S3 E7 – Food Budgeting + Prioritizing w/ Jenny Harris

Welcome to The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast Season 3: Real Food on a Budget. We’re dedicating this season to discussing an aspect of natural healing that often gets left out of the conversation: affordability. We’ll be chatting with experts and peers from the AIP community about how to best balance money with your health priorities.

This season is brought to you by our title sponsor, The Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), a holistic nutrition school that trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants with an emphasis on bioindividual nutrition. Learn more about them by visiting NutritionalTherapy.com, or read about our experiences going through their NTP and NTC programs in our comparison article.

Season 3 Episode 7 is focused on how to both prioritize your food choices, and make a budget for eating this way that is sustainable longterm. Angie and Mickey share their personal stories of budgeting and managing medical expenses and debt. They also chat with guest Jenny Harris about how to modify AIP for lower budgets, and how to find local assistance for food budgeting concerns.

This is a bit of a tricky topic but we hope sharing our experiences and ideas will help you feel supported wherever you find yourself in your journey. Scroll down for the full episode transcript!

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Full Transcript:

Mickey Trescott: Welcome to the Autoimmune Wellness podcast, a resource for those seeking to live well with chronic illness. I’m Mickey Trescott, a nutritional therapy practitioner living well with autoimmune disease in Oregon. I’m the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, and I’m using diet and lifestyle to best manage both Hashimoto’s and Celiac disease.

Angie Alt: And I’m Angie Alt. I’m a certified health coach and nutritional therapy consultant, also living well with autoimmune disease in Maryland. I’m the author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook, and I’m using diet and lifestyle to best manage my endometriosis, lichen sclerosis, and Celiac disease.

After recovering our health by combining the best of conventional medicine with effective and natural dietary and lifestyle interventions, Mickey and I started blogging at www.AutoimmuneWellness.com, where our collective mission is seeking wellness and building community.

We also wrote a book called The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook together that serves as a do-it-yourself guidebook to living well with chronic illness.

Mickey Trescott: If you’re looking for more information about the autoimmune protocol, make sure to sign up for our newsletter at autoimmunewellness.com, so we can send you our free quick start guide. It contains printable AIP food lists, a 2-week food plan, a 90-minute batch cooking video, a mindset video, and food reintroduction guides.

This season of the podcast, real food on a budget is brought to you by our title sponsor, The Nutritional Therapy Association.

Angie Alt: A quick disclaimer: The content in this podcast is intended as general information only, and is not to be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Onto the podcast!


1. Different levels of budget concerns [2:19]
2. Budgeting benefits on AIP [7:13]
3. Personal budgeting stories [9:41]
4. Benefit of minimalism [15:58]
5. An investment in your future health [18:53]
6. Introducing our guest, Jenny Harris [23:41]
7. Roadblocks and challenges [29:05]
8. Finding local assistance [31:05]
9. AIP modifications on low-budget [35:44]

Mickey Trescott: Hey guys! Mickey here. Welcome back to the Autoimmune Wellness podcast, season 3. How are you doing today, Angie?

Angie Alt: I’m good. Hopefully there won’t be any puppy noise in the background. My puppy is being very naughty today, you guys.

Mickey Trescott: Sometimes it happens. You know, those animals.

Angie Alt: Mm-hmm.

Mickey Trescott: So today we are continuing our discussion related to the topic this season. Real food on a budget. This episode is going to be about how to both prioritize your food choices, and make a budget for eating this way. Today we’re tackling a little bit of a tricky topic, but we hope that sharing some of our experiences and ideas will help you guys feel supported wherever you find yourself in your journey.

1. Different levels of budget concerns [2:19]

Mickey Trescott: So first, let’s talk about the three main categories that people find themselves in when we talk about budgeting concerns. The first, of course, are people who are wealthy. They can afford anything. There really aren’t any barriers to getting what they want, because they can go to Whole Foods and get whatever they want. Or they can afford the functional medicine practitioner. Most of us, sadly, don’t find ourselves in this situation.

The middle is actually where most of us are probably at. That’s where people have resources to allocate towards maybe eating better or better medical care, but it means almost always you’re going to have to make some strategic planning. There is flexibility. So there’s a lot of choices sometimes. And maybe going without something so that you can get something else. There are those options to kind of move things around a little bit, and prioritize.

