These days, most people don’t think twice before eating processed foods; “food-like substances” have become synonymous with the real stuff in a culture that values convenience over quality. Individuals choose refined products day after day believing that it costs far too much time and money to prepare meals that incorporate fresh, quality ingredients.
Enter Lisa Leake. A proud wife and mother of two, Lisa experienced a wake-up call when she began to really think about the kind of products she was feeding her family. Her solution? A pledge to go 100 days without eating highly processed or refined foods. Though it initially began as an experiment, Lisa’s real food challenge completely transformed her family’s relationship with eating.
Now Lisa invites readers to embark on a similar journey in her book 100 Days of Real Food (William Morrow, 2014). Filled with advice, helpful tips, and delicious real-food recipes, Lisa’s book will be sure to show you the clear benefits of choosing fresh, wholesome foods over processed and refined ones. Here, we’ve provided an excerpt from 100 Days of Real Food that addresses how to achieve a real-food lifestyle without breaking your bank:
Lisa Leake’s 12 Tips for Real Food on a Budget:
1. Set a specific budget. This tip may sound basic, but simply thinking about “not spending a lot of money” does not work! Also, if you don’t already know how much you’re spending on groceries, that would be a great place to start.
2. Be organized and plan out your meals for the week. Last minute purchases that you haven’t put a lot of thought into can add up fast.
3. Minimize waste by planning ways to use leftovers, such as using vegetable scraps to make stock and teaching your family to take only as much food as they’ll eat (they can always get seconds).
4. Know and use what you have on hand, especially if it’s perishable. Consider keeping an inventory list of food on your fridge or freezer so different family members can check off items as they use them. I know my husband is more likely to eat some perishable item in the fridge before it goes bad if I leave a note telling him it’s there (don’t ask me why)!
5. Make substitutions in recipes (such as dried herbs instead of fresh) to reduce how many things you have to buy…or even leave out a noncritical ingredient altogether.
6. Build a base of recipes around the use of inexpensive foods like bananas, beans, root vegetables, and pasta.
7. When making inexpensive meals like soups and pasta dishes, double the recipe and freeze the leftovers for when you just don’t have time to plan a good dinner and want to avoid unexpected expenses.
8. Choose to drink water instead of milk and skip juice and other flavored beverages altogether. If you really have trouble kicking the juice habit, at least water it down a little so the juice lasts longer.
9. Reduce your consumption of meat and desserts. Humanely raised meat can be a big-ticket item; experiment with stretching your group meat dishes by mixing in diced veggies, mushrooms, and/or beans. Make sweets a special-occasion treat rather than a daily indulgence; your family will learn to appreciate it, not expect it.
10. Buy produce that’s in season, and if you frequent your local farmers’ market, try going just before closing time to get some great deals on items the vendors won’t want to haul back to the farm.
11. Go strategic with your organic purchases. Avoid high-risk GMO crops.
12. Check your receipt after you get home to make sure your money was spent wisely (most grocery stores accept returns!). One time when I was distracted by my kids, I accidentally bought a very expensive bag of rise that I didn’t desperately need at the time. I had no problem returning the unopened rice for some much-needed cash—especially because I’m a loyal customer and returns are part of their policy!
Lisa Leake is also the creator of the wildly popular 100 Days of Real Food blog, which in just a few years garnered more than one million Facebook fans and approximately four million monthly page views.