Eat Healthy on a Budget

It’s amazing how many people use the excuse “healthy food costs more”. It definitely can cost more, it’s all relevant to who is shopping, when they shop and what they are shopping for. What some believe to be healthy, may not actually be nutritious. When you strip it all down to the basic food groups and the nutritional breakdown of each food, it becomes quite clear what you can and should do without and what can be substituted easily. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be the majority of your food bill, from a healthy standpoint. Why is it then, that we can purchase a candy bar for 50 cents, but a single banana is over priced if it’s more than 40 cents? Obviously the banana has far more nutritional benefits than that candy bar. We’ve just been trained to add packaging to the value of a product. The ability to save money and eat well, starts with our own perception of the food industry. We don’t see a product as a good value unless it has “20% more inside” or “new larger size”. This is what sets us up for failure in the health department. So how does someone manage to achieve the best of both worlds? Great bargains on truly nutritious foods can be hard to come by, but they are out there.

Purchasing produce in season is definitely one of the best ways to reduce the cost at that time. If you love strawberries all year long; however, you’re still going to buy them even out of season. Frozen fruit has just as many nutrients as fresh, sometimes more, if the fresh was picked young and shipped. You can freeze your own fruit. If you are limited on freezer space, limit yourself to a few of your favorites. Pick these from local farms that offer U-pick, or purchase a large amount from a farmers market. Store the fruit in freezer bags, most fruit varieties freeze better unwashed, just remember to wash them before use. Vegetables can also be purchased this way. Most freeze well, some do not. Any vegetable you’ve seen available in your markets freezer has a green light to freeze at home. Blanching, prior to freezing improve the taste and longevity. To blanch, boil a large pot of water and submerge the vegetable completely for a minute. You do not want to “cook” it, just stop the enzymatic action. After cooling, place in freezer bags and store for up to 12 months. If you plan right, you can have enough of your favorites all year long. This takes some time, but is not difficult, can be a fun family activity and will definitely save money off your grocery bill.

Most of us forget how our grandparents made it through the Great Depression, maybe you were never told any stories. Well, it certainly wasn’t by purchasing bulk packages of chips, soda, candy and mac and cheese. Grandma could make 5 meals out of one roast and canning food was a way of life, not a hobby. Scratch baking was also a normal daily event. These things lead to less money spent at the market. Many of us have full schedules and time does not allow for any extra work. The idea is to take what you’re doing now and reformat it, so it’s more efficient. Your day off rolls around and you’re planning what to make for dinner. Why not make your own pizza? The dough is so simple, yet so many are intimidated. A great recipe can be found on the Food Network site. But while you’re at it, double the recipe. Use half for dinner tonight and freeze the remaining dough after it’s risen the first time through. Then when you’re short on time you can pull it out, instead of ordering a pizza and all the guilt that comes with it. You are in control of how much cheese and what toppings to choose. This can also easily be done with any other meal. Make twice what your family will consume in one sitting, freeze half and save for another time. When you make more from scratch, you greatly reduce the cost. The thought of cooking like grandma is frightening to some because they’ve never done it. It’s far easier than you realize. If you use a good recipe and pay attention, it’s difficult to mess up. If you find a recipe calls for an ingredient that is pricey or not in your kitchen, substitute it for a less expensive alternative. You’ve got to think out of the box, literally when preparing healthy inexpensive meals. If you compared the cost per ounce of a box of Macaroni and Cheese to buying plain noodles in bulk and using a little real cheese instead of the processed orange powder, you’d be surprised to find that it costs less to use fresh ingredients. So change your thinking when it comes to purchasing healthy food, it doesn’t have to cost more, you just have to shop and prepare a little smarter.