Unhealthy lifestyle choices cost Canadians $36.9 billion per year according to this Canadian Men’s Health Foundation’s study.
You can bet we’re all affected because our tax dollars fund our healthcare programs...
Poor health also affects our ability to work. Of course, we just can’t do our best work when we’re sick...
I worked in Human Resources and consistent absence from work (“absenteeism”) is a classic management headache. Employees who are legitimately sick and truly need their employer’s support, unfortunately, get mixed up with those few bad apples who abuse the system.
If you’re a full-time employee, you’ve got a limited amount of sick leave and likely some long-term disability coverage (although even if you qualify, this only replaces a portion of your salary).
But what if you’re a casual employee with no benefits and no guaranteed work hours?
What if you’re self-employed?
Your income could take a sharp nosedive when you need it most.
And then there’s also quality of life...
Sure, we’ve gained 20 to 22 years in life expectancy - but are we living better? Will we be healthy enough to travel at 65? Or play with our grandkids at 75?
When we invest in our health starting now - it can make a HUGE impact not only in the short-term...but also over the longer-term.
Here’s a thought...
We prepare for our financial well-being leading up to retirement. But at the end of the day, what’s the point of gaining a mountain of money if we’re not going to have the health and the zest to enjoy it with the people we love?
So why not invest in our health as well?
Investing in Food and Your Health
In a recent post, I interviewed a local farmer who gave us 4 reasons why local food is best. In a minute, we’ll talk about:
But first, let’s do a quick review…
Financial investing takes research and planning, assessing risk tolerance, and considering long-term performance.
What if we apply these same concepts to health and food investment as well?
Wanna give it a shot?
1. Research and planning
How do you decide where to invest your money? How do you choose what mix of investments or funds will yield an acceptable return? What about finding lower management fees?
Planning and research help us make better decisions.
Similarly with food, we need to research which types of food are healthiest. And then plan to get them in the most cost-effective way possible.
2. Risk tolerance
When do you plan to retire? And what lifestyle do you want after retirement?
Answers to these questions give us insight to the level of risk we’re willing to take when choosing our investment portfolio.
Related: Is DIY Investing Right For You?
But there’s one investment principle everyone can agree on...
With food, consider the full variety of whole nutritious food that nature offers. (Hint: whole food doesn’t come pre-made, pre-packaged, and microwave-ready.)
3. Long-term performance
Panic sets in when short-term results look catastrophic - then we tend to do the opposite of what we should...
...We end up selling low and buying high.
Yes, in theory we knew better than that.
But when it comes time for action, theories get thrown out the window.
One potential solution?
Select an index fund that’s automatically rebalanced. That way, we can take emotion completely out of the equation.
The same goes for food. Preparing a meal plan ahead of time will remove the pain of deciding on the spot: what’s for supper today?
No doubt, that takes some initial work. But consider the benefits of infusing nutrients into our bodies and avoiding the long-term cost of of poor health.
6 Ways to Eat Real Food for Less
Nutritious food and financial health can co-exist with some discipline and effort. Here are 6 things we can all do:
1. Start a meal plan.
With a little planning, you end up saving time, reducing waste, and avoid giving-in to last-minute cravings.
When I was getting ready to go back to work after my mat-leave last year, I wanted to get organized and make sure I had a plan for family meals. So, I spent a few hours for three or four days compiling my favourite recipes and researching easy healthy recipes, and then printing those out so I have a binder full of recipes I can quickly refer to.
Then, I created a weekly schedule of meals for the next 21 weeks! I did this in April 2015. And I’m still referring to this meal plan today because there are enough recipes that I can just keep rotating them, even now.
2. Make home cooking efficient.
There’s no need to cook every day.
I cook about twice a week (tripling or quadrupling 3-4 different recipes), and then we’re all set.
I cook big batches of food because leftovers are both efficient and convenient. We can always count on there being food in the fridge when we’re hungry, there’s fewer dishes to wash, and overall less time is spent cooking and cleaning.
If you’re not crazy about eating the same thing over and over, why not freeze the extra food, and then take it out after a few days (or whenever you’re in a pinch)?
You can create a rotation of homemade pre-frozen meals. They’re easier on the wallet than eating out, and healthier because you know exactly what you’re putting in your body.
3. Bring left-overs for lunch at work.
The cost of daily lunches adds up. Not to mention the unhealthy result when we’re making last minute decisions with a hungry nagging stomach…
We end up choosing based on what smells good, what looks best, and what’s easy when our stomach is growling with hunger.
Our resolve to save and stay healthy doesn’t stand a chance...
...And that’s just isn’t fair, right? How can we set ourselves up for success instead?
Prepare lunches ahead of time so we’re ready when that unforgiving hunger strikes.
4. Shop in-season and freeze what’s left.
Summer and fall bring an abundant supply of local produce!
