We all know that we should eat healthy but there are any
number of reasons that we may not eat healthy: lack of time for cooking, deep
ingrained preferences for unhealthy foods, lack of nutrition knowledge, among
others. But one common reason given is
“it’s too expensive!” I could write several more articles on what the
healthiest eating style is, but for the sake of this blog, I am going to define
healthy eating as consuming mostly whole foods: fruits and vegetables, whole
grains, lean proteins, nuts and seeds and other healthy fats. And it’s true, it
IS more expensive to eat that way than it is to get the dollar menu at
McD’s. Nonetheless, we can eat healthy
without breaking the bank and here are some ways to do it.
Make Most Meals at Home
It can be faster and seem easier to pick up food while you’re
out, but it almost never is the cheapest option (especially for healthier
fare). A smoothie at a specialty store will likely be $8-$9 and often have a
lot of added sugars. A Bolthouse
smoothie may be $2.50-$3.50, while one
prepared at home will likely cost about $2 or less. And, as long as you have the ingredients for
the smoothie, it doesn’t take long to make one! Another example: a spinach
salad with grilled chicken from a restaurant might be $12 – $16, from a salad
bar, $8-$9 a pound, and made at home with left over chicken, about $2.50. If you have some of the veggies pre-cut, the
cook/prep time is low. Which brings us
to our next tip…
If you have a partner, kids, or a roommate, ask them to help
with this. Many things can be batch prepped on the weekends: chopping veggies
such as carrots, broccoli, peppers etc, cutting up melons, hard boiling eggs,
cooking whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.
When making meals, make more than you need unless it won’t keep
well. Freeze extras in the serving sizes
that will work best for you. Some things
like soups and casseroles can keep for weeks or months in the freezer, so make
a lot! To make the meal prepping more enjoyable, do it while doing something
else such as watching a Netflix show or listening to a recorded book or podcast.
If you don’t have to make an entire meal every day, it’s a lot less daunting to
eat at home in a healthy way.
Be a Savvy Shopper
Another big key to eating healthy on a budget is being a
savvy shopper. Look at the food ads
every week and see what the stores have on sale that week. Use bulk stores when it makes sense, but
remember that if you throw out half of what you bought, it’s not a
bargain. At this time of year, look for
farmer’s markets and CSA’s for your produce.
And buy seasonal produce. Summer
is great for greens and corn and peaches, but not so great for oranges. Some of
the lowest per item healthy foods include the following: bananas, eggs, beans,
carrots, brown rice, onions, oats, whole chicken (vs parts). Also remember that frozen or canned foods are
often cheaper and usually just as nutritious (or almost) as fresh. Plan your
weekly meals before you shop so you don’t waste food, and if you do end up with
extra, freeze it, or cook and freeze it,
to save if you can.
While eating healthy while cooking at home can still cost a bit more that cooking less healthy meals at home, if you use these tips, it doesn’t have to be outrageous and the benefits to your health will be worth it!