And then lastly there are people who are low income. So those are people who face significant challenges and stress around budgeting for food. And it involves fixed resources without flexibility. So that’s an important distinguishing characteristic between those who truly are low-income. I would say that a lot of people in the middle maybe think they’re a little more low-income than they really are. But the truth is, a lot of us have some flexibility. And that is where a lot of the difficulties come up.

Angie Alt: So in the second segment of the podcast, we’ll be talking a lot more about those in the lowest income group, and some strategies that they can use. We really believe everyone should have access to healing foods. And we want to talk about the ways to make that reality for those in that challenging circumstance.

But in this first segment, we want to focus on the middle category of folks. Because probably most of you guys listening to this podcast find yourselves here. It’s where Mickey and I ourselves land. So we just want to kind of take a stab at the topic that is probably most of us are facing.

We also want to acknowledge that having a chronic illness alone can be limiting to the budget. It’s expensive to be sick. And we totally get that.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. The different ways even just having an autoimmune disease before you get into some of the diet and lifestyle stuff that you might want to do. I mean, medical bills and medications are expensive. So a lot of that, if you’re someone who has just gone through a diagnosis, you know how front loaded those costs can be. So all at once, you might be going to see different doctors and specialists. Burning through maybe a high deductible, or something. Which is sadly very common these days. Getting through all of that testing, and some of those initial treatments.

Angie Alt: Right. And then there’s also the higher cost of insurance. Even though we have laws that guard against things like preexisting conditions with coinsurance and high deductibles, it means that usually folks with chronic illness do end up paying more.

Mickey Trescott: Yep. There’s also an income loss due to lack of ability to work. A lot of people don’t really realize this lack of opportunity cost. But really, sometimes it can involve the work of your partner or your spouse. Sometimes it can affect your ability to do childcare or household duties. Most autoimmune diseases come with some level of disability, and that can come through in either a lack of ability to actually hold a job at a certain amount of hours per week. It can also mean that you have to pay others or get help from other people in your family to do work around the house, which can be expensive. Both emotionally and financially.

Angie Alt: Right. And then there’s the cost of natural or alternative treatments. Which, unfortunately, means usually paying out of pocket. We don’t have good systems in place that allow proper reimbursement through our insurance system for most of those kinds of treatments. And the fact is that combining the best of those natural and alternative treatments with conventional and do-it-yourself methods means that this can be really; a no-brainer. Something you definitely want to take on so you can heal. But it can be really expensive. This includes things like paying for supplements, and paying for different kinds of therapies. Maybe massage, acupuncture, things of that nature.

2. Budgeting benefits on AIP [7:13]

Mickey Trescott: All these things considered, why those of us with autoimmune disease have a little more of a tricky time making a budget. Why should we do it in the first place? We have some reasons for you guys.

Budgeting really stops overspending and prevents debt. So when you know exactly how much money you have coming in, and you’ve planned to use that money in a variety of categories and predictably. Of course, you can’t control the future, and you never really know exactly what’s going to happen. But that act of actually planning helps you not to spend too much of your money, and prevents you from needing to go into debt.

How many of us have not made a plan and then unexpectedly, but then actually kind of expectedly being like; oh, this expense came up. And I kind of knew it was coming but I didn’t really plan for it. You might end up in a situation where you have to go into debt for that.

Angie Alt: Right. Also budgeting can help us reach our goals. For instance, proactively saving. Having that budgetary line item in place helps us kind of get there and reach those goals in reasonable timelines instead of haphazardly putting $10 in the savings account every couple of months.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. It also helps you stop worrying. So, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a lot of anxiety since my diagnosis and initial path with autoimmune disease. Just because, financially it was really difficult for me back then. And even though I’m healthy now, sometimes I worry that if I got sick again, I wouldn’t have the money to kind of figure it out. And I’m anticipating that stress.

So, being able to move towards and reach some of those savings goals might help you stop worrying and relieve some of that anxiety related to it.

Angie Alt: Right. And kind of along those same lines, it helps you have more flexibility. I think when you kind of have planned your expenses, and you have allocated pots of money that are there for certain kind of expenses, it just allows you to be a lot more flexible. And should something really large and unexpected come up, you have more leeway between those different budget line items to kind of move things around, if necessary.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. And lastly, it gives you more control over your money. You know exactly where it’s going, instead of feeling kind of like a passenger every month, paying all your bills and kind of not understanding where everything goes. You understand, actually, now that I have a budget, I know exactly where everything is going. And you can make changes and be informed in that way.

