Whether you’re just starting out in the world of health and wellness, or you’re trying to look for new avenues to a better eating plan, we’d all like to find it along the path that doesn’t break our wallets! After all, who doesn’t want money left over for an extra yoga class and essential oils? Eating healthy can be achieved on any budget by following some simple basics, and it doesn’t have to be specific, or even organic. Buying organic is fantastic, but not completely necessary, especially if you’re pinching pennies already.
What is the most important aspect if you want to eat healthy? When I’m giving my friends advice on how to get started on eating healthfully and naturally, the biggest and best piece of advice is: Don’t eat anything out of a box. Ever.
If you are dying for Mac n’ cheese, boil macaroni, drain, add butter (not margarine!) and muenster and cheddar cheese, a little milk, and stir. You’ve now avoided “cheese-like product”! Your home-made chicken with sautéed vegetables and pasta may take a little longer to prepare, but it will be free from preservatives and you’ll cut your sodium intake by over 2/4. The closer your food is to its natural state before you prepare it, the healthier it will be. Following this first and important step will make all the others seem like a snap! Here are eight ways that you can have a healthy lifestyle without breaking the bank.
Stretch it with Soup
Canned goods are great for nutrition because reading labels is easy. Look for ingredients that you can pronounce, and the fewer ingredients, the better. There are even organic canned goods–on the market shelves now for less than $1 a can – kidney, black, garbanzo, butter beans – that are healthful and make a satisfying chili in the winter(or a bean salad in the summer!). Using soup to stretch your meat and vegetables will get you far, especially if you add a starch such as potatoes, or serve it with fresh rolls. Plus, now you’ll be able to be able to spend your money saved on these darling watercolor floral rim soup bowls (they’re already on sale for $14.99)!
Everyone knows that “Buying Bulk” can help your budget, but buying whole will get you even further! For instance, whole chicken – cut yourself for multiple dinners, and make stock. This makes 3-4 dinners, plus stock. It’s much cheaper per pound than buying boneless skinless chicken, sometimes by two dollars a pound. Stay away from bleached, pre-cut vegetables and herbs, you’ll save yourself from the preservative chemicals as well as money. Buy your cheese in blocks and shred as you need it.
You can’t say enough good things about Farm Markets! They are found all over the U.S., in the urban areas as well as the country. For the obvious reasons – your food is fresher, local, and supports small business – you can get discounts on end of day produce that hasn’t sold. I once got two large bags of fresh basil for one dollar because it was closing time and they didn’t want to take more basil home. For one dollar, I had wonderful fresh pesto for dinner. Another great thing about the farm markets are that you can inquire about meat products. I now only shop for chicken and beef at my local farmer’s butcher, not only because they feed their animals an all-natural (not organic) diet, but because per pound, their prices are much better! I also feel better that my family‘s needs are supporting their family‘s business.
Grains and Super foods through Granola
Same concept of stretching, but with grains! Making your own granola is super easy, and you can literally make it differently every time, and there is no right-or-wrong recipe. The variety you can get is immeasurable, and you’ll save yourself money as granola is pennies on the dollar when its made at home.
- Start off with oat meal as a base. Only use whole-oat as instant has been processed. For every cup of oats, add one tablespoon of honey, and two tablespoons of oil. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Bake at 250 for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. From here, the options you add are completely your own!
- After the base is made, the choices are yours. Add dried fruit added as you need it. Don’t mix it into the granola as you bake it or it will burn. Some options are dried blueberries, raisins, dates, or apricots.
- For your super foods, try out chia seeds, flax seeds, quinoa, and amaranth added separately so they remain raw and don’t get “lost” in the bottom of the box. Nuts go further when chopped (roasted is optional, raw is more healthful!) and sprinkled over. You can use almonds, walnuts, or pecans.
Save Splurging for Supplements
Unfortunately, some people are under the impression that all aspects of a healthy eating lifestyle are expensive simply because most supplements are. Most budgets can accommodate fresh vegetables and whole grains. Supplements can be a splurge, such as saving for B-vitamin supplements or a calcium-magnesium combo. These are an awesome part of a health regimen, but not necessary when your budget doesn’t allow.
Rethink your Routine Favorites
One of my favorite treats is ice cream. But it’s not healthy, and the whole-ingredient ice cream is expensive. It’s easily redone by blending strawberries, cane sugar, yogurt, and almond milk, and topping it with some mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. It still feels indulgent, but it has many health benefits from the new ingredients… and doesn’t cost five dollars a pint.
Learn Your Yogurts
Yogurt is full of friendly bacteria we do need in our diets. But, Greek yogurt is almost twice as expensive as regular yogurt. You can still get many benefits of yogurt without having to buy Greek. Look for yogurt that is plain, natural, and whole-milk, and add honey to taste to avoid artificial sweeteners.
Make your own condiments & toppings
These are typically expensive for what you get, look at the price-per-ounce. A bottle of salad dressing may not seem like a lot, but natural dressing at $3.50 a bottle only lasts a week, that’s not a very good deal. Salad dressing is easily made by mixing one part vinegar to two parts olive oil, and added spice and flavor to your taste. Making your own croutons is also a big saver, and avoids the preservatives and fake flavoring to keep them crunchy in the bag. Simply cube up bread, toss with oil, and broil for a few minutes.
It might be a challenge at first, but anything good takes time. Building these habits will become second nature and simple faster than you think! Keeping a roof over your head and the lights on are just as important as a healthy diet. With a little practice and a few changes, you can do both.