I thought it’d be neat to talk about how to eat & stay healthy on a budget today! You wouldn’t believe how many questions or remarks I get about this every week. Organic foods, lots of nuts & seeds, superfoods or even just eating mostly fresh, whole foods can be quite expensive! But there’s ways to cut corners and get the most bang for your buck.
Here are my tips for eating healthy on a budget:
Get out your notepads, class is about to start!
Buy only what you Need
This may sound very simple, but think about it: how often do you purchase food that goes uneaten? Stuff that has a long shelf life (like grains, oils, spices, beans, etc) it is OK to have a little stash, but not for FRESH produce (unless you plan to really rock tips 3 & 4..). For fresh fruits, veggies & greens it’s best to have a game plan. Each week, determine some basic meals you’d like to incorporate (green smoothies, salads, almond milk, etc) and the stuff and approximate amount you’ll need (4 apples, 1 bunch spinach, 2 cups almonds, a bag of fresh dates). This’ll get you a good starting point. Then, you may want to consider planning out 2 or more new recipes you’d like to try each week, and get the ingredients for that (and while you’re at it, figure out a creative use for the leftover ingrdedients). For the rest of your meals you can rely on your staples, and stock up on those ingredients. This is one example of a very loose and simple weekly meal plan, that will help you shop more efficiently.
If all of this sounds rather complicated or daunting, not to worry. After some time, this will become a habit and you can practically do it from the top of your head, without so much as a grocery list!
There’s lots of simple ways to be thrifty. Go to the (organic) market to buy your produce at lower prices than at the supermarket or health food store. Buy spices, dried fruit and perhaps nuts at local toko’s. Buy wholesale if you can. Order exotic and rare items from iHerb.com rather than from a local store. Buy in season! Especially at the market it’s very common to simply ask what’s in season and thus modestly priced. Make simple, economical swaps in recipes: sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin, sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts (especially in pesto !), etc. Also, making your own stuff (coconut butter, high quality chocolate, energy bars) is not only great fun, it’s thrifty!
Frugality is a Virtue
Make it a point to never ever throw any food out. There will still be occasions, especially in the beginning, where you will, but if you make it your goal to not be wasteful with food it will become more natural over time. Wasting food is not only offending to your wallet, it’s also offending, period.
If you love leftovers (raise your left hand and move your fork towards your mouth with your right…), cook big portions. If you hate leftovers (?), make sure you don’t cook too much! Check the contents of your fridge daily (yes, also the nooks & crannies) to see what is about to spoil and USE it. Incorporate it in a dish, juice it*, eat as is (raw veg + homemade dip = healthy eating on a budget heaven). If you have some random ingredients that need to be put to good use, hop online and search for recipes with XX ingredient. As a last resort, maybe your dog will take a liking to it (fresh veggies only please, not carton-board crackers…) or otherwise the plants in your garden….
* For the love of God, invest in a juicer! Not only are juices like IV drips with pure nutrition (ooh, how graphic), they will also aid you in becoming a Frugal Princess. Got some sad looking carrots, mushy broccoli and a bunch of greens about to wilt? Throw it in the juicer, add an apple and half a lemon and BOOM. Not the prettiest of all juices I’m sure but a) you just got an extra boost of nutrition/enery and b) you saved precious produce from being thrown in the trash. A juicer is a one-time (well, unless you’re Genesis …) investment and for around €100 you’ll have a pretty decent one on your countertop!
It takes some trial & error but after a while you’ll come up with some pretty Genius ideas to spend less/waste less. Some of my top tips:
- Before you embark on trying a new recipe, figure out how much it’s gonna yield and how much you’d actually like/are able to devour before it spoils. This is also a good idea if you’re a bit hestitant about whether you’re going to like the end result in the first place.
- FREEZE. My freezer is stuffed. I freeze smoothies, nut milk, coconut milk, coconut water (all in containers or ziplock bags, per 1 cup serving), trays of bananas, homemade baked goods, juice pulp, almond milk pulp, etc. Hell, you can even freeze GREENS to toss into smoothies later on (or if you have more greens than you can use up: make a couple green smoothies and freeze in portions. ta-daa).
- My latest epic discovery: vacuum bags ! Now, your produce will stay fresh longest when you don’t cut nor wash it prior to storing it, and when you wrap it in kitchen towels (and then, preferably, put in paper bags), but these vacuum bags are a whole new level. Granted, you have to vacuum seal every time you take something out, so choose wisely what you put in there, but I love ‘em. Also, they preserve fridge space in case of greens.
Determine Your Basics
You know how stylists and other fashionista’s will always advice you to splurge on your basics, but never overpay for the trendy stuff? Well, it’s like that with food! Not everyone of us will have the money to buy 100% organic food, 100% of the time (even me!). Whenever I am running low on cash I determine my basics and make an effort to at least buy those organic. If you eat a certain food every day, and/or in large quantities (let’s say… avocados?), you’ll want to buy that food organic. If you’re about to purchase a certain food that you only eat every once in a while, it would be OK to buy it conventional. This way you’ll save money while keeping the amount of added toxins to your body to a minimum.
Fresh food is too GOOD to let go to waste people!
In the end it all boils down to prioritizing though. I can give you all the tips you’d like but if your health isn’t a priority over, say, cigarettes or a new bikini, then good food will always be too expensive.
Take care loves and see ya soon. I’m off to Bikram classes 5 & 6 for the week (love doing back2back classes right now!), but not until after my (organic) grocery run!