3. Personal budgeting stories [9:41]

Angie Alt: Right. So, Mickey, maybe we can share a little bit about our personal approaches to budgeting and especially how things looked when we first started on this path.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. So I talked a little bit about my diagnosis, and how that financially impacted us. It was very stressful, understandably. Just the diagnosis in and of itself is really stressful. But at the time, my husband and I were both working minimum wage plus tips jobs in a major city. Living paycheck to paycheck. By all means, we were not poor. We were able to pay the bills that we had. We were able to have a great lifestyle that we were happy with.

But when I started to get sick and I wasn’t able to bring in that income, I lost my job. And then we added in all the medical stuff. Which, when I got diagnosed, I didn’t have insurance. So I was paying everything out of pocket. I ended up going into a lot of debt because I didn’t really have any savings, and I didn’t really have a budget, and I didn’t really plan. That kind of threw me for a loop, that six months of my life.

But coming out of it, I learned that I needed to make some big decisions. Like that flexibility piece we were talking about. My husband and I made some decisions that were able to help us pay back that debt just by choosing to go without certain things. For instance, we didn’t have a car. At one point we relied on just using the bus or riding our bike.

Another thing we did was we had roommates in a house that we rented instead of having the house to ourselves. Another thing we did was not go out to eat ever. And we didn’t go on any vacations. So I consider even making so little money in that phase of my life, I realized the position of privilege that I was in being able to be flexible in that way. And yes it was stressful. My husband was then the sole provider. We were taking on debt. We didn’t know how long I would be sick. And then the food budget was just increasing, increasing, increasing. Which is really what we’re going to be talking about today.

But in the end, it all worked out. We were able to pay off that debt. I was able to go back to work. And me feeling better was a really important part of that process; to realize that I was one day going to be able to recover enough to then go back to work and kind of get the cycle working out. So I kind of didn’t have a plan. And got caught in a little bit of a hard place. But that flexibility was really how we got unstuck. What about you, Angie?

Angie Alt: So, for me, the flexibility piece didn’t exist as much. When I started to get sick, we had already come into our marriage with pretty significant education debt. And we had good jobs. Especially my husband, had a great job. And we had really great insurance. We were very, very lucky to have such good insurance coverage. But it meant that I was really limited to pursue anything kind of outside of what was covered within our insurance situation, because we had a lot of debt already to deal with.

So it meant that I had to be really creative within the insurance; what was covered within the insurance. And I had to get really high mileage, basically, out of all of my appointments with my doctors, and be really, really well prepared, and be a really strong advocate for myself. I had to spend a lot of time working with the insurance company, trying to navigate that process. Which can be really frustrating and really difficult, especially when you’re sick. But I was limited in terms of the flexibility.

And later, when we decided that we would choose to take on some more debt for some of those treatments and some of that help that was outside of the insurance system, we really had to buckle down in other areas in order to be able to meet all of our responsibilities with that debt.

Over time, that has eased a lot. We’re not in quite the same situation as we were before. Especially because I was able to go back to work and make a better living than I did previously, when I wasn’t so sick anymore. That made a really big difference for us. But it was not a simple process.

Mickey Trescott: And a lot of these transitions, and during the diagnosis and kind of what followed. We’ve gone without a lot of things and made a lot of choices so that we could afford good food. Would you say that applies to you, Angie?

Angie Alt: Yeah, for sure. For instance, until only about three years ago, we only had one car. We drove an early 2000 Honda Civic, and that’s all we had. My husband commuted back and forth to his work in the city using the commuter buses, or the train. We were really just relying on that. We didn’t really take any significant vacations. Anything that was more than a weekend drive or something away. We also really kind of cut certain line items from our budget. Things like new clothes and those kinds of extras. We just made do the best we could with what was in front of us.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah, something that really shifted for us, as far as that flexibility pieces. Before I got sick, I wouldn’t say we ate out an incredible amount. But we definitely were doing a lot of the quick, fast-ish food, but not quite fast food. Like Chipotle type eating out. Fairly often. And when I got sick and I had to change everything about what I ate, one of those unintended benefits was that we kind of wiped out the whole restaurants and eating out.

And like I said, we didn’t really have a lot of money to spend on eating out. But just transitioning that to the food budget actually ended up making it so that we were spending the same amount of money that we’ve always been spending on food. We’re just spending it on better, higher quality groceries, and cooking the food instead of going out to eat.

Angie Alt: Yeah, that’s absolutely true for us, as well. I mean, we probably went out four to five times a month on average, and that changed to four to five times, maybe, a year on average.

