Eating Healthy, Organic and Vegan Isn’t More Expensive: Here’s How

Tomatoes

Guest Post by Suzanna McGee: Athlete, Trainer and Coach; author of the Athlete’s Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle

When people think of organic vegetables and fruits, they think, “It’s too expensive.” On the contrary, you will find that transitioning to plant-based nutrition will cost less, and depending on your sources, can be significantly less.

If you buy your plants when they are in season, the prices will be very low. Farmers’ markets have affordable prices of local, organic produce. I understand that different places in the world have better or worse possibilities of getting plentiful variety of organic produce, but when you put in a little effort, it is possible to find farmers’ markets almost everywhere.

Years ago, I used to have an aversion to Whole Foods Market because of their high prices. I felt that I couldn’t afford to spend all my money on food. Over time, as I was getting deeper into learning about the health benefits of fresh, organic, and non-GMO produce, I have realized that it is a tiny price to pay for being healthy, energetic, and thriving.

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During the years of my personal research and training, the organic movement has shifted for the better for us customers. When I later revisited my neighborhood’s huge, recently built Whole Foods Market to buy one small thing, I was pleasantly surprised to find prices that were so much better than I remembered. I couldn’t stop exploring, observing and desiring almost everything in their huge selection. While it is true that organic still costs more than conventional, the difference is getting smaller.

Let us look at the prices. A meat eater needs to take into consideration that the conventionally and industrially produced meat and poultry are loaded with toxins, chemicals, and antibiotics and thus she should be eating grass-fed cows and free-range birds. The prices of these products are quite high: over $10 per pound of beef, $15 for a pound of fish, and $8 for a pound of organic free-range chicken. Organic milk costs approximately about $4 per gallon, organic cheese costs $10 per pound, and organic yogurt costs $4 per quart. Statistically, an average person eats about a half pound of meat and one pound of dairy a day, which can cost $10–$15 a day. However, a typical carnivore eats higher than average amounts.

You can get two pounds of organic broccoli, two pounds of organic fruits, five pounds of organic carrots, and five pounds of organic potatoes for $10–$15 per day. This does not even mention how many pounds of organic rice, quinoa, or oatmeal you could get. Putting this into perspective, eating organic whole food plant-based nutrition is not as expensive as we tend to think. I have made comparisons of costs for meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans just to get an idea. The total costs vary for different states and cities, but the relative differences remain similar across the country. My results were: $14.65 a day for a meat eater, $13.50 for a fish-eater, $12.45 for a vegetarian and $11.15 for a vegan. See a full chart here.

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The data and my personal investigation suggest that the meat-eating lifestyle costs the most and the vegan lifestyle is the cheapest. While some people believe that veganism is a lifestyle choice for hippies and rich materialists, this is not true. I do believe that it is very hip to care about your body and health, with a magnificent side effect of rescuing many animal lives, and preventing the destruction of nature and natural resources, but it is definitely not rich and materialistic living. It is the opposite: living of awareness and caring.

HOW TO KEEP THE COST LOW

While we have already proven that eating whole foods plant-based diet is much more cost effective compared to the animal product diet, we can still look at strategies on how to keep expenses for plant-based food even lower.

  1. Buy products with a long shelf life, such as legumes, grains, rice, potatoes, apples, and carrots, in large amounts in bulk at co-op stores, natural food stores, or warehouse stores. Look for the specials and when you find them, buy large amounts. These foods won’t spoil that easily.
  2. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, because their prices will be lower. In the stores, look for specials, and buy a lot when you find them. Also buy frozen organic produce if it is on sale.
  3. Visit farmers’ markets and buy foods in season, or wait until the end of the market, and you may get a great deal on some products that are left.
  4. Look on the internet for great deals on bulk foods. I love Eden Foods’ website for my organic grains and legumes. There are several excellent websites (listed at the end of my book).
  5. Plan your shopping and never go hungry, because everything will be ten times more tempting, and you will buy items that you haven’t planned. Your eyes will buy, and your body will pay for it.
  6. If your housing situation allows, grow your own fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs. They don’t take too much time to care take for them, and nothing tastes better than homegrown produce. If your weather conditions don’t allow growing a big garden, you can always grow your own herbs in pots inside your home.

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Suzanna McGee is a former Ms. Natural Olympia drug-free bodybuilding champion and currently a competitive tennis player, athletic fitness trainer and writer. She is also a performance enhancement and injury prevention coach, with a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell University. The athletes who participated in McGee’s program report a decreased rate of injuries, increased fitness levels and mental toughness, and overall better tennis performance. McGee is also certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) as a Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist.

Born in Europe, she has two Masters in computer science and speaks 6 languages. McGee has been living in the U.S. since 1996 and currently resides with her chocolate Lab in Venice Beach, California.

McGee’s new book, The Athlete’s Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle, can be found on Amazon.com and other fine booksellers. 

Image of tomatoes by torbahopper on Flickr; image of carrots by Tracy O on Flickr; image of yellow squash by Alex Cheek; image of greens by Edsel Little;

About Starre Vartan
Starre Vartan is editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life.

One Comment

  1. A very smart way of thinking. We have a small garden at home. We concentrate on things that are easy to grow, but relatively expensive at the supermarket. Things like herbs, kale, mushrooms, fruits, etc. Having fresh produce right outside my door is nice, and the cost is minimal to produce.

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