February 11, 2014

Healthy Eating on a Budget


Most people have the notion that healthy eating is difficult to maintain, not to mention expensive, but it’s actually the other way around. It may be expensive compared to the common unhealthy choices available, but these unhealthy choices may lead to expensive medical problems in the long run…. so do the math.  It’s also easy to maintain healthy eating, as long as you know where to shop and how to shop wisely. Here are several tips that can help keep your food budget intact, while providing yourself with all the healthy nutrients you need.

Plan your meal
Meal planning is one of the best ways to stay on budget, while allowing you to monitor your selection of healthy food choices. It can also reduce the time it takes to shop and prepare for food. Try to prepare manageably-sized portions of food to control your intake of calories, as well as to be able to use your leftovers for additional meals. One-pot dishes such as casseroles, soups and stews can make great leftovers. For example, you can turn that additional stew into tasty burritos for tomorrow’s lunch.

Shop wisely
Healthy eating and sticking to your food budget can be easier than you think. It all comes down to how good you are in choosing the right store and shopping wisely.  Here are some tips:
  • Discount stores - There are several discount stores or warehouse clubs that offer great bargains for fresh produce and meats. Products that are in season are often cheaper in these stores, but proper meal planning is needed since they are offered in bulk or large portions.
  • Farmer’s market - Many cities host a weekly farmer’s market, where local farmers offer their products at reasonable prices. Some farmers offer cheaper prices for perishable items, especially at the end of the day or at the end of the season.
  • Generic or store brands - Generic brands are more economical than products with brand names. They have the same quality product with less advertising and packaging costs.
  • Take advantage of coupons offered - Couponing is also a great way to save money without compromising healthy food options. There are numerous supermarkets that offer cheaper products by using coupons, which can be printed from their website or through magazines and newspapers.
  • Get customer card - Supermarkets and grocery stores offer customer cards that provide additional discounts on purchased items. Some even hold sales exclusively for customer card holders.

Order non-perishable in bulk
Though this idea can look expensive because of the upfront cost, it can actually save more money in the long run. Dried beans, grains, canned foods, herbal teas and olive oil are a few non-perishables items that can be purchased in large packages.

Grow your own food
Even if you have limited space in your yard, growing vegetables can be doable. This will allow you to have the freshest ingredients on hand, while keeping the food budget down. Some cities also offer garden plots for rent, which can be convenient if you don’t have the space. There are also books and online articles that instruct you on how to maximize space in small yards and manage container gardening.

Have your own livestock
Having your own livestock such as chickens, pigs or cattle can significantly cut down on your food bill. However, this may not be feasible if you only have a small backyard. Chickens can be easily raised even if you have a small space.  Additionally, there are some farmers that offer grass-fed beef at much cheaper prices than the supermarkets.

Healthy cost-effective choices
Foods that are fresh and nutritious can be expensive compared to commonly available foods on the market today. Here are several tips on choosing healthy food options:

  • Meat - Choose cheaper cuts of meat, which can be used for more meals such as casseroles, stews, soup and sauces. You can add in extra vegetables for more hearty and filling dishes.
  • Vegetables - Some vegetables can be expensive, but there are ways you can get their key nutrients at a reasonable cost. Leafy greens, such as kale and collard, are just few superfoods that can be bought cheaply. Frozen vegetables are also great choices since they are usually picked and frozen at their peak of ripeness, making them nutritionally dense.
  • Fruits - It is best to purchase fruits that are in season to ensure you’ll be getting optimum nutrition and taste. Canned fruits can also be handy additions for last-minute meals. Some fruits that are cost-efficient include watermelon, bananas and pears.
  • Drinks - Cutting down on unhealthy drinks -- such as sodas, canned drinks and processed juices -- can free up extra cash for much healthier choices. These beverages don’t offer much nutrition and are often expensive to boot. Water is the safest, most nutritious and most economical beverage around, but if you’re not too keen on drinking water all the time, you can alternate it with other healthy options. Herbal teas, for example, have lots of nutrients and antioxidants that can be beneficial to your body. 

David Novak’s byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world.  He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline.  To visit his other stories on Healthline, visit http://www.healthline.com/. 

1 comment :

Meghan said...

I absolutely love farmers markets! That was my favorite thing to do on the weekends when I was living downtown!


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