4. Benefit of minimalism [15:58]

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. And something else that happened for us, personally. We started to kind of take on and embrace minimalism. So we didn’t give away or sell everything that we owned and live in a tiny house, by any means. But we definitely made a conscious effort to buy durable and affordable products that last, and usually on sale. So actually some of them ended up not being that affordable.

But things like cast iron Dutch oven. I would know that would make cooking for AIP be so much easier. And yes, it’s a few hundred dollars for a really high quality one. But what I would do is save up, and wait until I got it, and then look at Sur La Table when they’re having their 40% off sale. Go in and grab that, knowing that I’m going to have it for maybe 10, 20 years.

And when you break down that few hundred-dollar cost by that amount of time; as long as you buy the right one, and it’s well made, and durable, and has a great warranty, and you’re actually going to use it. Those types of things; I still have a lot of those great cooking tools that I bought piece by piece in the beginning. Because of that minimalism thing. And then also with the clothes. Not shopping, not having too much stuff. Only having the stuff that we need. I think that relieves a lot of stress in a different way. Not having clutter and stuff. But that’s another topic.

Angie Alt: Yeah. I mean, we’ve done that probably to an extent that worked for our family at the time. And at different points, it was more a match to our lifestyle than others. It’s hard to go too minimalist with a child in the house. {laughs}

Mickey Trescott: {laughs}

Angie Alt: There’s all kinds of things that go along with that. But I mean, for instance. While we were living in Africa, that was definitely a part of our life. And for that very, very early part of me getting sick, it definitely made a difference.

We also minimized a lot of repeat expenses that add up. For instance, we didn’t go out for cocktails all the time. We didn’t go to the movies. We didn’t go to the salon. I didn’t get my nails done regularly. Honestly, probably I should have gotten my hair cut a little more often than I did. We minimized all that as much as possible.

I didn’t spend a lot on any beauty products. And you know, I really still don’t. That kind of became something that, even when my budget could maybe afford a bit more of that, I still didn’t really bring that on board. We weren’t running to the store and grabbing 8 bottles of kombucha a week. Things like that. Those little expenses seem very small in the moment, but it can add up to hundreds of dollars in a year.

5. An investment in your future health [18:53]

Angie Alt: You can kind of comment here, too, Mickey and let them know if you feel this way. But I feel like investing up front in my healing meant that I could work more in the future. And I had more energy to give to my work. I had more ability to be pretty darned productive and very creative in ways that I wasn’t able to be before. So even though it was probably costing money that was really stretching us thin in the beginning. In the end, it has paid off because I was able to really start a whole new career and pour a lot of my life blood, basically, into it. That I couldn’t have done before, had I not put this much into my healing.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah, I totally agree. And I definitely remember a time in my life and my recovery where I made the decision to continue the level of eating well and medical care, like natural treatments that were out of pocket. Even though that month to month period, we couldn’t afford it. We were going into debt every month. Just having faith that in three or six months, I would hopefully be on the same trajectory that I had experienced early with AIP, and that I would be able to go to work. So, that was definitely a conscious effort. And you know, definitely an act of faith.

We’re not saying you can just say, I’m going to pay for this and you’re guaranteed results. Definitely investing up front, I knew if the quality of the food went up and I did the right things, then hopefully that would give me more energy. And it did. I was able to go back to work part time, and then full time. And then also back to school, and all that stuff. And then I met this lady. We haven’t stopped since. {laughs}

Angie Alt: {laughs} But I guess, the thing for me too. In hindsight, I realize that I probably have more energy and ability and clear thought and creativity and all those things than I even did before I got sick. I’m not saying; just like you said. I’m not saying that this happens for everyone. And that it will supercharge you into some amazing career. Or you’ll go back to your former job and be like a rocket ship to the top, and get all these raises and promotions or anything like that.

I’m not saying that that necessarily happens to everybody. But it really transformed my ability. My baseline is totally different. I didn’t even consider before I got sick that I would ever work at the level that I do now. And I think that’s all down to that investment that I put into my health.

Mickey Trescott: Mm-hmm. And continued investment. I feel the same way, Angie. I feel like my brain works completely differently, like it did. Sometimes the body is a little far behind and that’s kind of a Hashi thing. But my brain works again. And I’m able to do a level of critical thinking and planning that I just wasn’t capable of for years.

Angie Alt: Right.

Mickey Trescott: And that’s very useful. That’s an asset.

