Nutrition,  Wholesome Living

Cheap(ish), Healthy Eats

Fresh fruits and vegetables as part of  eating healthy at home

How to Nourish your Body on a Budget

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…

Pre-Prep Meals

chopped tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, avocado, mango, cilantro, lime

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!

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