Eating Healthy on a Budget
You say that’s impossible?? You think you can’t eat healthy on a budget! Organic vegetables, grass fed, free range meat and chicken are popular and expensive. But, there are times when eating organic and perfectly clean just doesn’t fit your budget. My philosophy on this whole organic, clean food thing is…buy what you can afford. Make sure it fits what is right for your family’s value system. Let’s explore how you can eat healthy on a budget.
Americans spend about 7% of their income on food. The Italians and French spend almost 15%, and the Spanish a whopping 17%. As far as that relates to our health…18% of our gross domestic product is spent on health care, while other nations it accounts for only about 10%. Yet, America is the most unhealthy nation on the planet.
According to Fortune magazine article, America Spends the Most on Healthcare but isn’t the Healthiest Country, Americans are the least healthy population in the world! The author basically goes on to say our system is fundamentally flawed in its approach to health. Our system is about using prescription drugs to fix our ills without considering why we are unhealthy in the first place.
Truth is, our American lifestyle is to blame for 70-90% of the health issues we face. In my words, until our healthcare system makes the shift to address these issues, we will continue to spend more and more on healthcare and get sicker and sicker. Our body’s are not deficient in medications. Spending more on food probably isn’t the answer either. Choosing the healthiest food we can afford IS part of the answer. Here are some tips to keep your wallet and your waistline happy!
14 Budget Friendly Eating Strategies
- Eat what is in season. Generally these items will be less expensive, not to mention more nutritious. The winter tomatoes from a hot house are better than none, but fresh tomatoes, mid-summer – YUMMY!!
- Organic, free range, grass fed. If these descriptors are scary and you cannot afford them, that’s fine. You can still choose healthy items. Vegetables are always more healthy than processed foods. What I have learned is that bag of processed chips costs about the same as a decent sized bag of carrots. Both crunchy, the chips however, have zero nutrition and harm you body while the carrots are packed with good stuff and help your body.
- Cook in large batches and freeze. This helps for meal planning as well as time management – it doesn’t take any longer to cook a large pot of chili than it does to cook a small pot. Also, grab a girlfriend, you can both batch cook for the week and exchange food. If you cook 12 chicken breasts and she cooks 12 pork chops, trade 6 breasts for 6 chops. This gives you both more artery and you can each try new recipes. You could even create a healthy cooking club at work.
- Stay away from work “snacks”. This may not be expensive in terms of price, but generally these office munchies are unhealthy.
- Drink water. Pop and flavored drinks are expensive, non-nutritious and rob your body of nutrients. Juice is high sugar, plus it lacks the fiber and nutrients in the whole fruit. Use slices of lemon, limes or even cucumber to flavor your water when you want a little variety.
- Add legumes/beans to chili and other meat based soups to add great protein and fiber. This will make the soup much more satisfying and keep your portion control, under control.
- Pre-packaged and processed food may be a little faster but are more expensive. These foods lack most of the vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant chemicals. The preservatives and additive are unhealthy and require your liver to use extra nutrients to detox them from your system.
- Bring snacks with you. Nuts and fruit are very portable, kid friendly, and much less expensive than fast-food or empty calorie food like crackers, cereal or chips. Click here for my free eBook, Clean It Up, that includes a healthy eating guide.
- Never shop on an empty stomach. This is the result of my most recent trip to Costco. I was supposed to pick up my photos, string cheese, nuts and gas up my car…clearly NOT what happened! LOL!
- Buying in bulk is not always cheaper. It’s difficult to maintain portion control when you have large quantities. If you like to buy in bulk, create the portion control in your own containers or snack sized baggies, before you put it away. Also, see #5 about processed food, a lot of bulk items are processed foods.
- Eating out is very expensive! For the price for one entree out, you can make an entire meal at home. Think about how much money you really spend during the week for incidental food. Did you run into the gas station and grab a soda? Coffee? Water? Snack food? How many times did you eat lunch out because you didn’t take time to make lunch? Make a simple diary of what you spend on food…you’ll be surprised!
- Plan your meals for the week. Shop and cook two days a week. Batch cooking saves time and money. This will also allow you to have leftovers for lunch and dinner. Kids lunches can also be leftovers. Get small thermoses and fill with leftovers. This will also be a healthier alternative to school lunches.
- If you are buying chips, pretzels and crackers, consider shifting to celery and carrots or some other raw, crunchy vegetable. Long term, this is a healthier choice and probably the same amount of money.
- Make a shopping list and stick to your list. (See the Costco cart above! I totally broke rule 8 and 13.
Take a few minutes this week and consider how much you are really spending on food. Could you save by spending a little time planning? What about batch cooking? You and your family will be healthier in the long run. What are some of your favorite healthy cheap eats?