One of the happiest surprises we’ve had over the past several months as we have more fully embraced whole-food plant-based eating is that we are spending significantly less money and time at the grocery store. Oh, how the bill goes down when you don’t buy meat, cheese dairy, and prepared snack and food products. How little time we spend shopping when everything we need is on the perimeter of the store! Yes, we are spending more on fruits and vegetables, but it’s still less than meat and prepared foods.

Another surprise is that we’ve become so fond of our meals and snacks (and the simplicity in preparing them) that our nights of eating out are significantly reduced too. This was not intentional, but the truth is that the lovely healthy soups, bean and rice dishes and veggie side dishes that we enjoy so much and that are so very affordable at home, are pricey side dishes when eating out. Who would have guessed that not only is our health blessed, but so is the family wallet! We’ve decided that it’s an unfounded notion that it is expensive to eat healthfully. In fact, we’ve found just the opposite to be true.

Meat is the most expensive grocery item, and the price of it is going up. According to an August 27, 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal. High grain prices and drought conditions in states including Texas, Oklahoma and California have shrunk cattle herds, leading to higher meat and dairy prices. “We get used to ups and downs in meat supply, but current costs for beef are higher than I’ve ever seen in my 41 years at Wegmans,” Mary Ellen Burris, senior vice president of consumer affairs, wrote in her Aug. 11 blog post for the chain of 84 stores on the East Coast. “Historically high corn costs dissuaded ranchers from expanding their herds,” Ms. Burris wrote on her blog, while export demand remains strong from emerging markets including China, where the middle class want to follow what Americans are eating: more meat.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing and will help many families naturally turn to eating healthier, less costly foods, i.e. the international, affordable health diet of beans, veggies and rice, with very limited meat and dairy. Historically speaking, until recently only the very well-to-do could even afford to eat the meat and dairy foods that we now consider daily staples of the standard American diet. Heart disease, diabetes and gout were even referred to as “the king’s disease” because only the wealthy acquired these illnesses from eating rich foods and suffered the results and early deaths associated.

If this is not something you or your family want to hear, (no one is denying that these foods are delicious and we love how they taste) then perhaps a trip to the library for the books “Fast Food Nation” or the juvenile adaptation entitled “Chew on This” (by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson) will be helpful. These books are a look at fast food: what’s in it, how it’s made, and what it does to our bodies. Its content is shocking, compelling and life changing. It is actually required reading for some 8th graders we know, and should be for all of us. “Truth is stranger than fiction” will come to your mind as you read about what most of us eat and feed our children without a second thought, and it will be much easier to eat and feed your family something else after reading this.

McDonaldsThe picture below shows a meal from McDonalds that sat on a counter for a full year. You can see that it hasn’t changed very much, just become dried out. Real food, of course, rots and decomposes becoming a stinky affair if not taken care of because it is alive and capable of providing nutrients. Fast food does not decompose, either while sitting in a counter, or moving through your digestive tract. No wonder we have health problems! Think about it: Chicken McNuggets that have been around since the early 80’s and has the world’s health improved? No.

Even when the health and/or financial need is apparent, it’s hard to know where to start with living Word of Wisdom do’s , with the plan of consuming way more fruits and veggies, way less meat, dairy, sugar and fats.

That’s where Kent and Suzanne Gardiner of Eagle Mountain Utah found themselves when she was pregnant with her 6th child and diagnosed with breast cancer. They were mystified as they thought they had a healthy lifestyle and no family history of cancer.   Wondering where it could have come from, their doctor said it was “too many pizzas” meaning too much fat from the overall Standard American Diet.

GardinerKent GardinerI thought a lot about his statement and later when we sat down to our usual pork chop meal, I looked at her and said, “It seems to me that we are eating the same foods that got us into this mess; let’s change.” That was all well and good, but change to what? Neither of us had a clue.”

A month after Suzanne’s death in 1994, a set of tapes came in the mail from Dr. John McDougall.

