Eating healthy on a budget

“It’s too expensive to eat healthy!!”

BEAUTIFULBox16_smallI hear this ALL the time. Sure, organic, fresh food can carry a larger price tag than packaged “food” or non-organic produce, but there are ways to eat healthy AND not break the bank. Here are some of my top tips:

Eat produce in season

Let’s be honest… for a great many years of my life, I could not have told you when tomato season was. I know that now — after living in Budapest, where the ONLY fruits and veggies I could buy were those that were currently in season. Most supermarkets in the US carry fruits and veggies from all over the world. But produce that is currently is season is usually on sale, AND it tastes better and is fresher, because it’s been grown in natural conditions for the season.

Buy local

Buy local produce whenever possible. Firstly, it supports local farmers in the community, and secondly, it can often be cheaper — as the shipping costs are eliminated from the price of the food. When buying from local farmers markets it is often possible to find spray-free or organic food for the same price as conventional produce. Often local farmers use organic methods (with no pesticides) without applying for (or carrying) the official Organic label. So you can get as close to organic as possible, and most of the health benefits of organic, without the official Organic label.  Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where you can receive a box of fresh vegetables (and fruits) every week from a local farm.

Plan

When you plan and shop for your weekly meals, everything in the fridge has a purpose, meaning less wasted food. How many times have you cleaned out rotted veggies from the back of your fridge? That’s just wasted money. When you have a plan for each meal, you’ll reduce the stress caused by trying to figure out what to have for dinner each night AND, you’ll be less likely to order expensive take-out because you’re starving and don’t know what to eat. Money saved right there!

Buy foods on sale

Buy foods on sale when you can. (This is related to eating foods in season, but can be applied to meats and other staples as well). Be flexible enough with your plan to be able to swap out expensive foods for those that are on sale. For example, if you planned on having broccoli for dinner but get to the grocery store and find that asparagus is dirt cheap, swap it out! Check the supermarket mailers when you’re making your plan. Stick to buying only what you need, this can be a great way to reduce the cost of your groceries.

Dump the expensive drinks

Gatorade, Pepsi, juices… All of these options are expensive and NOT doing you any health favors.  Consider even dumping your morning coffee. The added caffeine, sugar and other additives Make water your drink of choice. It’s cleansing, good for you and cheap!

Buy in bulk

Buying groceries in bulk and storing them can be a great way to save money. Most nuts and seeds can be frozen to keep them fresh and from going rancid. Grains and beans keep for long periods of time in air tight containers. Produce can be frozen or fermented for storage.

Freeze to preserve

Speaking of freezing, your freezer a great way to preserve foods before they go to waste. I freeze bananas before just as they start turning brown, and use them in smoothies and baking recipes. The same can be done with other produce. Fruits can be stewed then frozen and added to smoothies or warmed and added to muesli. Vegetable scraps can be saved and used to make stock or broth. Be sure to label food with what it is and the date you froze it so you don’t end up with miscellaneous items in the freezer that never get used.

Start a garden

If you have even the slightest green thumb consider growing a garden. Even if you don’t have much space, you can grow lots of herbs and even veggies in pots. Herbs, especially, can be expensive to buy in the grocery store. Parsley, thyme, mint, and rosemary are really hardy herbs and delicious in a variety of dishes.

Explore your priorities

Consider your priorities when it comes to how you spend your money.  Do you balk at spending $3.00/lb on broccoli, but drop $5 on a Starbuck’s Mocha without a second thought? Take some time to understand where you’re really spending your money, and what you’re really prioritizing. Isn’t your health more important? If you are sick, or feeling poorly, what’s more important that getting better? For most of us, our most important asset is our health. If we don’t have good health, almost nothing else matters. So make a statement with your actions and how you spend your time and money. Your health depends on it!




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