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Eating on a tight budget
Want to eat healthy on a budget?
I know times are tough these days and families are looking for ways to reduce their household expenses. Food is an obvious place to start when making your family budget. You can reduce your food expenses significantly, especially if you eat out a lot or mostly eat prepared food. Simply cooking from scratch, using fresh foods will be much better for your health and your wallet as well. I have many ideas so that you can eat healthy for less. There are lots of delicious meals that your family will love that you can make on a budget. Read on for a happy stomach and a happy bank account!
Don't forget to check out Iherb . It's the ultimate source for cheap, healthy food and shipping is often free.
Dried Beans: a cheap and healthy dinner choice
Beans are fabulously cheap, healthy and delicious! You can make so many recipes with them. Just do a basic internet search for the kind of bean you have and you'll see thousands of recipes.
The dried ones are much cheaper and healthier than the canned ones because they don't contain all the preservatives and salt that canned ones do. They're very easy to prepare. In order to reduce energy costs, soak the dried beans overnight. Cook for about an hour, take off the heat and cover. Check on them in a few hours when they cool down. Most varieties of beans should be done at this point. If they're still a bit crunchy, put them on the heat for another hour and you should be ready to use them.
My favorite meal with beans is chili. Just make chili like your normally would, but instead of meat use a variety of pre-cooked beans. It's delicious!
The best places to get dried beans is on Iherb. Cheap, often free-shipping and an excellent selection.
Eat less meat to reduce food expenses
Did you know that the average North American eats way too much meat? How about getting your protein through some other sources such as tofu or eggs. It's better for your health, the environment and your wallet.
My favorite way to cook tofu is to put salt and pepper on both sides. Fry it on both sides in a very hot pan with some oil. It's delicious served warm on a salad.
And for eggs, how about an omelet? Fry some vegetables, add the eggs and cook until almost done. Add a bit of cheese, salt and pepper and you have a delicious meal. Eat with some bread.
Coupons are an excellent way to save on grocery costs
Keep an eye on your fliers for coupons. Although it takes time, you can save a significant amount of money this way. Just be organized and have file folders for different categories of food. Be careful though to not clip coupons for things that you don't buy as this could end up costing you more money! And watch out for processed food as well, as this is unhealthy and expensive.
What's your secret to eating on a tight budget?
Drink lots of water
Your body loves water! Drink at least 8 cups a day and your body will be happy. Even more is better if you exercise or live in a hot climate. If your stomach is full with water, you'll crave less food.
You only need one quality kitchen knife - This one is my top choice
Discount fruit and veggie rack
Most stores have a discount fruit and vegetable rack for produce at the end of their life cycles. This is where I buy almost all my produce as it's usually still usable for at least a couple days. My favorite way to use veggies is to make up a big soup or chili, with some beans.
And to use fruit, I often make a crisp with oatmeal topping. Delicious and healthy! Plus, you can eat it for breakfast the next day.
Learn to Cook to save money on food
It's very expensive to buy pre-packaged and processed food. Plus, it's bad for your healthy and the environment. My goal is to not buy anything in a can or box form. My grocery basket usually consists of produce, beans, and some grains. If you want to learn how to cook, I recommend Moosewood Cookbooks. Delicious, simple, vegetarian cooking.
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Oatmeal for breakfasts
Breakfast cereal is so expensive so why don't you try plain old oatmeal as an alternative. It's much healthier and cheaper if you don't buy those instant packs but instead make your own. It's super easy to just follow the directions on the package that you buy. To spice it up a little, I like to add some fruit, whatever is in season or in my garden works best. Sometimes, I cut up and apple, rhubarb or pear. Or, I throw in some frozen or dried blueberries or cranberries. What about raisins? It's all so delicious. Just add a bit of milk on top.
And, it's so healthy! Low calorie, with lots of fiber and it can reduce your cholesterol.
Cut Down on Junk Food
Junk Food is very expensive, so cut down on the amount that you eat if you want to eat cheaply. You drink 3 cans of soda everyday? Cut down to only 1. It's expensive and has no nutrients that your body needs. Same with potato chips, cookies and candy. Try eating it as a special treat a couple times/week instead of as a daily thing.
Only buy what's on sale
When I go shopping, I will almost always only buy what's on sale. It kills me to pay full-price for something and it should do the same to you if you're serious about living on a food budget. When stuff is really cheap, buy lots. When it's not cheap, be prepared to wait it out until it is. It's not such a big deal. Really!
Buy and Cook in bulk when eating on a strict budget
It is very expensive if you make things like chili, tomato sauce, vegetable soup or lasagna in small quantities because you have to use small size ingredients. For example, per 100 grams, cheese is much cheaper in a big block. Same with canned tomatoes, meat, and basically anything you buy.
So, when you're at the store, buy big amounts of ingredients in bigger size containers. Then, when you're cooking, cook a lot. You can eat the meal 2 or 3 times, and then freeze the rest. It works best if you put the food into individual, or family size containers so you can pull it out and heat it up really easily. Your family won't mind eating it again 2 or 3 weeks later and it will save you lots of time in preparation, as well as money.
Bake your own bread
If your family eats a lot of bread, it can get quite expensive. Also, the cheap bread that buy from the store is often low on vitamins and fiber. So, it's much better to make your own. However, you don't need to knead away and babysit it the whole day, just buy a breadmaker. It will take you about 5 minutes to put the ingredients into the machine and it will do the rest for you. In a couple hours, you'll have a delicious loaf of bread, ready to slice.
Bread that make yourself costs about 1/4 of the store stuff and is far healthier, so you'll make up for the money you spent on the bread machine in a few months. It's well worth it!
My Top Choice for Bread Machine
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Eat in Season
If you buy things like apples in the fall, when they're in season, you can get them for really cheap. You can make applesauce to keep them for longer. Or, put them in muffins or a cake and put it in the freezer. You can try canning as well.
Or, if you buy strawberries in the spring-time, they are quite cheap. You can cut off the stems and freeze the berries. Use them in your smoothies all winter long.
These are just a few examples, use your imagination for other things you can do with fruits and veggies that are in season.
Make Your Own Yogurt
Making your own yogurt is a very simple thing to do and something you really should do if you're serious about eating cheaply since yogurt is very expensive at the grocery store. All you need is a bit of yogurt to get the starter bacteria, and a carton of milk. Put everything into the machine and in a few hours, you'll have cheap, delicious yogurt ready to eat. Add a bit of fruit or sugar to taste.
See my recommendation below for an economical yogurt maker that makes 7 individual portions.
This is an excellent choice, since it makes 7 individual size containers that are super-easy to take with you in your lunch, or for your kids to grab out of the fridge for a quick snack.
Make Your Own Beer
If you like to drink a lot, home-brewing can be a very economical option. Once you get the equipment and process down, it's very simple and cheap to make each 20L batch. You can make almost any kind of beer you can think of, and they are usually more delicious than the store-bought variety. You can even host parties on the cheap! Give it as gifts to your friends as well.
Have a small garden
By having a garden, you can save a substantial amount of money on food each month. If you're smart about it, and plant things that ripen at different times, you can have fresh and free vegetables for 6 months or longer of the year. If you don't have a backyard space, it's actually quite simple to grow things in big pots on your balcony or patio. Or, you can even grow things inside near a window. Things like lettuce and herbs do very well inside.