Many clients tell me that they don’t eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables because they can’t afford to buy them. Fortunately, with a few adjustments, we are able to find ways to stretch their budgets so that they can eat healthier. By eating healthy foods that nourish them, they may also be saving money on outrageous medical bills in the long run because they’ll avoid the chronic illnesses that are associated with poor eating habits.
So how do they do it, you ask? Well, here are 10 solutions that may make healthy foods fit into your budget, too:
Buy local produce in season. At harvest time, produce is abundant and cheaper. In addition, it is higher in nutrients because it hasn’t been picked before ripening and shipped across the country like many of your grocery store produce. You can often get produce direct from local farms, but CSAs and farmers markets can be convenient options.
Cook from scratch. Food made from scratch is not only cheaper than prepackaged food, it is more nutritious. You can easily avoid all of the food additives, some of which can be harmful to your health, and be sure of eating nutritious whole foods instead of modified foods.
Eat leftovers. Many times leftovers either get thrown out, or get stored in the refrigerator only to make their way to the forgotten back and eventually getting tossed anyway. There are several options for making the most of leftovers. One is to package them in individual serving containers and use them for lunches during the week. If you don’t want to eat the same thing more than once a week, freeze individual servings for quick meals in the future. Leftover meats and veggies can be easily made into a soup or casserole. You can also designate one night a week as a leftover night and serve a buffet of options for your family to choose from. Eating leftovers can be like getting a ‘free meal,’ because you are making use of something you would otherwise throw away.
Eat out less. Redirecting the money you may be spending on daily take-out coffees and lattes, fast-foods and delivered foods could go a long way in purchasing whole foods. Eating out at restaurants and fast-food joints may be convenient, but it is far from nutritious and cost effective most of the time. Fast food joint burgers and fries for 4 can easily cost $20-$30. One large pizza ranges from $12-$20. That’s a lot of money for a little bit of nutrient-deficient food. Plus, cooking at home doesn’t necessarily have to take a lot of time. If convenience is what you are looking for, at home options can include filling a crockpot in the morning so you can come home to a ready and waiting meal at the end of the day, or heating up one of your previously frozen, individually portioned leftovers.
Vary your sources of protein. Meat is not the only option for protein. Other good sources that generally cost less are beans, eggs, yogurt, cheese, chia seeds, nuts and milk. There are so many ways to make wonderful meals from these options. Some that come immediately to mind are whole grain pasta with cheese sauce, soup with beans, frittata or quiche with eggs, eggs Florentine, and yogurt parfait with fresh fruit and granola.
Buy in Bulk. Buying dry goods in large quantities can save you significant money over smaller packaged portions. As an added benefit, you also don’t have to make as many shopping trips! Bulk dry goods may consist of staples such as wheat, flour, oatmeal, barley, brown rice, quinoa, sucanat (less refined form of sugar) and nuts. You may also be able to buy meats in bulk from a local farmer. If you have the freezer space, buying ¼ or ½ of a cow or beefalo may be a good option. We did this a couple of years ago and had beefalo readily available for the entire year. You pay a per pound cost for hanging weight, and when you average it out, the cheaper portions of meat like ground meat may be more costly per pound, but better cuts can be significantly lower. You can generally tell the butcher what cuts you want and have the rest ground.
Grow your own. If you have a large yard or some acreage, seasonal organic gardening is a lower cost way to get fresh fruits and veggies that are not contaminated by pesticides and are higher in nutrient content. If you don’t have much gardening, you still have the option of gardening in containers placed on a deck, in a window, or in a hanging planter from the eaves or a ‘shepherd’s hook’. To preserve food for future use, you can freeze, can, or dehydrate your produce. You’ll especially appreciate the savings and the flavor of home-grown fare in the middle of winter if you live where the climate gets too cold to grow a garden like I do.
“Shop” in nature. You may be able to get some great, edible items in the wild, even if your neighborhood is not terribly wild. One of the men in my old neighborhood would hunt squirrels and his wife would make squirrel stew. Another neighbor would forage for fiddleheads, which he said were absolutely delicious. (He said he would show me how to gather and prepare them, but it’s those things we just have never gotten around to unfortunately.) A lot of people hunt and fish; it’s a cost-efficient way to get lean meat that’s free of artificial hormones and antibiotics. When I was growing up, our neighborhood was full of wild raspberries and blackberries along the sides of the roads; it was a prickly job to gather them, but the taste made it worth it! Like Jase of Duck Dynasty says, nature is “God’s grocery store.” His family seem to be a fan of frogs among other things. I never tried those personally, but I hear that they taste a lot like chicken.
Nourish your body with whole foods. Just the fact that you eat healthy foods that actually nourish your body will help you save money of food costs. If you eat an abundance of cheap, processed foods, you are consuming calories but not all the nutrients your body needs. Your body will tell you that you are hungry, because it is still looking for the nourishment it requires for proper functioning, and you will tend to eat more. Additionally, many food additives in processed foods can make you feel hungrier and lead to you eat more. That doesn’t help your budget, or your waistline!
Drink water. Water is inexpensive compared to other beverages, and your body requires plenty of it. Most of us don’t drink enough of it. You can save money by drinking juices and sodas as an occasional treat rather than a staple, and make water your go-to beverage throughout the day.
What strategies have you used to make healthy eating work on a budget? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comment section below!
To Your Health,