I am blessed with a love for the taste of healthy food. I can't get enough raw veggies, fruit, lean meat, and whole grain. But, I'm in my mid-20's, and I really don't have wiggle room in my budget, and lately eating healthy has caused me to dig into savings.
Anyone have any good tips for how to eat healthy without really breaking the bank?
Honestly, though, I probably (realistically) won't ever give up meat entirely. That being said, eating meat once a week or whatever isn't what kills me financially -- it's the veggies, fruits, healthy grain (quinoa, for example), meatless alternatives (soy burgers/sausage/etc.)... Is there a less expensive way?
Starhorse, grow your own veggies? Even in an apartment (with a tiny patio), you can grow many in pots. Find a cooperative (where you buy 'shares' and help with the farming) in your area (this may or may not be economically feasible). Pick your own or keep a sharp eye for good prices on fruits & veggies in season. Look carefully to see where said f & v come from - look for local. Learn to can - or freeze (my preference).
Toss all leftovers in the freezer and when you get enough, make soup or stew.
I make two things every weekend that carry me over through two meals a day for most of the week:
#1. I make one dry cup of some kind of grain (ie, forbidden rice, Bhutan red rice, farro, bulgur, etc), and then add fruit to it. For example I might add a cut up apple toward the end of the cooking process so it softens a little.
I eat this with cottage cheese for breakfast every morning. Whatever I spent on the grain (not much) plus the fruit (apples/pears/peaches/bananas are not that expensive, as opposed to berries, which are more pricy) covers me for the better part of a week for breakfast.
#2. I make a "salad starter." I get half a bag of spinach, add a thing of sliced mushrooms, half an onion, maybe a thing of raddichio or some other head of lettuce that is high volume for the money, and put it in a large bowl in the fridge. This stays fresh and crisp for a week, and I have "insta salad" on hand, to which I can add beans/avocado/grilled chicken/whatever. Again, if I spend $10 it gives me lunch and dinner sides for the better part of a week.
Also, often the local, small, mom and pop stores are cheaper than the huge grocery stores. I can buy meat and veggies/fruits for less at the local stands and shops cheaper than Stop and Shop. Especially organic.
There are a lot of veges that taste just as good frozen, and are generally cheaper than fresh - squash, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach...
You can try stocking up from local suppliers in season. For example, do the u-pick apples in the fall and make your own applesauce or get a dehydrator and dry them.
Also, you could try making lentil stew, bean soup, or baked beans as your main course a few nights a week. These are cheap and healthy. I often throw a package of frozen spinach into a soup for some extra green.
The basic advice is to buy on sale, buy in bulk, and avoid processed foods.
Buy cheap proteins like eggs. Eat smaller portions while still getting the proper amount per day. Shop sales and design your meat meals around what is on sale, not around what you feel like eating. Have at least two meatless days per week, making sure you get a balance of necessary amino acids. Make homemade veggie patties. There are tons of recipes on the internet. I've noticed some use beans, some are heavily onion-based, some have more egg than others, some use soy. Change it around.
Your freezer is your friend. You can even freeze hard cheeses and milk. So if you use milk, buy it in cheaper gallon sizes and freeze it.
Dried: Buy in bulk and only unprocessed. Quinoa is now available at Sam's or Costco (I can't remember which), but use less of it and more local cheap starches, such as dried pinto beans, which come in large inexpensive quantities. I buy some canned products like black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzos from Costco, but if you are into coupons and watch sales, you can find canned beans for even less. Buy them in large quantities when you find them at a very good price. Also buy rice in large quantities. The delicious flavored and exotic rices like basmati and jasmin rice are at Costco for much less, in bulk. Of course, if you really want to save money, buy the cheaper rice.
Other than buying in bulk, you can save on pasta by making it homemade, using bulk-purchased flour.
I made crackers the other day, and they were really good. A cup of flour, some water and oil -- cheap. I usually buy the Hearts crackers or Carr's water crackers and they are about $4.00 for a small box, so homemade is a real savings (as long as you make several dozen at a time to spread the cost of heating the oven).