Alright. So we know that there are situations where some of these simple, low-lying adjustments are not enough. We can’t speak for everyone. Our personal experience is what it is. But digging in to make AIP, or any healing dietary protocol work, for those with extremely limited incomes and other financial barriers to wellness is up next. So if you guys are kind of listening to us; and you’re like; man, that sounds nice. We’ve got some info for you in our next segment. See you soon.

Mickey Trescott: A quick work from our title sponsor this season, the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA is a holistic nutrition school that reconnects people to healing foods and vibrant health. They provide practical, affordable, and transformative nutrition education through their courses, empowering you to launch a new career and heal yourself, your community, and the world.

The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners; like me, I’m an NTP; and consultants, like Angie, she’s an NTC. Emphasizing a bioindividual nutrition. The NTC program is fully online, and the NTP program has workshops in the US, Canada, and Australia. There are scholarships, payment plans, and financial aid available to make both programs accessible to all who desire a comprehensive, holistic nutrition education.

To learn more, visit their website at www.NutritionalTherapy.com. Be sure to check out their free 7-day nutritional therapy 101 course.

6. Introducing our guest, Jenny Harris [23:41]

Angie Alt: Hey everybody! We’re back. Today we are speaking to Jenny Harris, who is a registered dietician nutritionist and trained chef, living in Seattle, Washington. She received her masters of science in nutrition from Bastyr University. Her Bachelors degree of nutrition in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And completed her dietetic internship at Virginia Polytech Institute and State University.

She also holds an associates degree in culinary arts from the New England Culinary Institute. She’s a member of the dietitians in integrative and functional medicine and the food and culinary professional dietetic practice groups of the academy of nutrition and dietetics. And if that isn’t enough, for the last 10 years, Jenny has mainly worked in community health. Serving low income women and families through the WIC program in Seattle, Washington. Last year, she became one of our very first graduates of the AIP Certified Coach program, and that is how we found out about the awesome work she does.

Today, we’re going to go deep with Jenny about how to make healing protocols work, even on very low and fixed incomes. She’ll be sharing with us the specifics of government assistance programs in the US. The realities that people are facing when they need the assistance, and how eating a healing diet should not be exclusive. Welcome, Jenny.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. Yeah, welcome Jenny. Thanks so much for being here.

Jenny Harris: Thanks for having me.

Mickey Trescott: Awesome. So the first question, a lot of our audience like we talked about in the first half of this podcast. A lot of us find ourselves in the middle, and maybe not knowing a lot about these government assistant programs. Can you maybe give us a little bit more of a definition of some of these programs and kind of what they entail?

Jenny Harris: Sure, sure. My experience has mainly been working with the WIC program, as it’s mostly known. The full name is the supplemental nutrition program for women, children, and infants. And it is mainly geared towards anyone that’s pregnant, or postpartum, and then infants, and children under age 5. Specifically, you look at your gross income to meet guidelines for that program. And you’d be at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. In addition, you would have to meet a nutrition risk. Also have a proof of address, in a particular state where you are applying.

In addition to that, there is the SNAP program, which is the supplemental nutrition assistance program, known as food stamps. It was previously known as. You would go in and your income would be assessed as well. And for that program, you would be at or below 130%. There are some other qualifications for that program.

And then in addition, there’s social security. And that program, the lowest age you would need to be is 62. It’s based on the number of years that you’re working, and you receive credits that you would need to get retirement benefits.

Mickey Trescott: Great. And the difference maybe between WIC and SNAP and social security, as far as what people can get for food. My understanding is that WIC has the strictest list of maybe what people can buy with the money, and then food stamps is a little bit more lax. And then social security, people can use that money for whatever they want. Is that right?

Jenny Harris: Sure. Yes, that is correct. The WIC program has specific foods that have been chosen to meet certain nutrition requirements for those particular times in life. Whether you’re pregnant or postpartum, as a child or an infant. The SNAP benefits, it’s a little bit more broad range of items to choose from. And as far as social security goes, I’m not quite as familiar with that. But that sounds right.

Mickey Trescott: And as far as WIC, that might provide the most difficulty, I think, with working within a healing diet. Because they do have certain foods that you can buy. And then with food stamps, I think most programs; at least the ones that I know of here in Oregon where I live. As long as they’re buying food, it doesn’t matter what they’re buying.

Jenny Harris: Yeah, you would have to look at; WIC is evolving more and more. But they have, now, substitutions for different things. For example, if you’re a vegetarian you can choose to get soy milk now, instead of just regular milk, as an option. So there are different options you can look at within the program.

