Base your meals on beans, peas, legumes, whole grains and vegetables. (And don’t forget the nuts, seeds and oils.) For inspiration, look to the peasant cuisines available on virtually every continent, for example, these inexpensive Mediterranean dishes.

  1. Eat less meat. Eat some meatless meals and use meat as flavoring rather than the main act. Buy your meat from farms and if you have freezer space, by the side or quarter. Use cheaper cuts.
  2. Eat less dairy. How much milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and ice cream does your family really need? Use dairy products sparingly, to add flavor and richness.
  3. Eliminate or reduce prepared and convenience foods. You know which ones I mean!
  4. Buy fresh produce from farms—CSAs, farmers’ markets, farmstands—in season. (But don’t sweat it the rest of the year!) To reduce cost further, you can do a CSA workshare, attend farmers’ markets just before closing (when vendors really want to get rid of stuff) or, if you’re eligible, with food program coupons and discounts. If you have to buy produce at the supermarket, follow the EWG’s guidelines for avoiding the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables.
  5. Buy in bulk. Both in the bulk aisle and by purchasing larger-sized containers.
  6. Choose smaller fish. The lower on the food chain, the cheaper. Also: fewer bioaccumulated toxins. For seafood lovers, there’s the Cape Ann Community Supported Fishery, or pick fish from this list from the New England Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program.
  7. Keep a garden. Choose easy-to-grow, prolific and nutritious vegetables such as greens and herbs for flavoring. If you have no space, try window or porch container gardening, or contact your city or town about community gardens. Forage a bit if you know how. (Volunteer to weed at a farm; many edible weeds—purslane, lambsquarter, amaranth—flourish in fields, and you’ll have the added benefit of knowing they haven’t been sprayed.)
  8. Cook from scratch. Here are some recipes from our potluck to get you started.
  9. Break the rules from time to time! (After all, Moses did—literally!) Treat yourself to that Wagyu filet mignon or Extreme Kickin’ Chili Doritos®! No one likes a food fanatic. 🙂

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