Hi Everyone! Happy hump day! I love Wednesday! I feel like once I’ve made it through Wednesday, I can make it to the end of the week. Almost there….just hang in a little longer…
We’ve been talking this week about eating healthy on a budget. These days, it’s hard to make that work sometimes. Last night, I threw out a number of $600 a month for a food budget. Well, let’s say your food budget isn’t that high. Let’s say you’ve got $400 a month to work with. That’s about $100 a week. Now, you might have more or less than that, but if things are really tight, there are a few things you can do to help tighten that belt.
First of all, if you are truly committed to eating healthy, cut out eating in restaurants…completely. I know…but seriously, if you figure a meal for four at an average sit down restaurant is around $40…well, you can do the math. It really adds up. Cut out soda. Yes, I know…this is another biggie. Soda costs around $7 a case. If you bought a case a week, there’s $28 more a month in your budget. (Besides, you know it’s really bad for you anyway, right?) Don’t drink soda? Cut out bottled water, too. It’s better to buy a water bottle and refill it. This way you know where the water is coming from, and you don’t have to worry about those nasty plastic bottles, either. Cut the trips to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks for coffee and tea. Stay out of the cafeteria at work, and for goodness sake, pack your kids’ school lunches.
It’s summer now, so it’s a great time to grow your own food. Give it a try. Even if you just grow pots of tomatoes on your back porch, you are getting fresh food all summer for nothing (except the cost of the seeds and pots if you don’t already have them). I’m growing tomatoes and peppers and lots of herbs. I can freeze whatever we can’t eat and I’ll have wonderful tomatoes and peppers all winter, too, for chili and marinara sauce. I’m getting strawberries by the flat so I can freeze them and make some jam. I have raspberries and blackberries growing out back, too. And I’m sure I will go pick blueberries when it’s time. So, here are more examples of food that I won’t have to buy from the store this winter. I also joined a CSA (Community Supported Agreement) that will provide me with fresh produce all summer long. Again, I can freeze whatever we can’t eat. Yes, I paid for it up front, but it’s great because I could pay a couple of installments, and it averages out to about $27 a week. I spend at least twice that in the grocery store. You can do the same thing with grass-fed meat and pastured chickens. Find a local farmer and buy in bulk. You’re getting healthy meat at a good price. Plus, you’re buying local and helping our farmers. Also, visit the local farmer’s markets and farm stands. You’ll find great deals when you eat what’s seasonal, and I’ll tell you a secret. Eating seasonal is much better for our bodies.
So, say you just can’t do any of those things. Maybe you don’t have a local farmer or just can’t squeeze out the money for a CSA or a bulk meat purchase. In that case, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. You could share the expense with a friend (but, of course, you would also have to split the meat and produce); this works well with small families. And, here are some really healthy meal options that are very budget friendly as well.
- Splurge on a good piece of meat every week. A nice, big pot roast will go a long way if you make sandwiches, and use the bones and scraps to make stew or soup. A family of four can usually get at least three meals out of a roast. Grass-fed ground beef is a great way to make a pound of meat go a long way. You can make a big pot of stew or chili from a pretty small package of hamburger. Whole chickens are great, too. You can get several meals from one chicken. Make sure you make broth from the carcass, too. You can freeze it for later use in soups.
- Buy whole, raw milk from grass-fed cows. This is one way to get a lot of nutrition for about $6 a gallon. If you like cheese, buy it from the same source as your milk if you can. Cheese is really good for you and a little goes a long way. Try adding it to eggs and other dishes to make it stretch further.
- Eggs from pastured chickens are a fantastic source of protein, vitamins, and Omega 3s. Eat lots of them. You can have hard boiled eggs, omelets for breakfast, and quiche or fritattas for supper. There are so many egg recipes, you can eat them several times a week. At about $3 a dozen, you can make lots of egg based dishes inexpensively.
- Buy dried beans. Just make sure you soak them first. I love beans and ham, or bean soup and chili. You can make nice, light bean dishes for summer and hearty beans for winter. Another great, inexpensive source of protein…but for God’s sake, throw out that little ham flavored MSG packet that some beans have in the bag. What’s that about, anyway? Beans are a couple of bucks a package. Not too shabby…
- I love to cook with almond and coconut flour, but if these are beyond your budget, buy sprouted whole grain flour instead and make your own baked goods.
- Or, skip the bread and eat other economical grains like wild rice, oats, and barley. If you are gluten-free, buy gluten free seeds like quinoa, and avoid the premade gluten free products. Those are kind of pricey, plus they are processed to death!
- Get seasonal fruit. It’s cheaper, and yummy. But remember our fruity friends, like apples and bananas. They are relatively inexpensive. Skip the fancy tropical stuff; it’s pretty expensive. Save that for a special occasion. Please buy organic apples. Conventional apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides and it can’t be washed off. Some foods just have to be bought organic.
- Buy bulk potatoes and sweet potatoes. You’ll spend less than if you buy those cute little bags of baby potatoes. I suggest limiting your potato consumption if you are also trying to lose weight.
Notice I didn’t really talk about pasta. I did that on purpose. Pasta tends to be a go to for an inexpensive meal that will go a long way when feeding a family, but I really don’t recommend eating a lot of pasta. Even the whole grain versions and the gluten-free stuff give us a lot of empty calories and will spike insulin levels. I suggest sticking with healthy grains or making vegetable pasta with marinara sauce and grated cheese. My favorites – spaghetti squash, zucchini, and eggplant.
I hope that helps a little. Once you plan out what foods you’d like to eat over the course of the week, make your grocery list. Taking a list to the store with you will help keep you on track. Stick to the list, and don’t go to the store or farmer’s market when you are hungry. There are so many creative ways to cook that will save you money. You will learn as you go, too, which foods are the most economical and versatile, and how to cook them so your family loves them. Are you cooking for just one or two? Make several larger meals and freeze the rest for later.
Tomorrow night, we are going to look at the time budget it takes to prepare this healthy fare. When you are used to eating out frequently, it takes some adjustment to start cooking all your food at home. This can even work if you are on the road a lot because of your job. I know, I struggled with the time factor until I found a method that worked really well for me. I’ll share that with all of you tomorrow. Until then, sweet dreams…hope you all sleep tight!