One of the reasons why obesity is such a major problem in the country today is that many people have a difficult time affording and finding healthy food. Fast food is relatively cheap and easy to get, whereas buying an organic tomato may cost the equivalent of a couple of meals at McDonalds. Nevertheless, it is possible to eat healthy on a budget. All it takes is some planning in advance so you can avoid making choices that end up costing more money in the end.
Not only is eating healthy good for your pocketbook, it is better for your weight as well. Once you eliminate unhealthy processed foods, junk food and soft drinks you will find that your clothes are becoming a lot looser. And the money you save will enable you to buy a new wardrobe!
Cooking on a budget does not mean that you will never again be able to enjoy some of the foods you have always loved; you will just be able to make healthier choices when shopping and when choosing what your family will be eating regularly.
Make a meal plan
If you want to avoid coming home with considerably more than you went to the grocery store for in the first place, make a meal plan for the week. Without a plan and a set list for your shopping, you are far more likely to add impulse purchases to your basket, and all too often those purchases involve processed food or unhealthy snacks that are not only bad for your health, but add considerably to your grocery bill as well. By making a detailed shopping list for the week’s meals before you leave home you can choose to buy foods that are both affordable and healthy.
Buy your food in bulk
Not only is less packaging better for the planet, it ends up costing you less as well. There are a number of different foods that you can buy in bulk, such as nuts, cereal, dried fruit, beans and flour that you can purchase in larger quantities. When you get it home, it can be divided into smaller sizes and stored in the pantry or freezer.
Beans for inexpensive protein
There are few foods that can rival the nutrition of beans. They are high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and despite all those benefits, they are among the cheapest foods you can buy. They are available canned or dried, although the dried beans are far cheaper. You can buy them in bulk and use them in a wide variety of recipes to add a big nutritional boost for only pennies.
Shop for seasonal foods
When foods are in season they are not only usually far less expensive, but they taste much better to boot. Fruits or vegetables that are grown in greenhouses or that are grown in warmer regions and shipped across the country have much less flavor and are lower in nutrients. Anyone who has tasted an anemic pink hothouse tomato in January knows what I mean. When you consider the taste of a deep red, juicy summer tomato, there is just no comparison. Also, you can purchase seasonal items when they are on sale and freeze or preserve them to enjoy at a time of year when they are not available in the stores.
Meat on the menu
Eating healthy on a budget does not mean that you have to eliminate meat. For most people it is good to cut down on the amount of meat they eat anyway, as it is better for long-term health. However, meat does provide many essential vitamins and minerals that cannot be gotten easily anywhere else. The key is to buy less expensive cuts of meat and cook them slowly in a slow cooker or Dutch oven so the meat becomes tender and flavorful. There are scores of good recipes for stews and roasts that are melt-in-your-mouth tender that will become family favorites.
Eggs are inexpensive, full of nutrition, and can be used in recipes from quiche to omelettes to soufflés. They are an excellent protein source for their price and although they do contain cholesterol, for most people eating one or two eggs per day will not increase the level of cholesterol in the blood. Eggs also contain leucine, which is an essential amino acid that helps in weight maintenance.
Choose frozen foods
Most frozen vegetables have been flash frozen directly on the site where they are picked, which preserves their nutrients and can be far healthier for you than produce that has been shipped over long distances. It also often ends up being less expensive when compared pound for pound with fresh produce.