Eating Healthy on a BudgetBy Agenda Magazine | March 28th, 2012 | Category: Fitness Couture, Nutrition | No Comments »
When finances are rocky and the price of shopping for good food can almost require a co-signer, it can be difficult to make quality or cost-friendly decisions. The statement, “I can’t afford to eat healthy,” needs to become, “How can I afford to eat healthy?” Where there is a will, there is always a way. There is no need to sacrifice the quality of your health to spare your budget; the answer lies in planning. As your reward you not only keep more in the bank but enjoy the bonus of enhanced energy, mood, esthetics, mental clarity, and overall health. If this weren’t reason enough, you may also consider that eating better now will avoid potentially expensive medical complications due to poor eating habits. If there’s one thing worth investing in, it is a long and healthy life. After all, what is all that money you saved good for without the good health to enjoy it? Here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.
Tips for Eating Healthy and Affordably
- Frozen vs. Fresh Vegetables – While canned vegetables do lose a significant amount of nutrients during the preservation process, frozen veggies hold their own. Frozen vegetables are often significantly more affordable and are actually frozen at their peak ripeness. They lose some water-soluble vitamins but over all are packed full of nutrients at a significant savings. There is also no grand difference between the Jolly Green Giant and the value brand. Brand name is not everything when it comes to fruits and vegetables; after all, an apple is still an apple over all regardless of its name. If you are concerned about the quality of your produce as pertaining to pesticides and toxins, then look for organic labeling or find your way to your local farmers market.
- Buy Local – The cost of organic certification can often keep local growers from being able to stick that fancy label on their produce, but it doesn’t mean the food isn’t naturally grown and significantly marked down, compared to store-bought organic produce. You can head over to your local farmers market and simply ask the vendors personally how they farm their produce. Should you find their methods acceptable, stock up and freeze what you don’t use for a huge savings packed full of fresh nutrients. Not only do you save money buying the organic produce you craved, but you help support local farmers to continue to offer this treat. A double win scenario!
- Cleanse Your Non-organic Produce – Most people cannot afford a completely organic diet as much as they may want, but luckily not every piece of produce needs to be organic. Certain produce items have thick enough layers that pesticides cannot penetrate the outer layers, such as melons or bananas. Chemicals are made to hold on during the rain, though, so a simple water rinse would not suffice. Try a homemade soak of equal parts vinegar and water to shed off pesticides, or purchase a produce wash spray to do the job. There are twelve produce items that do have extremely thin outer layers, so you will want to prioritize these as organic options. Aim to purchase peaches, apples, potatoes, lettuce, spinach, grapes, pears, cherries, strawberries, nectarines, celery, and bell peppers in organic form for the best bang for your buck
- Hunt Sales, Stock Up and Freeze – Do not be ashamed to hunt a bargain down and clip a coupon or two. Quality produce and meat sales are everywhere. Aim for bulk purchases and freeze them to enjoy the quality savings over time. Search local newspaper or market ads for promotions and capitalize. Often markets will advertise a large deal they make little to no money on to bring in customers, and this is the time to stock up. Seek out a local food outlet which sells the same quality food but is forced to sell at extremely lower prices due to overstocking or lack of popularity for certain items you just so happen to love. Looking for a bargain does not make you cheap; it makes you smart and fond of your hard-earned money.
- Hydrate Naturally – You would be surprised at how often you feel hungry and you are actually just thirsty for natural water. It can be so easy to drench your taste buds in expensive sugary sports drinks or fruit juices that just make you hungrier. You could flavor your own home-filtered water or make your own natural preservative-free juices. Another ideal alternative to fruit drinks would be to eat the actual fruit instead. Bottled water can add up when you could filter your own water at home for a fraction of the cost, and you can even flavor it yourself with natural fruit concentrates. You can make your own fruit smoothies with those frozen fruits you were so smart to purchase in bulk for this exact purpose and pack much more nutrient power by adding in a variety of veggies and fruits for the sweet kick.
- Lean the Protein – Your protein choices are often the most costly but don’t have to be. Eggs, canned tuna, deli cut meat, and cheaper cuts of lean meat are all reasonably priced options for protein. Often you will find steals when purchasing meat in bulk at markets due to promotions, or make some major saves by going straight to a local butcher and skipping the middleman. Whey protein powder is a great cost-effective source of protein when you are looking for a convenient source of quality protein for on-the-go.
- Pack A Meal – To avoid surprise hunger attacks during the day that will prey on your weakness and inevitably send you to the nearest fast food fix, pack nutritious, filling food. Try to pack your food the night before long days to avoid rushed decisions or forgetting food altogether. If you know you are out for extended periods of time, make an effort to purchase healthy snacks that you can tote around ahead of time to curve your craving to pull into a drive thru. It’s easy to find cheap junk food around today, but we all know how these bad options leave us feeling soon after, costing more physically in the long run. Purchase favorite nuts as a great healthy snack you can take with you, or dehydrate your own fruit and save a killing on dried fruit as a snack. Should you be feeling even more daring, you can even find a great recipe and bake your own granola or snack bars. The idea here is to plan ahead so that you don’t find yourself in a scenario where your only options are either inexpensive junk food or highly over priced quality food.
- Eat; Then Shop – Last tip for now—and one we can all agree on—is never to shop for your food when you are hungry. When you go shopping on an empty stomach, you will purchase so much more than you typically would and make decisions we can both agree might not be the best in comparison to those made on a full stomach. Ideally, you would like to go shopping during the calmest point of your day on a full stomach to avoid stressful crowds hastening your decisions or your appetite picking your meals.
Take-away message is that you don’t need to have a giant food budget to make good healthy decisions for yourself and your family; you simply need to put forth some effort in planning. Brand name is not always better than generic, organic is not always necessary, and saving money is just a smart move that will end up keeping you healthier longer with all the great choices you will now make.