House Call: 10 tips to eating healthy on a budget
The easiest way to greatly improve your health is to eat better foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. However, there are misconceptions that eating more plant foods is more expensive. Here are some tips you can use to not only cut down on your grocery bill, but improve your health at the same time.
Avoid as much processed foods as possible. The more energy and packaging put into a food, the costs increase accordingly. Sticking to whole foods, the ones closest to their natural package as possible is the best choice for costs and preservation of nutrients. Frozen foods have the same nutritional value as fresh so don’t bypass this valuable option.
Plan your trips to the grocery store once a week. Plan your menus weekly so you won’t impulse shop and never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.
When you plan your meals for the week, think about recipes your family will like and you can use for leftovers for two meals. Buy bulk items when reasonable and always include staples such as dried beans, brown rice and pastas. Consider adding stews and soups through the week, as these are easy to prepare and cost efficient.
When you are in the grocery store, buy frozen and canned items when they are on sale and stock up. Keep your pantry well-stocked so you have several choices if things change. Keep simple recipes posted on the pantry door that contain ingredients readily found in your pantry.
Buy generic store brands and use coupons to decrease your costs when buying “luxury” or splurge items.
When you shop, buy seasonal foods that will cost less. Shop local farmer’s markets and pick your own farms. Consider joining a community supported agriculture group (localharvest.org/csa) where you pay a fee and get fresh produce throughout the growing season. Or check out bountifulbaskets.org, a volunteer co-op that has contracted with grocery store suppliers and has the food delivered weekly to a drop off site. The participants pay $15 for fresh produce that will feed a family of four. You help unload the truck and distribute the produce among the participants’ baskets.
Grow your own food. It could be as elaborate as a full garden or a windowsill with herbs growing in a container. Consider swapping bounty with neighbors and friends or having a canning party so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor through the winter.
Don’t throw cash in the trash. Use all leftovers. For instance, left over vegetables can be used to make your own vegetable stock. Use that last banana by freezing it and using it in a smoothie in the morning, or make a fruit salad with the last apple, pear and a few berries.
Keep eating out to a minimum or plan ahead with special deals such as two for one meals.
Brown bag your breakfast, lunch or dinner when you won’t be home to eat. This will save a lot of money and you will avoid fast foods that have poor nutritional value.
Using these tips, you will find yourself healthier while keeping more money in your wallet.
Dr. Laurie Marbas is a family physician at Grand River Hospital and Medical Center in Rifle.
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