Friday, March 1, 2013

My Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget!

Most people seem to think that it is very expensive to eat healthy. I beg to differ. If you adopt a “mostly plant based diet” for optimal health as emphasized by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, it is not very difficult to lean out your food bill. Meat is expensive and time consuming to prepare, so that is where a lot of the American food budget goes (and some estimate about 50% of the food is wasted by being thrown out!). I am not advocating that you become completely vegetarian*, but I guarantee you can be healthy and have more money in your wallet if you cut down on your meat intake (yes, chicken does count as meat!). 

Also, if you also set aside some time each day to prepare your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you will save hundreds to thousands of dollars each year otherwise spent eating out. If you are looking to lose weight, cutting down on meat portions (and increasing veggies!), and leaving eating out for special occasions will be your best tools in losing those extra pounds. DO NOT buy into all the prepared food diet programs with specialty shakes, supplements, and meals, because that will derail your budgeting (and eventually, weight loss) efforts!! Below are some tips to help you cut your food costs and get more creative with your meals!

My Tips:

1.    Use your freezer! As a rule of thumb, freeze anything you won’t eat or drink in the next 3 days that will go bad. Examples:
·         Freeze ½ loaf bread, milk/soymilk (almond doesn’t work!), leftovers from dinner, berries, cooked vegetables, even hummus!

2.    Buy frozen vegetables & berries: Frozen veggies tend to be MORE nutritious than fresh since they are picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen immediately. Recs:
·         Frozen spinach, mustard greens, chopped peppers, veggie blends- add to omelets, pastas, stir fries, etc!

3.    Make cottage cheese (reduced sodium or no-salt added) a staple food! Cottage cheese is a very cheap protein and super versatile
·         Add cottage cheese like you would cheese in omelets and pastas, or on potatoes
·         Use in salads mixed with salsa as the “dressing” or in Mexican dishes as a sub for the sour cream & cheese
·         Blend in smoothies or mix with fruit or pumpkin butter as a delicious dessert

4.    For the most part, only buy things when they are on sale. Shop around looking at store circulars to identify foods you need and where you can get them the cheapest
·         Bread products, yogurt, cottage cheese, frozen veggies, and most other food items are on sale at any given moment- so stock up when they hit a price low.

5.    Use coupons! Though it may be a hassle, using coupons can save you tremendous amounts of money on your bill.
·         Look in the middle of your weekend newspaper for the “Smart Source” and other manufacturer coupon flyers- these often have $1.00 coupons (even if they are $0.55, most stores double that, so you’ll get over $1.00 savings!)
·         Search for coupon websites and look at your product website- oftentimes they have coupons available for their products.

6.    Shop in the bulk bins. Shopping at Whole Foods can get expensive, or it can be super cheap if you shop in the bulk bin section!
                 ·         You can often get nuts, cereals, grains, and other foods for a 
                        huge price reduction in the bulk bins. 
                        My favorite things to get in bulk are oat bran, walnuts,
                         pumpkin seeds, and quinoa.         

By following my simple tips, I guarantee you will cut down your grocery bills by a hefty percentage. Now you can use that extra money to buy yourself a pair of spin shoes or a personal training session!

*I'm not discouraging going veg either! Read this article and you may want to consider it! The fact vegetarians are healthier than meat-eaters is ‘one of the most consistent findings of nutritional epidemiology’


Jillian Johnson said...

Thanks for sharing. Like many, I made losing weight my New Year's resolution and I was afraid that buying healthy would be pricey. I was able to find good deals at the smaller grocery stores as compared to big names stores. I also started shopping in bulk at places like Sam's Club, and became an avid coupon collector. I even started shopping online, and thanks to social commerce sites, you seriously see prices drop!

Rachel Page said...

I’m not so sure how this helped me while keeping my budget in tack, other than buying in bulk, eating seasonally, and growing my own.