For the last couple of years, I've heard every excuse for why Angelenos can't eat healthier, and by far the most common is that it's "cost prohibitive." I've been slowly investigating to see whether that is true, and what I have found may surprise you--it sure surprised me.
The best food available, the same raw materials used in the most respected restaurants in the city, can be had for around $100 per person per week. Here's how.
What is the "best" food?
The best food is the freshest food, and in L.A. that usually means food that comes from farmers markets. This food is harvested just a few hours before it goes to market--a day or two tops. These are growing things at their most vital, their most flavorful. And if you eat them every day, you will feel better than you ever have.
There is a good chance that many of the varieties of fruits and vegetables now available have a lower nutrient density than they once did. Produce purchased out of season from the grocery store necessitates lengthy shipping and storing times. While you may not be getting exclusively heirloom varieties at farmer's markets, you're probably erring on the side of more vitamin and mineral-dense produce.
Here in Los Angeles we have the luxury of an incredibly diverse array of vegetables to choose from year-round. If you aren't already, it's time to start taking advantage of that. And for optimal health, these plants should make up the majority of the food you consume on a daily basis.
If you eat animal products, the best sources are the pastured and wild-caught options. These animals are allowed to eat their natural diets before harvest. As a result they are healthier, require fewer chemicals (antibiotics) to stay that way, and are generally raised and harvested in humane and sustainable ways. The data suggesting the health benefits of choosing these products over their conventional counterparts continues to mount.
Where to go?
You can purchase some of the best produce in the country at all of the Los Angeles farmers markets. For animal proteins and fats, consider any of the larger supermarkets in your area. Because of my high consumption of healthy fats, I tend to use Costco as the most cost-effective, but do what works best for you.
What to buy?
This will vary depending on the season, and that's a good thing. Here is a pretty standard weekly shopping list as of this summer:
Long beans - 1 lb. - $4.00
Lacinato Kale - 1 bunch - $1.50 ("Dino" Kale, NOT curly leaf as I say in vid)
Arugula - 2 bunches - $2.00
Swiss Chard - 1 bunch - $3.00
Red and white onions - 2 pounds - $4.00
Leeks - 2 pounds - $4.00
Carrots - 1 pound - $3.00
Large green cabbage - $2.00
Large red cabbage - $2.00
Tomatoes - 2 pounds - $5.00
Cilantro - 1 bunch - $1.50
Mint - 1 bunch - $1.50
Basil - 1 bunch - $1.50
Plums - 1 pound - $3.00
Peaches - 2 pounds - $5.00
Citrus - 3 pounds - $7.00
Small artichokes - 2 - $2.00
Peppers (bells, pasillas, padrones, anaheims, etc) - 2 pounds - $4.25
Total: $56.25 (tax included), average $60/week, or $30! per person
Monthly: $240, or $120 per person
The video shows enough produce for me and my lady for the week, two meals per day.
Using our $100 per week example, this leaves me an additional $70 for the best fats (olive and coconut oil, grassfed butter, and avocados), animal proteins (fish, lamb, beef, and eggs), starches (sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, or rice), and wine!
It takes a small bit of effort, but you can have at least 40 meals of the best produce in Los Angeles for roughly the cost of one night on the town. That is empowering, and I hope you make use of it!
PS--Do you have any tips for saving some green on world-class groceries? Please share it in the comments below!