It can be rough to try and keep your diet healthy when your bank account is in critical condition. When you need to shed pounds and conserve cash at the same time, you’re facing a significant challenge.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) noted an increase in the average cost of food (for 2008) of roughly five and a half percent. Costs are only going to go up as time goes on, and restaurant prices have been climbing too. Even though this data may look disheartening, building a healthy diet without spending a lot of money is still an achievable goal.
How To Shop Healthy When You’re On A Budget
If you make yourself an educated shopper, you can score great deals on healthy food. For a fridge full of food that’s both good for you and easy on your budget, use the following guidelines:
* Whole Foods Save Money
The process of preparing foods costs money, and you can see this expense in the prices at the grocery store. When you’re buying lettuce, for instance, you’ll get a much better deal on whole heads (of any variety) than you will on pre-cut salads in bags. Meats show the same pattern: You’ll pay far more for pre-sliced turkey in the deli section than you will for an uncooked breast you roast yourself.
* Get Used To Cooking
By cutting down on the number of meals you get at restaurants and the number of pre-cooked meals you buy, you can save dramatically. Cooking your own dishes cuts costs and also gives you the ability to use healthier ingredients.
* Buying In Bulk
If your freezer isn’t full, you’re not shopping right. You can stock away a lot of healthy foods like frozen veggies for use anytime. Meat also freezes well; take full advantage whenever these staples go on sale.
* Pay Attention To Seasons
Fruits and vegetables get much more expensive when they’re not in season. Learn the chronological trends and favor the cheaper, in-season options.
* Make Friends With Rice And Beans
Rice and beans are stapled crops around the world for a reason. They’re cheap, especially when bought in bulk, and they’re healthy. They make an excellent way to round out any menu, and they can even serve as healthy little meals all by themselves.
* Track Sales
These days grocery stores announce their sales online as well as in the newspaper. Pay attention to their weekly discounts and go after the best deals.
Getting More From Your Budget While Staying Healthy
Here is some useful data on balancing low prices and healthy nutritional content when you’re at the grocery store. These results were culled from first-hand research performed by Donna Weihofen, RD, MS, one of the foremost nutritionists at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). The data she gathered falls right in line with the recommendations of food authorities like the USDA.
According to Weihofen, the best way to get the protein you need at the lowest possible prices are by purchasing eggs and dried beans. Milk, whole chicken, and canned beans are slightly more expensive protein sources. Continuing to ascend the price ladder, chicken thighs, and breasts come next, followed by deli chicken. At the top of the heap in terms of price is rotisserie chicken.
Weihofen says you can get the most out of your money with a whole chicken by using as much of it as possible, no matter if you bought it pre-cooked or prepared it yourself. Leftover meat can be recycled into soup, stew, or chili on subsequent days. Don’t neglect the utility of the bones, either; they can provide stock for more soup later on.
Whole potatoes suitable for baking are another excellent low-cost staple, as are frozen vegetables. Red peppers are a fair example of a delicious veggie that’s significantly cheaper when you buy from the freezer.
You can get a lot more mileage out of your food budget by planning for more than one meal at a time. Using versatile ingredients and complementary recipes can really stretch your resources. Consider steps like recycling yesterday’s chili leftovers into an ingredient in today’s tacos or wraps.
Cheap Meals For All Your Dieting Needs
If losing weight is one of your goals, you’re likely trying to exclude certain foods and nutrients from your meals. You don’t have to give up hope when you’re trying to keep your food costs down, though. It’s quite possible to create cheap, nourishing meals that are well-suited to your chosen weight loss methods.
* Minimizing Carbs
Baked chicken can be served with mixed frozen veggies. Try a quiche (without crust) that provides egg-based protein.
* Cutting Fat
Try making your own chili featuring chicken and beans. Accompany it with frozen vegetables and treat yourself to an in-season fruit for dessert.
* Trimming Calories
You can make a delicious meal that’s only 450 calories by combining a cup of frozen vegetables and a cup of bean chili. Serve over rice (a half cup).
You need to exercise your cooking and shopping creativity to stay healthy on a slender food budget. It doesn’t help that some of the healthiest foods (e.g. fresh fish and berries) often fall outside your price range. If you stay open-minded and try new dishes, you’ll be able to keep your costs to a minimum and learn a great deal about good nutrition along the way.