Tips and Tricks to Eat Healthy on a Budget
There’s no reason to stop eating healthy, nutritious, tasty food during hard economic times. In fact, now is a great time to experiment with various types of food. So what are you waiting for? Use these tips to get you in the mood.
Your Healthy-Eating, Money-Saving To-Do List
- Write a grocery list. Always. Never go shopping without one. Plan it carefully, and stick with it.
- Ask around about the best places to shop.
- Shop at farmer’s markets.
- Join a co-op, especially if it’s run by volunteers.
- Think carefully about deals that seem gimmicky, and ask yourself if they’ll really save you money. If they won’t, you might end up buying what you don’t need and won’t use.
- Cut down on prepared “convenience” foods. They’re not only unhealthy but also expensive.
- Don’t eat out as often.
- If you can, brown-bag it.
Bulk Food in Bins
Shop in the bulk-food section of your grocery store. That way, you can buy what you need without paying for all that packaging. Look at what you normally buy in large amounts, and see if the bulk-bin section sells it. Buy it in a package only if you can’t find it anywhere else in the store. Consider lentils, beans, brown rice, quinoa, and bulgur wheat. Stock up!
Carbs–Cheap, Delicious, and Filling
Carbohydrates are “fill-you-up” food; they’re cheap, and they give you energy. But skip the refined “white” carbs and instead look for the browns: unrefined rye, whole wheat, spelt flour, and brown rice. If you buy them in bulk, you can save even more money. There are lots of simple, tasty recipes that use good unrefined carbs–use them!
Buy Vegetables in Season
In-season veggies are both better and cheaper. Winter is the time to experiment with cabbages, parsnips, broccoli, squash, and root vegetables. Squash in particular is endlessly versatile and usually inexpensive. You can use cabbages for a coleslaw or stuff and bake them for an excellent winter meal.
Instead of white potatoes, try sweet potatoes, which pack more vitamins. Hardy root vegetables are the basis of a good soup, stew, curry, chili, or casserole. Shopping in-season also keeps you in tune with your natural surroundings. When strawberries are in season, they are a treat because they’re not rock-hard and pasty pink.
If you can, start your own vegetable garden–that’s local food at its best. If you don’t have the yard for a garden, find out if there’s a community garden in your area.
Co-ops in Your Neighborhood
Does your town have volunteer groups that run stores, sell in bulk, or buy produce from local farmers? Find out. If a group like this doesn’t exist where you live, consider starting one yourself!
Don’t Compromise on Taste
Eating drab, dull food isn’t the way to go. People on a budget often end up eating nothing but white refined pasta or regular ground meat. Resist fatty foods! They may be cheap, but the hidden costs can add up fast. Being unhealthy and overweight won’t save you any money.
If you’re on a budget, you can still eat well–all it takes is imagination and a sense of adventure. Invest in spices to liven up your meals. Experiment with sauces. Prepare them in large quantities, and freeze or preserve them. Make your own stock and freeze it in containers that will be ready when you want soup or stew. Curries, stews, and stir-fries are great ways to stretch meat or use leftovers.
Try macaroni and cheese with real cheese and whole-wheat or vegetable pasta. Even something as simple as a peanut-butter sandwich can be healthier with whole-wheat bread and real, old-fashioned peanut-butter. Yes, that’s right; comfort food can be healthy!
Use What You Have
“Leftovers” shouldn’t be a dirty word. What you have in your pantry and fridge is your inspiration, and you should use those things before you go out and by something else. Leftover chicken can mean chicken fried rice the next day. Save and use the water from boiling vegetables in soups, stews, and bread.
A Little Help from Your Friends
Get friends and family members to help you out with cooking. Ask them for ideas. Variety is important, and with more than one cook in your family or your household, you won’t get into a rut. Cooking can be a form of entertainment for everyone. Talk to your spouse, your roommates, your friends, or your kids about what they’d like to eat and how they can make it on a budget.
Discover New (and Old) Recipes
Chances are, your grandmother’s family’s recipes were economical. Perhaps you remember her talking about pierogis, ribs, curry, or gumbo. Phone up your mom, your grandma, or your aunt. Ask if they have any good recipes to share from the past.
Those meals from long ago may have tasted good, but they probably weren’t all healthy. Right now, there’s more information available than there ever has been before about healthy cooking in general, vegetarianism, and veganism. Go out and find it! Do a few Internet searches or check out a book full of great new recipes at the library. Culinary inspiration is waiting for you just around the corner.
If you follow all these tips, beware–you might end up eating so well that when good times come around again, you won’t go back to your old extravagant ways!
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