Buy potatoes in the largest amount which you will use without wasting. If you feel like gardening, potatoes are one of the easiest things to grow.
Buy flours and corn meal in quantities which you will use in 6 months to a year (and store them in a cool place in an airtight container).
Health food stores sell things like sweet potato chips and dried mango snacks -- these are prepared foods no matter what the label says. They are expensive. Avoid them. Eat cheap fresh snacks like carrot sticks.
Avoid expensive cold cereals for breakfast and substitute cheaper hot cereals -- homemade, of course.
Buy what is on sale, which usually means what is local and in season. Bulk carrots, bulk onions. Buy yams instead of sweet potatoes -- they are cheaper. Instead of stylish kales or bok choy, choose the cheaper green cabbage and broccoli.
Watch for sales and coupons for frozen veggies.
Again, if you are into gardening, lettuce is super easy and once it comes in, you will have more than you need.
I always have pots of herbs growing. The trick is to use large pots so they have plenty of room to flourish, and grow a variety: I always have basil, rosemary, cilantro, and peppers which are so important in giving your plain starches a special flavor.
Avoid store-bought desserts. I know you want healthy, but for those occasions when you want to make a dessert, make it yourself. A homemade cake, cookies, or pudding can't be beat.
Buy local and what's on sale. Do not buy any fruit juices. They are very expensive and unless you drink it the way people used to, in 4 oz. servings, you are getting way too much sugar.
Buy a few specialty items which may be expensive to make your foods great. Spices (again, Costco) and condiments last a long time. A little touch of capers, a fabulous cheese, or a little caviar can be expensive but you use so little of it that it can make your other economies reasonable.
Last edited by PeteyPie; May. 28, 2013 at 04:27 PM.
Make big pots of soup and freeze individual portions. I make a kale and sausage soup (where the sausage is just a BIT for flavor) with white beans that is to die for (I throw in some squash in the winter, or summer vegetables in the summer, and I get enough for 5-6 "bags" of soup (I freeze it in freezer bags, not tupperware - another money saver for me). I also make a lot of veggie casseroles and freeze those. Pot pies (with vegetables and a little meat, and a thin biscuit crust - I'm trying to cut down on my starches) will also freeze pretty well.
Oh, and for kale, I bought a big bag, and still have some of that in the freezer, so that does freeze well. I'll throw a handful into a stir fry or salad, or into the soup pot, but I swear it's the neverending bag :P
I make a kale and sausage soup (where the sausage is just a BIT for flavor) with white beans that is to die for (I throw in some squash in the winter, or summer vegetables in the summer, and I get enough for 5-6 "bags" of soup (I freeze it in freezer bags, not tupperware - another money saver for me).
I'd get rid of stuff like meatless burgers etc - you can eat the veggies/grains/whatever without them being in burger form (and probably cheaper), and for a meatless protein source I'd second lentils. Fake-meat alternatives are to me just unnecessarily costly because they're shaped like meat, woo. Big deal.
Do you like canned fish? Generally cheap, pretty healthy if you get stuff like sardines.
I look out for the expiring-produce tray in supermarkets. Because I shop for product frequently and will consume it within a day or 2, that's been a great source for savings.
It's how MUCH meat, and what kind, that gets people into trouble.
The best source of Vitamin A is in meat. Why do I know this? Because recently a woman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter (?) for the death of her infant, because her vegan diet, and lack of knowledge about it and where Vit A comes from, left the infant severely deficient to the point he died (no idea where any Dr was, didn't get into it that far). I said to myself "surely you can get enough Vit A from other sources?" and sent hunting. While you can get Vit A and its equivalents from some vegetables in sufficient amounts (sweet potato anyone?) the BEST source is meat, and for vegans it's highly recommended to take Vit A supplements.
So no, meat is not evil Just limit the days its eaten, and your portion size.
You might want to look into just how healthy (not) all these whole grains are. They are not all they are touted. So, reduce how much you eat there, if not eliminate them. Quinoa isn't technically a grain, so you're ok there But yeah, it's $$. Buy in bulk - Sam's recently had Quinoa in bigger bags for a much better price per pound cost.
