Common Sense Health


Saving Money ~ Eating Healthy

By: Maureen McDonnell, RN


I know what you are thinking: “aren’t those two ideas mutually exclusive?” Actually, after 35 years of advocating healthy eating (and at the same time having to watch our family’s food budget), I can honestly say, “They are not!” Here’s why: When you take a portion of your hard-earned money and invest it wisely in foods that provide superior nutrition, you are sick less often which translates into spending less on doctor’s visits, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. You’ll also miss fewer days of work which may result in promotions & career advancements. Best of all, you’ll be more productive, have more energy to exercise and do other activities that you love which adds up to keeping you healthier longer.


Don’t let the societal myth that you have to spend a lot of money in order to eat healthy stop you from trying these:



Tips for Saving Money and Eating Healthy

Buy in Bulk: Packaging food in fancy boxes and bags is costly. If you don’t mind scooping up your own spices, nuts, flours and grains, you can save a considerable amount of money. If your grocery store doesn’t have a bulk section, try shopping for these items at Earthfare, GreenLife or the French Broad Co-op (or in Mars Hill the Amish store). For listings of money-saving food co-op’s around the country check out


Buy local: Our community is bursting with so many wonderful farmer’s markets that sell locally-grown eggs, beef, chicken and seasonal vegetables & fruit. Since the farmers are selling to you directly, the food is less expensive, often saving you up to 25%. Another option is to join a CSA farm (community supported agriculture). You pay one lump sum per season and each week pick up your produce directly from the farmer who only grows according to how many families buy a share in his farm. In terms of getting the kids on board with healthier eating, there’s nothing quite like bringing them with you to the farmer’s market or to the CSA to help select the foods the family will eat over the next week. .


Make Food in Batches: Whether it’s loaves of whole grain bread, a pot of soup, baby food or a healthy snack such as homemade hummus… take a couple of hours on a weekend, invite a friend over, pour yourself a glass of wine and cook big batches of your favorite recipes together. Then freeze them… and voila’ that mid-week dinner practically makes itself! These are just a few foods that can be made ahead and frozen: beans, brown rice and other grains such as quinoa, millet, whole grain breads and pesto. Once you have these basics prepared, just thaw them, add a fresh green or salad and maybe a fist full sized portion of your favorite organic protein, and you’ve just quelled the temptation to go out to dinner—saving yourself and your family even more money.


Grow Some Food: Whether it’s a pot of fresh herbs by your windowsill, a small backyard garden, or a row in a community garden, growing even a small amount of food can save you a considerable amount of money. Think how much fresh basil or rosemary costs in the supermarket. Grow your own and you’ll have fresh, money-saving herbs all year long.


Buy Organic: “How can buying organic possibly save our family money?” Consider these two facts: Food grown in non-organic soils does not contain anywhere near the nutrient content of food grown in organic soil. So although you might be paying a bit more, your body is receiving higher levels of health-promoting nutrients. Secondly, conventionally-grown food is sprayed with chemicals that cause a burden on our health. If you can’t afford all organic foods, at least stay away from the fruits and vegetables with permeable skin. For a full list of the dirty dozen (foods to definitely buy organic because the conventional version is heavily sprayed) as well as a list of the clean 15 (foods that are not as heavily sprayed) check out:


Save on Healthcare Costs: A new study just released (1) explains how having good levels of nutrients protects us from the damaging effects of chemicals and toxins. Since we now know that a culprit in many illnesses including cancer, asthma, etc. is environmental toxins, doesn’t it make good sense to boost our level of nutrients by eating healthier in order to help the body detoxify these harmful substances?


So with the cost of healthcare rising and finances being a major concern for all of us, healthy eating not only makes you feel good by adding years to your life and life to your years, but now, more than ever, it just makes good economic sense!


Healthy Inexpensive Dinner Ideas:

Beans, brown rice and a green: (Remember you’re going to cook in batches and freeze to save time and money). Take previously cooked and frozen pinto beans and thaw. Add to sautéed onions, garlic and cumin. Trim, wash and saute fresh kale or Swiss chard in olive oil and garlic and add to previously cooked brown rice. Laddle the flavorful beans on top of the rice, top with freshly roasted pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds or another source of protein (left over chicken, grass-fed beef, etc.).


Natural chicken and roasted root veggies: Purchase an organic (or at least a locally grown chicken raised without hormones and antibiotics); follow the directions for handling and preparation. Place in roasting pan and surround with organic washed and cut up beets, turnips, onions, carrots, etc. that have been tossed in olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Bake and serve!


Healthy salad for lunch or dinner: Spin or wash salad greens, chop up some fresh veggies (peppers, carrots, onions) and just before eating, add some olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, toasted pumpkin or sesame seeds and toss. Top with some leftover chicken, beans or hummus.


Butternut squash soup: Peel and boil cubed butternut squash in vegetable or chicken broth. When soft, puree in blender. Pour into a pot, add organic milk (if you use dairy) or coconut milk, and stir until creamy. Add touch of cayenne, salt and pepper. Serve with a healthy green salad topped with freshly toasted nuts or seeds.



Bernhard Hennig, et al Nutrition Can Modulate the Toxicity of Environmental Pollutants: Implications in Risk Assessment and Human Health, online Feb 2012


Maureen McDonnell has been a registered nurse for 35 years (in the fields of: childbirth education, labor and delivery, clinical nutrition, and pediatrics.) She is the former national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now Conferences, and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. Maureen lectures widely on the role the environment and nutrition play in women and children’s health. She is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine and owner of Nutritionist’s Choice Inc. Presently, Maureen serves as the Medical Coordinator for the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She and her husband have five grandkids and feel blessed to be living in the beautiful mountains of WNC.

Maureen McDonnell, RN
Written by Maureen McDonnell, RN