Gradual is good!I agree with the other posters but wanted to add my own slant.
- What you put in your body: organic foods and things labeled "health food" can be expensive. A lot of foods labeled this way are just as processed as their commercial counterparts. The "wholer" the food, the better it is for you, and generally it is cheaper than packaged food (ie. cornmeal is cheaper than cornbread mix). I like to think about where my food is coming from- is it local or not, is it organic or not, how far is it from its natural state. Thinking this way helps me buy healthier foods.
-What you put on your body: I think this is very important. Natural shampoos, soaps, lotions can be expensive- but many are cheaper than fancy brands that are full of chemicals. Kiss my face soap is reasonably priced, Natures gate shampoo is cheaper than most commercial brands. I also use fewer products than most people I know- once you get out of the habit of listening to advertisements and get in touch with what you really use, you can streamline your purchases (one kind of lotion works for my whole body, we all use Kiss my face soap- even my toddler, etc.)
-What you use to clean your house- there are a gazillion household cleaners out there- each designed to clean a specific thing- toilet bowl, shower tiles, carpet, etc. And they all contain BLEACH. I would phase out all bleach products and cleaners and phase in a couple of alternatives. Environmentally sensitive companies are making and marketing tons of alternatives as specific as the bleach-filled ones- but do we really need different cleaners for each of these things? Instead I use lemon oil to polish furniture, Dr. Bronners Sal Suds to clean most surfaces and even take spots off of floors (talk about cheap!), Bon Ami (still $.79) to clean sinks and tubs, Baking soda, Vinegar, and washing soda for lots of other stuff. And because of these boards I recently ordered a book to help me make my own cleaners.
- Garden and Compost- growing food, just a little, will help you have a healthier connection to the food you eat. And composting is extremely satisfying- it is one of the best things that I do. And it can be done for FREE. (Certainly in my community where I have to pay by the bag to get rid of my trash, it saves me money)
Find some help. Here in VT there are tons of buying clubs so I get a real discount on food, soaps, cleaners by belonging to my local buying club. We buy direct from the distributor and work together to sort out the order, bag flours and grains, etc. If you can't find a buying club find a co-op and join and volunteer for a discount. And if these things aren't available- seek out others who are living closer to the earth to share ideas, pool resources, and have fun.
This is such a fun journey- I learn more on the way than I ever thought possible. Enjoy it!