Four Tips to Make the Slow Switch to Better Eating

tips to better eatingAre you wanting to incorporate more organic or natural foods into your diet but you’re not sure where to start? Have you decided to try to cut back on the amount of processed foods you eat but you don’t want to sacrifice your budget? Then it sounds like you are ready to make the slow switch to better eating. Here’s the strategy that Mr. P and I are using to develop and sustain this healthy-eating lifestyle* while staying within our grocery budget.


Not only do Mr. P and I value our budget, we also value our health. As a result, we realized that our original plan of living to the ripe old age of 300 based on the amount of preservatives and additives coursing through our bloodstream at any given moment wasn’t really going to work. It was time to clean up our diet. Knowing that processed foods typically cost less than fresh, whole foods, we agreed to spend a bit more, if and when needed. Before I pick up any new habit, I try to be as honest with myself as possible: Does the change align with my values? Why am I making this choice?

Shop Around

Once you decide to make the switch, it’s time to do some homework. During my normal shopping trips, I started pursuing the organic, all-natural offerings to see how different stores stacked up. I also scanned the organic sections of the weekly store circulars that came in the weekly bundle of junk mail. At this stage in the game, I wasn’t actually buying anything different. I was just observing my options, noting price points, and determining how I could make the switch to healthier choices without totally overhauling my shopping schedule.  

Immediately, Aldi and Jewel Osco made the cut: I was confident the Aldi brand would be relatively inexpensive (because, hello, it’s Aldi); I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Jewel brands were also fairly cheap. We also have a local supermarket that carries a wide variety of produce. While the produce is not top grade, it’s perfectly fine for us. We (read: I) pick up our fresh items weekly, so we don’t need apples or bananas to last more than five or six days. Happily, this store’s organic produce is actually much higher quality without a significantly steeper price tag. In fact, there are days that I wonder if they don’t realize they actually could charge more for their organic foodstuff. The moral of this story? Do your legwork and research ahead of time; it will pay dividends in time and money.

Start Small

Instead of swapping out every single item on my grocery list, I started small. When we ran out of honey, I opted for the organic kind. No more Splenda? I bought a bottle of organic agave nectar. I’ve switched from skim milk to unsweetened almond milk.** Rather than buying regular diced tomatoes or black beans, I picked up the organic brand from Aldi (which still cost less than the regular kind at most grocery stores). I switched from my beloved Smuckers grapey-high-fructose-corn-syrupy goodness to a natural fruit spread. And I didn’t ditch the dirty dozen all at once. Organic bananas were easiest, probably because bananas are so cheap to begin with. I also try to buy seasonal organic fruits and veggies; they’re still more costly than their traditional counterparts, but because they’re in-season, I can get them at a considerable savings. Because I started small and started slowly, the increase (usually fifty cents to one dollar per item) wasn’t nearly as painful. In fact, because I don’t buy a lot of these items more than once a month, my budget barely budged.

Maintain Focus

Keep going. As with any new habit, it’s crucial to remember why you started and to stick with it. You don’t have to be a poster child for Whole Foods unless that was your priority to begin with. Just know that you’ve made some efforts to improve your eating habits without sacrificing your budget. As you cook a meal or pack a lunch, read the labels and smile. You can probably pronounce a lot more of the ingredients you’re eating. Celebrate your successes along the way. Like us you may not be the perfect eater, but it’s definitely a step down the right grocery aisle.

* Note: I’m not a dietitian nor am I a scientist. Instead, I try to be an informed consumer who approaches everything with a healthy dose of skepticism. I’m not here to debate GMOs or the use (read: misuse) of statistics by the general population. Instead, I simply want to outline the ways in which Mr. P and I have started to revise our eating habits.

**Mr. P dug his heels in here. I still buy skim milk for him and his colossal bowls of Rice Krispies. I do put almond milk in our smoothies, though, and he’s never noticed. Shhh….

So Tell Me…How you do balance healthy eating with a healthy budget? Do you have natural and organic options in all of your local stores? Care to share any tips that I missed?

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Four Tips to Make the Slow Switch to Better Eating

22 thoughts on “Four Tips to Make the Slow Switch to Better Eating

    1. I have a friend who wanted to switch to organic…so she threw everything away and went shopping from scratch. After a month of struggling to pay her bills with a way overextended grocery budget, she promptly switched back. In my opinion, it’s too overwhelming to do all at once, not to mention wasteful to throw everything out.

  1. For me, simply creating a food/grocery budget has encouraged my S.O. and me to eat healthier. Before actively trying to save money, we would eat out all the time. There were weekly stops at Taco Bell and many pizzas delivered. We stopped eating out and started cooking at home. This allowed us to have control over our portions and to include more fresh vegetables in our dinner.

    We’re always trying to become healthier. Your tips are excellent. I especially love starting small. I tend to get a grand idea in my head that I will change the way I eat or start a vigorous workout routine only to get burnt out after a couple of days. Starting small and working your way up is very important.