Mickey Trescott: OK. And I’m just kind of looking up some of these requirements. The gross income below 185% of poverty level for WIC, and 130%. The 2017 numbers are looking at $20,000 to $15,000 for food stamps. So those are pretty low-income levels. But just for anyone listening, if they’re thinking maybe they might qualify for that and they don’t know. That might be something to look into.

Jenny Harris: Definitely. And you can do that all online. You can go in and look at your eligibility.

7. Roadblocks and challenges [29:05]

Angie Alt: So, Jenny, we were talking in the last segment about some of the realities that come up for folks like us, who have autoimmune disease or chronic illness of some kind. And the challenges that that presents just all on its own, in terms of budget considerations when we’re getting ready to adopt a healing protocol. And I think there’s probably some special stressors and issues that come up for folks with a really limited income, or even no income. And maybe you can talk with us about that a little bit. I think it’s good for everybody to have a little bit of a reality check about the extra barriers we’re talking about here.

Jenny Harris: You know, looking at housing situation. With a special diet, and you’re living or you’re not knowing where you’re living. Moving from place to place, or possibly staying with friends. Or you have a large group of people living together. Even the possibility of being in a shelter. You have some limitations on what’s available to you, as far as a kitchen. Or how you can store your food, particularly. Depending on where you’re living.

I think some other things to think about would be just families that are working and possibly going to school at the same time. Which I know, a lot of people do. That just brings up some limited time for meal prep and shopping. And also thinking about the idea, now, of food deserts. Where just access to a grocery store, you may be looking at shopping at a convenience store, or possibly using a food bank for your grocery needs.

When you’re looking for a provider, just looking at your accessibility. And then I think, just something to think about, looking at cultural needs. Food needs related to religion. Think all of those can factor in with someone who is potentially wanting to do AIP or a healing diet.

Angie Alt: Thanks so much. I think that’s good for everybody to kind of think about that long list of extra barriers that might exist there.

8. Finding local assistance [31:05]

Mickey Trescott: Can you tell us a little bit more about how people can become more aware of some local, low or no-cost healthcare resources? Because, like we talked about before. The healthcare part and the food budget part are usually competing. And sometimes if people can take advantage of some of these programs where they get assistance in the food side, if they can also make that happen in the healthcare side, that might help them have more access to all of this.

Jenny Harris: I do think that’s really important to consider. Making that first step, whether it’s connecting to a WIC clinic or a public health clinic. Your local community center. Those are great places to start. Anyone that’s in need of medical care, or needs a provider. A great place to start is to go into a public health clinic. All kinds of services there. Seeing a nurse. Many times these clinics also have medical clinics available. And they also have services where they can help you get signed up for health care.

Beyond that, there are programs out there. Even connected to your local hospital. I did some research, and actually didn’t even realize this. But I looked into a Swedish medical center, which is where I used to work in Seattle. They actually cover healthcare costs for anyone that would meet that profile.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah; Jenny, actually I have a personal story to talk about Swedish. Actually, when I was very sick, one of my ER visits was actually at Swedish when I lived in Seattle. And at that time, I didn’t make a lot of money. Angie and I talked about in the first section of this podcast. My husband and I both made minimum wage. And when I got that bill from the emergency room, I didn’t have insurance. And I talked to their billing department, and they said; oh, you should submit a request for financial assistance. And I did that. And they actually covered 90% of the bill.

At that time, I wasn’t below the federal poverty line. But I found their assistance was much more generous. And that actually ended up working out really well for me. And actually, my next two hospital visits, I had insurance, and financially it was much worse for me because of coinsurance and that kind of stuff. So yeah, definitely people should reach out to the different institutions that they’re getting health care from. Because you never really know what kind of programs they have in place.

Jenny Harris: It was exciting to see that, yes. They have such a generous beyond to help people. I think when I was looking; I looked up a few programs. Even just Googling in your local area. Low income, health care assistance. Along those lines. I was able to find, within the Seattle area, there are some organizations like Bastyr that have clinics. They actually go into different community clinic sites around the city and provide, in many cases, free health care services.

So, I think that depending on where you’re living. It would just be a matter of researching that. But I think reaching out to different clinics and just asking is a great place to start.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah, and even some of these natural health care centers. I know Bastyr up in Washington state, and a lot of schools will offer acupuncture or massage therapy or whatever for a reduced rate for working with a student. I’ve known people that have seen doctors at the Bastyr clinic that are still in their training. Obviously supervised by licensed doctors. But those kinds of options too, are totally out there and available for people that need it.

