Eating Healthy on a Budget
In our struggling economy, with rising food prices, making healthy choices at the grocery store is a challenging, but attainable goal. Even on a tight budget you can stock your cupboards and refrigerator with fresh, nutrient-dense foods. There are a few simple tricks that will help you make nutritional, affordable selections.
The first healthy choice you can make in the grocery store is to buy ingredients, not prepackaged foods. The lure of cheap, easy-to-prepare meals can be hard to ignore, but a diet rich in snack cakes and pasta products will leave you deficient in necessary nutrients and sluggish from excessive calories, sugars, saturated fats and sodium.
Brown rice and whole wheat pastas bought in bulk will not only save you money, but are heart healthy and will keep you feeling full longer. Lean meats and legumes can be prepared in a variety of ways and will add inexpensive protein and flavor to a healthful fiber-packed dish or salad.
Avoid buying sugary soft drinks and sweetened beverages. Even purchasing purified water is more cost effective than any other beverage. If your tap water is okay you’ll save even more money. Add a slice of lemon or lime to your water, purchase frozen 100% juice concentrate on sale for the kids, and if you must drink something other than water, an antioxidant rich black or green tea is a good choice.
When buying produce, buy what you eat, and eat what you buy. Splurging on fruits and vegetables that you don’t like and won’t eat will not make you healthy or save you money. Purchase fresh fruits and veggies in amounts that you know you can consume within several days.
Watch for sales on frozen fruits and vegetables, which have a much longer lifespan than fresh produce. Frozen berries are a great addition to a homemade smoothie, and frozen veggies warm up quickly for a healthy side dish.
Keep an eye on the sale bin in the frozen meat department of your grocery store. Often various lean cuts of meat will be reduced for quick sale. You can save money by buying meats on sale or in “family size” packs, just freeze what you won’t be immediately using, and thaw when needed. Less expensive, lean cuts of meat often taste best slow-cooked, as this helps to retain moisture and flavor.
Try new recipes. Look for those utilizing fresh ingredients, low-calorie condiments, and new spices and flavors that you might enjoy. Learn to use leftovers. Making soup from scratch gives you control over the sodium content and is a great inexpensive meal that can use up meat, pasta, and vegetables. Leftovers are also great the next day for school or work lunch boxes.
Don’t deprive yourself. When eating healthy, and shopping on a budget, make sure to splurge on just one thing that will help you feel both healthy and happy. A small bar of rich dark chocolate packed with antioxidants, or a half pound of your favorite gourmet roasted coffee beans will go a long way in making you feel that you aren’t missing out on the foods you enjoy.
With creativity and a little bit of effort you can purchase delicious and healthy food for your family, even on a tight budget. You’ll get more bang for your buck, in energy, stress management, and health care costs, as well as your grocery bill. You can afford to do it, and with all of the health implications, you can’t afford not to.