I’m sure Suzanne had ordered them. I listened to the tapes and began learning about healthy eating practices. On the tapes Dr. McDougall said when he began his practice in Hawaii, he noticed the people in the cities who ate the typical American diet got diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, while the native Hawaiians living in the country, eating starches and vegetables and walking, were living to a ripe old age, and even beginning families in their sixties! This same healthy diet is found in the African tribes who mainly eat sweet potatoes and vegetables, Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who eat beans and vegetables, and rural Chinese who eat rice and veggies.

After listening to the tapes I decided it was time to make a change. I began by making vegetable soups, stir fries, and salads. My children and I enjoyed smoothies, green drinks, and veggie-burgers. At first we got rid of the meat and later decided milk and cheese had to go. Over time my taste changed. Now I enjoy the taste of whole wheat bread and a hearty bowl of beans and rice.

For the most part my children went along with the new program. One of my children put it best when she said, “Dad, it seems like all we eat are side dishes.” Today my oldest son says, “Eat the American diet, die the American death. (You can read the entire story at the link provided below.)

And here’s a thought! Saving money and improving health now means that we’ll also save a boatload of cash later in life when we don’t have to pay for the many costs (both financial and emotional) associated with illness and disease.

There are countless websites and books, along with videos on Youtube with ideas for tasty meals and snacks.  The notion that you’ll be hungry or go unsatisfied is as unfounded as that it’s expensive to eat healthfully.

Here are some cost-effective meal ideas that are sure to please and that we love:


  • Cereal with soy or rice milk, topped with sliced bananas or raisins (Uncooked rolled oats are our favorite! It took a while to get there, but now they taste better than any processed cold cereal)
  • Oatmeal with sliced fruit, jelly, maple syrup, or soy milk
  • Baked beans on toast
  • Toast or a bagel with natural nut peanut butter, crushed fruit, hummus,
  • Fresh fruit with soy yogurt
  • Smoothie made with frozen banana chunks, spinach or berries and soy milk

Lunch and Dinner

  • Veggie sandwich made with cucumber, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, and mustard or hummus
  • Bean burrito (just wrap some beans, veggies, rice, and hot sauce in a tortilla)
  • Canned vegetarian chili or soup
  • Beans, rice, and vegetables with corn tortillas or chips
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and frozen veggies
  • Tacos with beans, rice, and veggies on whole grain or corn tortillas
  • Brown rice with steamed vegetables and soy sauce
  • Baked potato topped with salsa, baked beans, or chili
  • Veggie burgers or veggie hot dogs (top with chili or baked beans for variety)
  • Fresh salad (add some zing by tossing in raisinsor diced apples)
  • Stir-fry vegetables and tofu and serve with rice, noodles, or another other grain (add garlic, oil/water, and soy sauce for extra flavor)
  • Steamed potatoes, then mashed and topped with broccoli
  • Our favorite: Plain cooked beans and rice with salsa or enchilada sauce. We eat this almost every day for late morning brunch or a mid-afternoon or evening meal or snack

Beans, affordable and delicious, are a staple around the world and are most definitely “real food.” They provide a wonderful sense of “fullness” and countless nutrients. It’s surprising to us that even our young children and grandchildren love beans! By cooking your own dried beans, you save money, reduce sodium and get better flavor along with, surprisingly, more vitamins and minerals. If you can’t use the whole batch, freeze surplus cooked beans for later use in soups, salads and dips. The range of time for cooking beans is wide and varies with the age and the type of beans selected.

If the recipe below makes too many, just freeze them in small containers to use later.

Take 1 pound dried beans, such as cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, great northern beans or pinto beans

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1.Soak beans in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.)

2.Drain the beans and place them in a slow cooker. Add onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Pour in boiling water. Cook, covered, on high until beans are tender, 2 to 3 1/2 hours. Add salt, cover, and cook for 15 minutes more.

Kent Gardiner Story

A detox is the perfect way to launch healthier eating:

For more information head on over to
Jane Birch’s website,

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Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success – One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available at her website .


She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of eight. They live in the Washington D.C. area where she serves as Primary Chorister and joins her husband in teaching Missionary Preparation for the Annandale Stake CES Institute program.