Healthy Eating on a Budget

There is a preconceived idea that in order to change your diet to a healthy diet, your grocery bill will increase. This doesn’t have to be the case. If your idea of a healthy diet is changing from prepackaged convenience food to organic prepackaged convenience food, then yes your grocery bill will increase.  But that is not the only option.

So let’s start with defining what a “healthy diet” is. What to eat doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We are bombarded with dietary information, most of it conflicting and confusing. Michael Pollan pretty much sums it up when he says “Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants.” And “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” My basic definition of a healthy diet is to eat real food. You will learn to fine tune what to eat based on your own body’s individuality.

Next, add up your current food costs. Not just your grocery bill, but your family’s daily trips to the local coffee house, vending machines, take-out orders, and restaurant meals. You may be surprised how much you are actually spending. You may be spending over $60 a month on just your morning coffee stop, not to mention the days those overpriced muffins or pastries caught you in a weak moment. If you bought fair trade organic coffee and brewed your own each day you could save over $40 a month. That is just changing one behavior, imagine how much you could save in a month changing three! Now you have some extra $ to buy the organic pasture-raised eggs, vegetables, grass-fed meat, etc. and you will still come out ahead.

Other ways to trim your food bill while still buying organic responsibly grown and raised food:

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  • Cut back on the prepackaged convenience food. Buy loose greens not the prewashed ones in the bag. Cut up your own vegetables, don’t buy the precut ones. Shred your own cheese.
  • You do not have to eat meat every day. Make dishes a few days a week using quinoa, lentils, or beans for protein.  Throw in various vegetables and add avocado or nuts for healthy fats. Experiment and have fun trying new things. Lentils are great because they don’t need to be presoaked and they cook fairly quickly.
  • Buy the whole chicken. You can get several meals out of one roasted chicken plus make your own stock to be used for soups and other dishes later. Make sure you purchase organic free range chicken. I plan to write a whole post on factory farmed meat vs organic at a later date.
  • Buy frozen fruits and vegetables when on sale and stock up. Then there isn’t an excuse for not having a vegetable with your meal.
  • Buy locally grown produce and buy what is in season. It is better for you and the environment. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can join a CSA do so, or better yet grow your own. It is a fun activity for the whole family. Your kids will be more inclined to eat the vegetables if they planted them.
  • Eating foods high in fiber will help you to eat less because you will feel full faster, plus it will balance your blood sugar.
  • Get familiar with EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for a list of produce you should always buy organic, and which ones you can buy conventionally grown. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
  • Prepare meals ahead of time. If you plan ahead then you are less likely to grab take-out after a long day.

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Planning ahead is probably the hardest thing for most families to do. It is for me. Make it a goal to eat more meals at home. Pick a night you know you will have time to prepare several meals for the week ahead. Make it a priority. Plan menus so you can get several meals out of only cooking once. You will benefit by having a less stressful eating experience and the ability to spend time enjoying your family.

  • Make a large pot of brown rice or quinoa to have on hand to add various proteins and vegetables to during the week.
  • Hard boil some organic eggs and keep in the refrigerator for a quick snack or add to a salad.
  • Keep healthy snack options in the house, natural peanut butter and apples, nuts, carrots, hummus, yogurt etc. These are more filling healthier options than eating a bag of chips.
  • If you don’t own a slow cooker, buy one. If you own one, use it! The slow cooker is your friend. You can throw a handful of ingredients in and walk away, and if your family is small you just made dinner for two nights.

Bottom line, cooking real and healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive. It doesn’t require exotic ingredients you can’t find in your local grocery store. It just takes some planning and a commitment from you to do it for yourself and your family.

If you need help with meal planning, or just feel lost in the grocery store and don’t know what to buy to make healthy meals, please contact me. I would love to help you out.

 

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