Ditch the soy - don't need it, and it often raises the cost of the product because "it's better for you"
What's a typical week's grocery trip getting you? That will help see exactly the things you're buying.
If you end up wasting a lot due to spoilage, then go to the store more frequently to buy smaller amounts of things that don't last long, such as some fruits and veggies. Wash berries in a vinegar/water mix to kill junk that makes them start molding in a few days - that extends their life a lot and will allow you to buy more on sale.
______________________________ The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET
Buy a ham, butt portion. Will feed a single person FOREVER! The first day, you have cooked ham, I usually throw in a baked potato and open a can of green beans and a little fruit salad with it. Then you carve it up for the future. Some nice thick slices, wrapped individually so that you have a quick ham steak for dinner - paired with bake potato, sweet potato, salad, whatever. I usually have about 6 of those. Then some thinner slices for sandwiches and/or ham and eggs for breakfast. Then all the little chunks you have left over you make little cubes and you can make scalloped potatoes and ham, which feeds you for a couple meals with just a cup or two of ham, ham and asparagus or broccoli quiche, etc. You get the idea. And of course that nice big meaty hambone you turn into a huge pot of homemade bean soup, or pea soup or hammy lentil soup. Ham is one of the biggest budget stretchers I know.
Spurge and buy a FoodSaver.
Then buy the family meat packs. Vacuum pack daily portions, using the FoodSaver, and freeze. Tonight put the frozen meat in the fridge and tomorrow it is thawed. Great for when meat is aging out at the grocery, the price is dropped and all you have to do is repackage and freeze.
Same with the speciality breads. Most groceries will slice the loaves for you at no charge. Wrap slices in aluminum foil and put in a regular freezer bag. Pop bread in oven for about 10 or minutes at 350 and it is like fresh out of oven.
Same for fresh veggies and some fruits on sales. Cut up, wash and vacuum seal and freeze.
Check your local farmers market or some farms have a produce stand open most of the year. This Saturday I spent $10 to buy fresh veggies for DH and I for the week and all were grown either in our county or our state. Plus for another $24 I bought 2lbs of fresh, shell on shrimp from our coast.
"Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
Courtesy my cousin Tim
If you want to go vegetarian there are lots and lots of cheap vegetarian recipes out there. One of my favorites is BBQ Eggplant and Lentils. Think beans, brown rice, etc. Don't buy the expensive vegetarian prepared foods like veggie sausage, etc. Look for recipes like nut loaf (makes great sandwiches) and my favorite sunflower "meat" balls. I make sesame noodles with tahini (loaded with veggies too), tofu lo mein with broccoli. All not very expensive. I try to use whole grain pasta as well. Stock up on staples when they're on sale.
Start a garden, even if it's in a pot.
We eat poultry and/or fish about 2 days a week. I very rarely cook red meat. The rest of the time, we're vegging it.
Sausage and kale soup (you do need some prepared items, as well - I don't make this from scratch LOL).
1/4 lb ground sausage (turkey is fine) - mild
some kale (I have no idea how much I put in there - a handful or two?
Whatever vegetables I have on hand - usually mushrooms and maybe some red peppers are good
Squash soup - the best is wolfgang puck's organic - wait for a sale - you can also buy a big carton of it, which is cheaper and will make more. This is the base, but to it you add 2 cups of chicken broth (I make my own from hens I've roasted and I freeze it, so THAT is cheap). The soup is about 3-4$, though.
Saute the sausage and mushrooms and onion till done, add other ingredients and cook for a couple of hours. It's easy, and I made it up . You could get fancy and just add squash and make it ALL from scratch, but I've found that the spices in the prepared soup are really good. You don't need a lot of it, depending on how much you make, but it does flavor it.
I doubt this would apply to you but just in case it does . . . if you can find a local farmer who's raising beef or pork and you buy directly from him it can save a ton. Grass-fed beef is going for $6.00/lb (ground beef) in the store, the farmer who pastures his beef cows on our farm sells it to me for $3.00/lb.