount of the supply of veggies.
I am also trying to get my folks to go to the local farmer’s markets. My mother is “frightened” that the fresh veggies will contain bugs *rolls eyes* lol. I told her that she should give them a try. The veggies, fruits, and etc are literally coming from a garden/farm right to our table. I have also found that when things are in season they are way cheaper. Heck even the out of season foods are cheaper at a farmer’s market. Maybe by her going there and my dad seeing the need for some control they both will “get it”.

tabitha July 12, 2013 - 3:30 PM

you just told me about myself. my life just flashed before my eyes. i swear, this is me ALL day “Please note that people who suffer from this problem also often complain about “doing everything right and still not losing weight.”

i’m JUST coming to terms with the fact that this might be my biggest problem. eating a raw kale salad and then going out for drinks with friends or something along those lines. i don’t think i’ve been ready to come to terms with the idea that every single choice matters. i’m also going to just say it… i HATE that every single choice matters. it feels crazy restrictive to have to think about how every single choice plays into my weight/health. i know… it sounds childish even as it comes out of my mouth. i still can’t help myself from being pissed off about it.

if this thing is going to be lasting for me- as in a true lifestyle change, i have to get over that. i just don’t know how yet.

April Walton August 17, 2013 - 3:51 AM

Thanks for this, Erika. I developed a medical condition and eating clean is a part of my treatment strategy. I was starting to get a little overwhelmed by the cost of it all, but these tips will definitely help. My children are embracing the new eating plan in support of my healing, so I can’t even say that I’m upset about having the condition because it has changed our lifestyle as a family. Do you have or do you know where I can get a chart of fruits and veggies and when they are in season? I would love to have one to frame and put up in my kitchen. Thanks for such a great article.

Elyse March 11, 2014 - 11:37 PM

If this post hasn’t won any awards yet, it should!!! Very helpful for me and I’m sure it would be a great eye-opener to others 🙂

Valerie August 25, 2014 - 11:47 PM

I love this!!! Been sharing with some of my friends, who think “I just can’t afford that eating clean junk”. Then whine when they gain back weight.

Courtney Wofford November 12, 2014 - 12:29 AM

Love your approach so much! New favorite site!

Lucy January 7, 2015 - 3:56 PM

Don’t forget about freezing too! I buy small amounts of fresh fruit and veg, if I have extra I freeze it, I buy food seasonally and if it’s a good price I prep and freeze extra of it 🙂 Bulk buy lean meat and freeze in portion sizes, reduced fish/meat,wholemeal bread…..I freeze it! Leftover clean sauces or leftover meals, it’s endless! 🙂 that’s how we get by eating well on a tiny budget xx

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