How To Eat Healthy On A Low Budget
There's seems to be a common misconception that eating healthily is only for people who can afford it. This is not surprising when price tags in the organic section of the supermarket tends to makes your eyes pop and you wonder who are those lucky people who can afford 17 dollar free ranch chickens eggs.
Being a healthy eater is not just about buying the most expensive produce, but rather about you becoming more educated and smart about what healthy eating actually is.
We need to stop thinking that processed, canned and fast food are cheaper food alternatives. We can eat healthy if we understand some good food habits and how we can get a balanced and nutrious diet. It is also important to constantly explore different types of foods and not limit ourselves to specific food type or food group.
With that said, here are some tips on how you can eat healthy on a low budget.
Freezing Your Food
Freezing is actually a great way of storing food for an extended time while maintaining its freshness and nutritional content. One money saving way is to buy in bulk, especially seasonal fruits and vegetables that are usually cheaper and also tastier.
The preparation for freezing is simpler than you think and you only need regular items like zip lock bags or plastic containers to store the produce. If well prepared, fruits can be kept for up to a year and vegetables for about 18 months. You can find out more on the 11 secrets to properly freezing produce.
1. Don't freeze fruits that has already turn bad. If one is bad, all will turn bad.
2. Some common fruits that you can freeze:
- Banana: You can peel the skin before freezing.
- Berries: Do remove the stalk and wash before freezing.
- Apples and pears: Squeeze abit of lemon before storing.
3. You can prepare mini bags of healthy blends in advance - Add the fruits, oats, nuts (I like sunflower seeds) and some ginger. When you want to make a smoothie, just throw in the while bag, add a bit of milk and apple juice.
4. You can also make a healthy ice cream by blending the frozen fruits, yogurt and honey.
Eat Healthily By Finding Cheaper Meat Substitutes
Buying meat can be expensive so try to find other cheaper protein substitutes such as beans or eggs and limit meat to maybe once a week, depending on your budget.
There are many varieties of beans, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, fava beans, lentils and lima beans. Beans are high in dietary fiber, low in fats and mostly do not have much cholesterol. They are also easy and versatile to cook.
However, eating beans do cause some embarrassing 'gas releasing' effects. To reduce this, you can soak the beans for an hour or longer and wash before using fresh water for boiling. This will wash away some of the gas-causing enzymes.
Another alternative is eggs, which are a rich source of a few key nutrients such as B vitamins (B-2, B-5 and B-12), vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc and selenium. It also helps to you to feel fuller longer, which is great in supporting weight loss.
You can have about 1 egg a day depending on your body condition (reference: Mayo clinic).
Other common protein substitutes are soy, dairy products and lentils.
Buy More Local
Always try to buy produce that are locally grown or unique to your region. For example, if you live near a coastal area, fish will be a cheaper option so try to incorporate more of that into your diet. Also check out the farmer's market at your area. If you buy food from the supermarket, look at the labels and see where the product is from. Air flown items are understandably more costly than those produced locally.
You can be even more 'local' by growing at home, especially for fruits and vegetables that are known to have high pesticides residue.
You can also look up the Environmental Working Group's annual list for a list of dirty food (i.e. with high pesticide residue) and clean food to help you decide which item you should consider buying organic. This information is also conveniently available as an iPhone app.
If purchasing organic food is really out of your reach, then consider washing your fruits and vegetables to remove some of the residual pesticides before consumption. There are many store bought solutions for washing.
Alternatively, you can use natural ingredients such a vinegar and water mixture soak (i.e. 1 part vinegar and 4 part water, soak produce in this mixture for about an hour) or create your own cleaning spray (i.e. 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 2 tbsp of baking soda & 1 cup of water - spray mixture on produce and leave it on for 5-10 mins before rinsing).
Do you think farmer's markets are better than supermarkets?
Change Your Supermarket Shopping Habits
When and how you shop at the supermarket also has an effect on your food choices and expenditure. Next time when you head to the store, consider the following:
- Go to the store with a shopping list - this will stop you from buying more than you need.
- Shop when you are not hungry - this will stop you from having food cravings (usually sweets, crisps), and making you make impulse or unhealthy choices.
- Be more open to explore new products and brands - there may be better and cheaper alternatives waiting for you.
- Shop alone - it will be better to shop alone, especially if you have kids - so your food choices will not be influenced by others. If you are determined to make healthier food for your family, then stick to it.
It is not difficult to know how to eat healthy on a low budget. Do more research, take action and always continue to find ways to spend less but still have the lifestyle and health you've always wanted.