    1. Before my husband and I got engaged (and really had to take a hard look at money since we paid for our wedding), we would eat out constantly. We just kind of let society tell us that eating out is what people do. I definitely hear you on the healthier eating at home!

  2. I always try to make a cost saving change before I make a cost increasing change. For example, cut out the ice cream this week, next week buy a bit more fruit. Switch from cereal to oatmeal this week, then buy more lean protein next week. We eat much healthier now than we did when we were first married, and it costs only a bit more. That said, we don’t do organic produce except what we grow and the farmers market. This is mainly because we are aiming to switch to pasture fed meats first.

    1. I love the idea of cost-saving changes. That makes changing your eating habits more sustainable in a lot of ways. Pasture fed meats is the next frontier. We eat meat pretty infrequently – only at dinner a few times a week – and switching to more natural and nitrate-free for summer grilling was my most recent project. I definitely have a ways to go on the others meats, though.

  3. We don’t cook — I know, I know, huge frugal faux pas, but it’s just not something we’re able to manage with our health issues — so “eating healthy” is sort of a relative term for us.

    I’ve been trying to eat better since FinCon is coming up. (Why can’t I keep that up during the year? Sigh.) Even so, it’s not the most balanced diet in the world: Healthy Choice meals, protein bars and peanut butter toast.

    It’s about all I can manage, and not worrying about what to eat for any of the meals is a huge relief for me. My depressive brain doesn’t like worrying about what I want, and it gets stressed out about most food subjects.

    And at least I’m not eating fast food. So that’s something.

    Congrats on your changes, though! It sounds like you’ve managed to really adjust your diet.

    1. I figure it’s only a faux pas if you’re not doing it for a reason, right? If you have a meal plan that works for you then that’s all that matters. I really like the concept of doing the best we can with what we have. I think that works really well with diet, finances, and life. Plus, you know I love peanut butter toast! So excited for you and FinCon. You’ll be awesome!

  4. I tend to buy the exact same breakfast and snacks for the month. Then I just change it up for lunch and dinner. My breakfast and snacks are organic and I would like for my other meals to be organic too. Its definitely a gradual process for me. I also believe in shopping around. I remember I bought a bag of shrimp and a few days later I saw the same brand at a different store for $5 less. So I returned the more expensive bag and made a note of it in my spreadsheet.

    1. I hear you on the breakfast staples. I never thought I’d write a whole post about breakfast, but sure enough, I did! Shopping around is great. In fact, Wednesdays are the evenings that I do my “homework” online and scout out the sale ads for the week.

  5. I really need to start eating more vegetables and fruits. Sometimes, my lips dry up just because I haven’t been eating enough veggies.

    I just really like my meat. I excercise a lot, so if I go even one meal without meat I feel a bit empty in my stomache.

    1. You sound like my husband! 🙂 He was a carnivore through and through before we moved in together. Because my husband is really active (and I like to think I’m at least moderately good at exercise!), I try to incorporate tons of proteins for him.

  6. About 18 months ago, my wife and I started switching to some healthier eating habits. Because of my particular health issues, we didn’t focus on organic foods, but rather on lower salt and lower added sugar foods. Reading the nutritional labels was an important part of this, as was gradually swapping out not-so-healthy foods for better choices. That’s not to say it was all gradual. When I got home from the hospital, my wife and her mother (who was trained as a dietitian) cleared out our kitchen (donations to the local food bank) and we had to spend quite a bit in replacement food that first month. But since then, the difference in spending on the healthier food hasn’t been that significant, and it’s certainly been a worthwhile investment in our health.

  7. I tried switching to eating only organic foods last year but gave up along the way. I guess the mistake I made was not starting small like you are doing.

    These days, I go for frozen organic foods as an alternative to fresh foods. Though not the best option, I guess it is better than nothing for now. These tips will be really helpful in making that transition.

  8. I found a lot of healthier options, like different milks, are easier to start adjusting to the different tastes when you cook with them or put them in things like smoothies, where the taste isn’t the only one happening. Then over time you actually get used to the taste even when it is alone.

    1. I’m finding it’s easier to reduce/eliminate meat than it is to afford lots of grass-fed chicken. Thankfully, we don’t eat tons of meat to begin with. I’d love to hear your tips for that!

  9. With fruits and veggies we try and go as organic as possible and make sure to buy things in season, like you do. In fact, the whole reason we participated in a community garden this year was to know where our food came from/how it was grown and to save a little money on produce. For those who can’t or don’t want to garden, your suggestion for easing into better-for-you products when shopping is the way to go. And perhaps buying in bulk when possible. For instance, Mr. FI and I buy our almond milk at Costco to save a little per ounce on something we use all the time (p.s. he also wasn’t a fan at first, but so long as he isn’t drinking it straight, he can hardly tell the difference from real milk). Great advice and yay for better foods!

    1. Hearing about your community garden (and see the excellent hauls on Instragram!) makes me wish we had one, in addition to our backyard garden. The idea of being able to trade, swap, and even just bond over gardening seems wonderful.

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