Food. You eat it, you use it to grow, and you poop out the rest. Sometimes food tastes good, sometimes food tastes icky. Sometimes you eat too much and feel sick, sometimes you eat too little and feel sick.
Who knew it was so much more complicated?
Recently, I watched the film Food, Inc, which is a documentary about the big, multi-national food industries and corporations, and how they grow and manufacture the majority of the food we eat today. I don't want to go into too much detail about the movie (this is a running blog after all), but it did make me want to think three times about my food choices.
I've never really talked about my food habits other than my candy obsession, so I thought I'd take the time to talk about my current nutrition status. My diet has slowly been progressing along with my marathon training.
One of the biggest factors affecting my nutrition is actually not will-power nor cravings, but cost. I'm gonna be honest: I don't make a lot of $. (I keep having dreams of winning the lottery..... but alas, not yet) Buying enough food to fuel my training is not cheap. Buying HEALTHY food to fuel my training is even LESS cheap.
As Food, Inc points out, (I knew this already, but whatever) most foods you can buy at the store have traveled hundreds/thousands of miles to get there, are full of artificial ingredients and pesticides, full of chemicals, and generally calorically empty. I am not about to waste my hard earned money on crap (literally, crap. Yes, crap/feces makes it into our foods. Yuck, I know).
The one saving grace is that I absolutely love to cook. It's one of my favorite activities. I can stand in the kitchen and play around with food all day.
So I have discovered that its WAAAAY cheaper and more nutritious to cook, rather than to buy. Since I am tired of writing in paragraphs, lets move on to lists, shall we? :)
How I eat on a budget and still try to be healthy:
I shop for ingredients more than I shop for pre-made anything. Buying a bag of frozen chicken and baking it is cheaper than buying rotisserie chicken. Buying a bag baby greens and tomatoes is cheaper than buying a salad. Buying balsamic vinegar is cheaper than buying dressing. You get the point.
I shop at the farmer's market. Other than all the well-known benefits, the major benefit for a single girl like me, is that you can buy EXACTLY the amount you want. I can buy one zucchini for 50 cents at the Farmer's Market, instead of buying a pack of four for $2 at the store. I can buy one scoop of garbanzo beans instead of buying a whole can. Not only is Farmer's Market produce tastier, it's cheaper for me to buy in small doses. I really don't want eat an entire 4-pack of zucchini, or an entire carton of berries. I can pay for only the amount I want and save some $$
I have go-to spices. I keep a jar of Cumin Powder, curry powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, crushed red peppers, and paprika. A jar of spices lasts forever, and can transform your dish to SPECTACULARNESS. It's cheaper than buying jars and jars of different sauces, most of which will inevitably sit in a fridge, half empty, for years. If you have a few spices you like, just get those, and you don't need a whole cabinet of spices you hardly ever use.
I buy frozen fish and meat. It's way cheaper. Also I buy canned fish, esp sardines and salmon. It's so easy to use, is full of healthy Omega-3s, and really economical.
I try to eat lots of vegetable and dairy proteins, because it's a lot cheaper and boosts my veggie intake. I like string cheese, greek yogurt, eggs, edamame, beans, quinoa, tofu, PB, and tempeh.
I brown bag all my lunches and snacks. Every day.
I shop once a week. This cuts down opportunities for me to "impulse buy" and waste money.
I cook a SH!T ton of food on Sunday evening/Monday evening, and eat leftovers for lunch and dinner the rest of the week. This ensures that on any other night, after my training, I'll have quality food ready for me in 5 minutes!
I bake everything. This cuts down on oil that I would otherwise have to use to cook.
I use oil spray when I need to sautee stuff.
I use veggies to "bulk up" my food, instead of adding more meat, or more carbs.
I freeze my bread as soon as I get home, to prevent any sort of molding. (I've thrown away countless loaves of bread because of this; lesson learned!)
I pop my own popcorn; you can buy an entire pound of corn kernels for less than two bucks! Do you know how long this lasts?
My condiments; ketchup, soysauce, worsteshier (sp?) sauce, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (the best!), strawberry jam. I don't buy a lot of condiments, cause most of the time, they just sit in the fridge barely used.
No soda, ice cream, chips, cookies, cakes, crackers, etc. They don't provide any nutrition. But most importantly, I can't afford them. (Unless someone else is paying, of course, :) )
Phew! That was a long list. So basically, my broke-ass-ness has, by default, led me to eat healthier. And my training requires me to eat healthier. At least those two points converge!
If all my wishes could come true and I had a million bucks to spend every month, I would love to buy all organic food, all cage-free and fair trade stuff. I would have a kitchen stocked with fruits and veggies in all colors of the rainbow, and I would have a ton of condiments and spices.
But right now, I support my local farmers, cook a lot for myself, and try to resist the candy isle as much as possible. Of course, I splurge sometimes, like I did yesterday: I bought a whole tub of chocolate mints at Costco! yessssss!!! :)
How do you stay on a budget and eat healthy? PLEAAAASE share any advice/tips you have. I'm not getting any richer here, haha.....ha :-)