Healthful Budget Bites
Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.
Eating healthfully doesn't AUTOMATICALLY mean spending more and blowing your food budget. Sure, there are specialty and convenience products that can send your grocery bill sky high, but with proper planning and skill-building around high-nutrient, lower cost foods, healthy eating on a realistic budget is possible.
As the motivation behind healthy eating is considered, think through what "value" means to you. In the food industry the term "value" has come to mean a higher of volume of food for your dollar. Aim to shift your own definition, understanding that the volume of nutrients is typically unseen. There is much value to be found in an avocado, cherries and salmon. When it comes to health and wellness, valuable food choices are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and perhaps anti-oxidants that fight inflammation. Further value can be found in organic and less processed options and a different kind of value is found in food products that are quick and easy to prepare. Consider what value means to you and how you can align your health goals and food budget.
Following some general philosophies can help you tame your food budget one purchase at time.
Make a list. Make a list. Make a list. It's worth saying many times over: an organized grocery list is worth its weight in gold. Make a list by section, separating produce, dairy, meat, dry goods, etc. Add notes about planned meals and needed prep tasks to tie it to your week.
Use coupons and sales wisely. If they're items you'd purchase any way, save the cents and take the sale. If they're extra items or not in line with your health goals, pass and save the money.
Eating seasonally and locally is sometimes healthier and cost effective. Check local farms, farmers' markets, CSA groups (Community Shared Agriculture) or community gardens. Even better, hone your own green thumb and grow food at home.
As protein prices soar, dialing into plant-based options can be nutritious and budget friendly.
Lentils are quick-cooking and not only a great source of protein, but fiber, iron and potassium as well. Use them in salads, soups, to make lentil cakes or "cut" any ground meat to stretch it to further meals. Both red and green lentils are great choices.
Split peas are the same as fresh peas but they've been dried and halved for quicker cooking. They bring a dose of protein to the plate, along with zinc and phosphorous. Try in a classic soup, or add them to a curry or hummus recipe for a fresh take.
Loaded with vitamin B6, protein and healthy fats, sunflower seeds are a nutrient powerhouse. Add to a salad, wrap, stir fry or enjoy plain paired with a serving of whole fruit. Varieties that are raw or salt-free are the healthiest option.
Consider Canned & Frozen
There's a common perception that canned or frozen produce is less nutritious than fresh. The truth is when purchasing preserved items the fiber remains intact, nutrients are mostly stable and when they have no salt or sugar added they are just as healthy as their fresh counterparts.
Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can offer easy meal solutions since they stay in your pantry and freezer, and you can stock up when there's a sale. Think soups, stir fries, smoothies and grainy salads! Canned and frozen options don't have to be boring! Spice them up and add garlic herbs while you experiment to find the best cooking methods.
Try one strategy to rein in your food budget!
Make a grocery list
Try a meatless meal
Make a meal at home vs dining out
DIY your morning coffee or tea
"Cut" an animal protein with lentils
TMG Dietitian Sarah says, "Making a weekly grocery and meal list is my number one tactic to controlling my personal food budget. When I'm organized, I don't overbuy and I don't have to rely on expensive grab-and-go items."