For two consecutive years now, I signed up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) weekly produce packs. The first year, I paid $25 weekly where I received a week’s supply of vegetables for a family of three (not counting my son as he was only a few months old then). The second year, I signed up to Farmer Dave’s CSA for $40/week - and in addition to a week’s worth of vegetables, I also received a dozen eggs, their house-made bread with predominantly locally sourced ingredients, and some fruit.
I love those weeks when I get to have an abundance of green onions, celery leaves, garlic scapes, and herbs (like dill, basil and parsley). Here’s what I did:
After washing, I’d cut them up into smaller pieces, put them in ziploc baggies, and freeze them. I accumulate enough during the summer and fall, so that in the colder months ahead I have about three big baggies filled with these frozen green goodies that I can use in my soup-based meals.
You can eliminate waste by freezing produce when in abundance, and then during the cold months, use these up and save money by not having to buy vegetable broth to flavour your meals. I also save my shiitake mushroom stems to flavour homemade gravy and soup.
5. Experiment with more plant-based meals and use less meat.
Meat is expensive, and there’s a lot of debate and controversy about eliminating meat and dairy from your diet for optimal health. In fact, there’s a very compelling documentary that presents a case for a no-meat diet.
I tried eating only plant-based meals for a few months…
But I’ve come to the conclusion that health is about balance. So I personally eat meat, however, I incorporate lots of lentils, beans, chickpeas and peas to promote variety of protein sources.
Canada is one the biggest exporters of these natural protein alternatives which are known to provide a variety of health benefits. Not only are they healthy sources of protein, they are also cheaper than meat:
Dried Green Lentils
$2.99 for a 900g bag
Dried Red Lentils
$2.99 for a 900g bag
Dried Navy Beans
$2.99 for a 900g bag
Dried Red Kidney Beans
$2.99 for a 900g bag
6. Get to know your local farmers.
We can lower our distributor cost by going direct to the source.
As an added bonus, getting to know our local farmers and food suppliers will help us become experts on what we put on our plates (and avoid food counterfeit).
This brings me to my next point…
Where to Find Local Farmers in Canada
Here is a compilation of sites to find local farmers by region, which I hope can serve as a starting point for you. (Leave a comment if you feel that a farm or resource should be added to this list.)
- Ontario CSA Farm Directory - The site has a nice map that functions like a directory to help you find the nearest CSA farm.
- Farmers’ Markets Ontario - This is where consumers meet local farmers directly.
- Ontario Farm Fresh - You can visit a farm even in the winter season. Their “Find a Farm” tab lets you search by your postal code.
- Harvest Ontario - Good resource for searching by location, product type, crops, and activity. Nice and simple guide of what’s in season.
- Ontariofresh.ca - A platform to connet local food sellers and buyers.
- Durham Farm Fresh - has a nice farm directory by city as well as a what’s in season list of produce.
- Grimsby Farmers’ Market - Open from May to October where vendors sell products directly from the Niagara Region.
- Plan B Organic Farms - A 50 acre farm in Flamborough that is Certified Organic.
- Fresh City Farms - Hosts the largest aquaponics system in Ontario. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics so that they can provide more greens year-round.
- Aliments du Quebec - Promotes local products and offers a searchable directory by product category and region.
- Equiterre - A nice clickable map of local farmers.
- Adventures In Local Food - Offers a list of Nova Scotia CSAs and farmer's markets--check out their side-bar.
- Hodge Podge Farm - A family of five who has been farming and providing CSA packs since 2009, in Carlton Corner. (Note: I didn’t want to duplicate the already exhaustive list provided by the site above however, I don’t believe this farm was included.)
- Acorn - Offers a directory of organic CSA farmers in Atlantic Canada.
- Kredls - A charming all-year market in Hampton that houses Farmer Dave’s produce as well as other local bounty.
- Alva Farm - Offers quality vegetables and fruits in southeastern NB.
- Nature’s Route Farm - Vegetables grown ethically and offers CSA packs in Point de Bute. You can also find their produce in Sackville Farmers’ Market and Dieppe Market.
- Csamanitoba.org - offers a great list of 23 local farms that offer poduce, meat, poultry, and eggs.
- Farm Folk City Folk - you can select a CSA by region and then it provides a list of local farmers, a description, and their contact information.
Prince Edward Island
- Hope River Farm - provides a variety of pastured and grass-fed meat sold directly or through their Meat CSA.
- The Old MacKenzie Farm - offers veggie boxes from $15 to $40 per week.
- Etomami Eco Farm - located south of Hudson Bay, they offer a produce box, beef, pastured poultry, and eggs.
- The Green Ranch - they have Regina and Weyburn CSAs however you’d have to be a member to access these pages.
- CSA Alberta - directory of CSA farmers in Alberta organized by region.
Newfoundland and Labrador
- The Organic Farm - offers two sizes of veggie packs: smaller bag at $36 and larger bag at $49.50 per week.
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We work hard for every dollar that we earn. And we want to make good decisions where our money’s concerned.
We know that we need to be prepared for a rainy day...
...So we save, we invest, we maximize our money.
That rainy day may include poor health down the road.
So why not prepare for that as well?
Share your thoughts below.