This post is the second installment in the natural health and wellness blog post series I will be writing weekly for the Summit Chiropractic blog.
Eating Healthy On A Budget
It seems as if in today’s day and age, with the world’s knowledge at our fingertips and healthy options popping up everywhere you turn, it would be easier than ever to live a healthy lifestyle, but that’s not the case.
According a recent Huffington Post article, people claim that the biggest reason for why it is so difficult to eat healthy is not lack of willpower, lack of knowledge, or even lack of access to healthy foods, but cost.
In a world where a cheeseburger at McDonalds costs less than a salad, it’s no wonder people get derailed and have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet while also sticking to their budget.
So read on for my favorite tips on how eat healthy on a budget.
Go almost plant-based
Vegan, or “plant-based,” diets have been getting a lot of attention in the media lately. A plant-based diet is one free from all animal products; including meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy. This may sound a bit extreme to some, but the benefits of a plant-based diet definitely weigh out the cost, both nutritionally and financially.
Think about how much less expensive a serving of oatmeal, banana slices, a sprinkle of nuts and a dash of cinnamon is than the standard American breakfast of eggs, bacon and an English muffin. How about topping your salad with beans for protein instead of grilled chicken or feta cheese? Or how about a small coffee with a splash of soymilk instead of a fancy nonfat milk latte? These small changes will leave you with a lighter body and a heavier wallet.
The best way to incorporate the benefits of a plant-based diet without giving up your old favorites is the “Vegan Before Six” (VB6) approach. By eating a fruit, vegetable, whole grain or legume based breakfast and lunch, you’ll have more energy throughout the day and still be able to have all of your omnivorous favorites for dinner.
Get to know your local farmer(s’ market)
Have you ever noticed that a tiny carton of raspberries at the grocery store cost upwards of $5 in the winter, but in the summer you can get a huge carton at the farmers’ market for $2? Buying seasonally and locally is always cheaper. If you’re not sure what’s seasonal where you live, check out this handy guide. You can seriously score some great deals at the farmer’s market. If you shop right before closing time the farmers may even discount their items further.
Bulk bins, that is. Most health food stores have a bulk section where you can pick and choose how much (or how little) of each item you want. Because there is no packaging or advertising involved, you can get dried beans, grains, spices and specialty “superfoods” for a fraction of the cost as their packaged and brand name counter parts.
I have literally eaten meals for less than a dollar when shopping in the bulk section. Bulk beans and grains coupled with some veggies from the farmer’s market make for an excellent meal. If a healthy recipe calls for a teaspoon of a spice you don’t think you’ll ever use again, buy a pinch in the bulk section rather than wasting money on a whole jar.
Cooking in bulk also saves you time and money, make a big batch of dried beans and a whole grain every Sunday so you can reheat or use as salad toppers throughout the week.
Don’t have time to cook in bulk or visit your local farmers market this week? No worries, Trader Joes offers awesome health food products for low price. They have a large selection of organic canned beans, frozen packets of brown rice and quinoa that are ready in 3 minutes, precooked lentils in the refrigerator section and a large variety of vegetables, both fresh and frozen. “Trader Joe’s” brand products are almost always less expensive than mainstream brands at other grocery stores.
Speaking of frozen, frozen fruits and vegetables are a great substitute if you can’t get your hands on fresh ones. They are always frozen at peak ripeness, so they contain the highest amount of nutrients and flavor possible, and are usually the cheaper option. Frozen fruits are a great option for smoothies, in oatmeal or just eaten as a snack. Frozen veggies work nicely in soups, stews or mixed into grain and pasta dishes. Plus, they keep for a long time so it is unlikely they would go to waste.
Know when to splurge
Recently, the subject of healthy eating made a splash on the cover of Time Magazine, with the headline “What To Eat Now: The Truth About Home Cooking.” Food journalist Mark Bittman attempts to get Americans away from restaurants, take-out and delivery and back into their kitchens.
Cooking at home is always healthier and cheaper than eating out. With the money you will inevitably save by not eating out as much, you can afford to splurge on organic meat and seafood, treats like high quality dark chocolate or other specialty products rather than a restaurant meal.
When you readjust your priorities and you will begin to see the cost of healthy eating in a whole new light, most of us don’t bat an eyelash at a $10 cocktail at a restaurant, but roll out eyes when we see a green juice in the health food market for the same price.
Weigh out the costs
Think of a healthy lifestyle as health insurance. Would you rather spend your money now in the produce section or later at the pharmacist?
If you have any further questions about eating healthy on a budget or want more tips about how to make these healthy and budget-friendly foods apart of your lifestyle, contact Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie Gray is currently on her way to becoming a certified health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is passionate about health and wellness.