Eating Healthy on a Budget
Tips to Keep Your Food Quality High and Your Budget Happy
Eating healthy doesn’t need to be expensive. When you compare that to the negative benefits of regularly eating cheap, highly processed, low-fiber and nutrient-void food, it doesn’t compare. Feeling hungry, sick or bloated not long after eating. The eventual weight gain, often resulting in chronic illness, doctor/hospital visits, medications, time-off from work, etc. Or perhaps the cost of diet programs, new clothes/sizes, low self-esteem, low energy, depression, quality of life, and so much more. You CAN have the best of both worlds: quality and nutritionally-beneficial food at a lower cost. Here are a few ways to keep your food quality high and your budget (& body) happy.
❏ Meal Plan . Create your weekly meal plan. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and beverage. To save effort, time and money, make a bi-weekly or monthly meal plan and rotate these.
❏ Sales & Coupons . Coupons are not a thing of the past and can still be found in the papers and online, with circulars or on the brand websites. So search for and/or sign up for your favorites. Side tip: create an email account solely for coupon clipping and shopping to manage coupon email stress. Gather your coupons as you work on your list and compare the weekly sales items. Take full advantage of the sale items if it’s something you will consume and it’s a worthy price.
❏ List Away. Categorically map out the weeks’ meal plan food list. Inventory your regularly consumed perishable and non-perishable food items to see what you need to purchase to fulfill that weeks’ menus shopping list. Update regularly so you know exactly what you have, need or will need.
❏ Buy In Bulk & In-Season & Batch Cook . Save effort, time and money but buying in bulk size/family packs. Whether at your grocer, farmers market, wholesale club or online, in-season produce tends to be less expensive and a higher quality. Oftentimes your local farm stands and CSA’s (community supported agriculture) offer bulk pricing, so check with them first. Then, get cooking, batch-cooking, that is. Cook one for that week, and freeze, can (or dry) the rest for later.
❏ Misfits & Damaged Goods. Misfits are misshapen fruits & vegetables. Though not perfect on the outside, they are still delicious on the inside. These are offered through online subscriptions, or locally, and are a great option. Additionally, supermarkets often have sections set aside with damaged/misshapen foods, damaged packaging or expiring foods, all at reduced pricing. These can save a lot of money and are worth checking into.
❏ Size Matters. Portion sizes matter. Larger than recommended portions not only add to the cost but the calories and unnecessary stress on the body, especially with certain foods. So keep these smart.
❏ Home-Cooked Meals: There’s nothing quite as comforting and nourishing as a home-cooked meal. Cooking from scratch is typically less expensive and healthier too. Tap into your creativity, put on the music, throw on that apron and have fun. A little extra time in the kitchen is well worth the effort. My personal favorite is making broths and all kinds of soups and salads. These are delicious anytime, as a meal or snack, and some can last for a week or more depending how it’s stored.
❏ Avoid the High Cost of “extras”. DIY-it! Convenience comes at a cost, financial and otherwise. Chop those pre-chopped veggies, make the salads, boil the eggs, and shred the cheese. Or easily whip up the next batch of mayonnaise, salad dressing or guacamole/dips. Nut butters, nut milks, sweet potato fries, kale chips, burgers, frozen popsicles, all require minimal time and effort. To save money, have quality freshness, and know exactly what’s in your food, DIY-it. The investment of time has many rewards. Only you know what’s worth it for you, but these are worth a try!
❏ Let Nothing Go to Waste . Stop, don’t discard those celery ends, that broccoli stalk or radish leaves. These make tasty nutritional additions to other dishes. Same goes with most other foods. If you can’t use it now, freeze it. It might be just what you need to add to that soup, casserole, smoothie or stir-fry. Think twice before tossing, it may save you time and money and may be your next favorite recipe or idea. If not, consider composting it.
❏ Side note: peeling fruit and vegetables is not always necessary, in particular, for organic ones. The skins/peels of fruits and vegetables are known to be loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Pesticides can be found in all produce, to some degree (that’s another topic), mostly on the outer layer. Some skins and peels are simply too hard and unappetizing to eat (think: avocados, bananas, or melons), but most are easy and delicious. A good cleaning with a vegetable brush and you should be good to go. If your produce is not organic and/or you are concerned about pesticides, it’s best to peel. Otherwise, use it all, save it, benefit from the nutrients and save money! Or compost it. 🙂
❏ Other Food Waste Considerations . For prolonged quality and life, care needs to be taken at the conditions in which food is stored. Location, temperature, and how/in what it is stored in. Refrigeration vs. room temperature? Air/temp-regulated containers or not? Washing or not? In water or completely dry? Glass or plastic? Getting to know the needs of your favorite foods may take time at first, but once applied, it will undoubtedly save time and money.
❏ Buy Frozen . Many foods are less expensive frozen and do not need to be purchased fresh. Produce is often-times picked and flash-frozen at its peak, so its nutritional value can still be high when consumed. Fresh is always better, but frozen is a great option too, especially if it’s less expensive, and readily available in our freezers at a moments’ notice.
I hope you found this helpful and invite you to share any ideas you may have and find beneficial.
Wishing You Ease, Happiness & Health!