Jenny Harris: Also looking into if you’re a senior or that age group, you can look at senior nutrition services that are out there.

Mickey Trescott: Sometimes for people, it’s a matter of pride and looking out for these resources and asking. But I’ve seen signs. My local dental clinic had a sign a couple of weeks ago that said; “Free community tooth check in.” So anyone could go in and see kind of what they’re dealing with in their mouth. A lot of practitioners offer charity work. Be on the look out for that. Because even my grandfather, who is a rheumatologist. He sees patients one day a week that are low income at no cost. So that can be really helpful.

9. AIP modifications on low-budget [35:44]

Angie Alt: Ok. So, that’s a really interesting discussion about the healthcare side of it. And all the different possibilities for folks to explore out there. But let’s get into the meat of this discussion. How do we make AIP work for folks on very low budget? Jenny, we’d love to kind of dig into this with you and talk about some ideas. I think for Mickey and mine point of view, there are some smart modifications to make here. But we’d love to hear your ideas.

Jenny Harris: I think in thinking about this, I feel like I went back to thinking about how my grandmother used to cook.

Mickey Trescott: Right.

Jenny Harris: Thinking about ways that she would be efficient and save. Really, the things that you all highlight in your book, as far as the nutrient powerhouse foods, really are, for the most part, very affordable. When you’re looking at organ meats. If you’re using bones for broths. That was one thing that my grandmother always did. Depending on where you’re located or what’s available to you. Fish, whether you’re in the interior of the country, or the exterior. You can potentially find those, depending on the season, at a decent cost.

And then also looking at, if you have homemade fermented foods. And also just vegetables in season. But I think all of those things; if you’re working with AIP, I think it would be just a matter of cooking technique.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. I think that’s really valid, Jenny. I know we kind of have a part to play in setting the framework of kind of what AIP is and what it isn’t. But I think this is kind of a great situation to modify the AIP template. And some of you guys listening might find it a little controversial. But I think if someone is faced with the decision of doing a healing diet that is heavily modified to fit their income and not doing it all. They should try to do that modification.

I definitely think things like white rice; which people can cook that in broth and fat. That might not even; just allowing it in the elimination diet for people that don’t have access to enough meet and vegetables to fill their diet. That could totally be possible. Even some properly prepared beans. So soaked, sprouted, that kind of thing. Which I know beans are included on WIC, so it’s one of those foods that might be hard for some people to figure out which foods qualify.

Eggs, too. A lot of people are very sensitive to them. What do you guys think?

Angie Alt: Right. I think if I was working with a client who was very low income, and they had the opportunity to get eggs. Either with their WIC benefits or food stamp benefits, I would be encouraging them to find the best quality that they can afford within that food budget. And give them a shot. Because they are so nutrient dense, and they are a good source of inexpensive protein.

Of course, if it turns out that they have some really obvious sensitivities, we might want to work around that. But I think they’re one of the potential modifications that are probably worth making.

Jenny Harris: I can agree with all of that. There’s definitely another source of protein that I think a lot of people have access to. I know through WIC you receive peanut butter. So that would be something also to think about.

Angie Alt: I remember, too. There was definitely a part of my life where I needed both WIC and SNAP benefits. And it was when my daughter was quite young. And I remember that there was a lot of canned seafood products that were available with the WIC checks. Tuna and things like that. If you just look carefully for brands without additives like soy and everything, I think that’s a great way to get in some inexpensive protein and stretch those benefits.

Jenny Harris: Yes, definitely. And I think that’s a great source of fish and those omega-3s that aren’t as easily accessible.

Angie Alt: I mean, if you’re trying to go to the fish counter and get wild-caught salmon filets, that almost blows my budget. So I can totally understand that. I think there’s also an important piece to raise here, you guys. Which is; conventionally raised meats, fruits, and vegetables are acceptable. I think we get a little too caught up in perfectionism when it comes to AIP. And there definitely are levels of good, better, and best.

And if you choose conventionally raised, because that’s the most affordable, and not organic, then go for it. It’s better that you’re eating some kind of protein, and you’re getting some kind of fruits and vegetables, then you’re totally avoiding them because they’re not perfectly grass-fed or organic or whatever.

If you’re going to go for conventionally raised meats, you’re going to want to trim the fat, and kind of try to avoid that fat. If you’re going to go for conventionally raised, non-organic fruits and vegetables, then whenever possible choose produce that can be peeled. A lot of the pesticides and other chemicals that we’re trying to avoid in non-organic fruits and vegetables are there with that peel. So if you can peel, that will help reduce your exposure to it.

But I think, if you can buy a bunch of non-organic carrots that are on sale and stretch your meals for a whole week, and contribute to your overall healing that way, it’s much better to do that than to hold out to save up enough money for the organic.

Jenny Harris: Sure. And I do think just learning, too, what fruits and vegetables are in season. And also, if you are using the SNAP benefits. Those are actually, in various programs across the country, you can use those at farmer’s markets. You can actually get double the amount. If you’re spending $10, you can actually get $20 worth of fruits and vegetables using those SNAP benefits.

Angie Alt: Yeah, that’s such a big change to the program from when I needed to access it. And I think it’s awesome, and so wonderful that we’re putting that opportunity out there.

You know, I saw another idea that I think is such a good one. I think you kind of pointed us out to a little bit earlier, Jenny. Looking for discount stores, or grocery outlets or shopping Asian or Hispanic markets. When I first started AIP, I was living in the Bay area in California, and I found some Hispanic and Asian markets that were incredible in terms of what I could get with the produce. I mean, I could go in there with like $50 and come out with so much produce. It was way more than I really thought I could get at a regular store. And it stretched our family’s food budget really far. And made a huge difference. So I don’t think folks should write off those stores.

Jenny Harris: In my experience with WIC, and working with a lot of families from different cultures, often I would be asking what they eat. A lot of cultures will eat just basically meat and vegetables, for the most part, with spices. I love going in and being kind of pushed to try new and different vegetables.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah, it’s really exciting, too, now that we have some different resources in the AIP community with different recipe developers that are kind of coming up with some of these more ethnically inspired meals that I think make people from those communities feel a little bit more like they can cook in the flavors that feel traditional and good to them without so much having to come up with it themselves, you know what I mean.

Jenny Harris: I feel similarly, Angie, when I go shopping at the Asian market here that’s close by my house. I do feel similarly, as far as feeling like I’m really getting a lot more for my money.

Angie Alt: Yeah, a lot of bang for your buck. Well, Jenny will you let our listeners know what your up to in your work currently, and where they can find you online?

Jenny Harris: Sure. Currently I’m transitioning. I have been a stay at home mom for a little over a year. And have now started up a website and a blog; FoodyNutrition.com. And I’m just starting there. I’m hoping to work with the public in the future. I’m excited and learning more about functional medicine.

Mickey Trescott: That’s awesome. We definitely need more functional medicine real food RDs. So we’re super excited about what you’re doing, Jenny.

Angie Alt: Yeah.

Jenny Harris: Thanks.

Angie Alt: Thanks again for agreeing to have this conversation with us today, Jenny. You guys, we’ll be back next week. Take care everyone.

Mickey Trescott: Bye!

Jenny Harris: Bye.

Angie Alt: Thanks for joining us on this episode of the Autoimmune Wellness podcast. We’re honored to have you as a listener, and we hope that you’ve gained some useful information.

Mickey Trescott: Did you know that we have dozens of informative articles about living well with autoimmune disease, and over 250 elimination phase compliant recipes on our website, updated multiple times per week? Make sure to click on over to AutoimmuneWellness.com. Follow us on social media. And sign up for our newsletter to find out about all of this new content.

We’re either at Autoimmune Paleo, or at Autoimmune Wellness on any of these channels. You can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of any page on our website. Don’t forget to connect with the AIP community by using the hashtag #AutoimmuneWellness.

Angie Alt: If you enjoyed the podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes, as this helps others find us. See you next time!

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About Angie Alt

Angie Alt is a co-founder here at Autoimmune Wellness. She helps others take charge of their health the same way she took charge of her own after suffering with celiac disease, endometriosis, and lichen sclerosis; one nutritious step at a time. Her special focus is on mixing “data with soul” by looking at the honest heart of the autoimmune journey (which sometimes includes curse words). She is a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy Consultant through The Nutritional Therapy Association and author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook: Eating for All Phases of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. You can also find her on Instagram.


  • Jeannie says

    Please don’t drop me from your list.
    Sometimes the number of emails daily can become overwhelming and I just can’t open and read every one of them or that’s all my day would consist of.
    Thank you

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Jeannie,
      We only delete those who haven’t opened the last 20 of our emails. All you need to do is open one of them every couple of months to continue getting them. Thanks!

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