My Tricks for Healthy Eating on a Budget - Julie's Healthy Living
 
IT IS POSSIBLE!!!!! :)

One of the top arguments I hear from people is how much more expensive it is to eat healthy. When I factor in how many doctor's appointments I avoid (except my yearly check-ups), the medications I no longer have to buy, the peaceful sleep I experience, the energy to get through my days, then I can argue that eating healthy is worth the price. However, the price doesn't have to put you in the poor house.

These days it seems that people are living on even stricter budgets than ever before. It is just a reality of the times we are currently living. And now a confession from me...

Until New Year's Eve 2008, we didn't have a strict food budget and ate out at least once, sometimes twice a week. I ate at restaurants more than Guy even while losing weight. We both had our paper routes, Guy was working full-time at Domino's and I was still working there two nights a week. We are real homebodies. We don't spend a lot of money on outside entertainment or anywhere else; therefore, we were able to enjoy eating out at restaurants regularly. Also, even though I knew how to cook and did it well, it wasn't something that I enjoyed doing. Oh what a difference a year can make.

I was in a car accident on New Year's Eve (for the record, no alcohol was involved) that totaled my vehicle. I drove head-on into a parked SUV at 30 mph. I broke my two bottom front teeth resulting in root canals and damaged my right shoulder. I also put myself out of work. You can't deliver papers or pizza without a car. Therefore, we became a one income household. My job instantly became homemaker. I took it as my responsibility to figure out ways we could save money. This is also a new concept for me. I have always been a spender who lives in the moment. I have emotionally and financially paid for the choices I have made. However, my choices don't only impact me. This may seem like an obvious statement, but unless you live alone, the choices you make will impact those around you. It took me a long time to realize this fact of life.

While I know many people had a rough 2009, I can honestly say it was one of the better years of my life. Being unemployed became a blessing in disguise. I know that people don't necessarily want to hear that, but for me it's the truth. It boils down to attitude. I learned new ways to live and it has made me happier and healthier in so many ways. It may have been thrust upon me; however, the changes I've made are lasting. These tricks can work for all size families; however, we are a family of two. Lenny, our boarder, occasionally has dinner with us, but this hardly causes a dent in our food cost. A very long introduction, but I am nothing if not thorough in my reasons for the choices I make.

These are tricks that I have gotten from varied sources including Foodie with Family (http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/blog/), Shape, Cooking Light, cookbooks, newspapers, articles from Sparkpeople (http://www.sparkpeople.com/index.asp), Dr. Oz and my own research. Since most people love lists I will present my tricks in that format. Please feel free to add your own money saving tips to the list. I request that they be real tips to help others.

Some of my tricks for saving money:
1. I plan my meals for just a few days at a time. One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was shopping twice a month. There are lots of schools of thought on this point. I share what works for me. I take inventory of my pantry, freezer and refrigerator before I go to the store. More than once, just by looking through what I already had I was able to skip the store. All too often in the past I threw out food that had gone bad simply because I forgot it was in the house. The other scenario, I would go shopping with the intent of cooking all these meals and then cop out and go for take out or fast food.
Bottom line: I think before I shop. I find a recipe or create my own from what I have before I go out.

2. Guy and I go shopping once a week to every 10 days at Sam's Club. Buyer beware for shopping in bulk. Not all of the bargains are bargains, but if you comparison shop you can save quite a bit of money. I do not list prices here as they vary greatly from region to region. Another note: not all items are available in all regions. This is what we get at our Sam's Club.
Quick Cooking [not instant] Quaker Oatmeal (100+ servings), Frozen Berries, Broccoli and Green Beans (frozen vegetables and berries have been shown to be just as nutritious as fresh), canned All Natural Hunts Tomatoes and Tomato Paste, Amy's Organic Soups, Nature's Own Double Fiber Bread, Arnolds 100% Whole Wheat Thins, Boca Burgers, Fresh Produce--varies by season--right now it's mostly citrus and bananas, Olive and Canola Oil, Ground Turkey, Whole Chickens and pieces (thighs and breasts). There is more to the list, but that is a sampling.
Bottom line: You can save money buying in bulk, just be logical and educate yourself. It's not saving you money if you throw out the product before you can use it up. This is true no matter how many people live in the house.

3. I use my adult tricycle to go to the Winn Dixie as needed for ingredients to round out recipes--even if I had a car I would use the bike to save money. It's a mile round trip and my cart can hold quite a bit. Just another way I save money and reduce my carbon footprint. I have a customer rewards card for Winn Dixie. I save money buying items on sale, store brands and sticking with natural, whole foods. In 2009, I saved more than $400 by paying attention to my weekly circular ads for the three main grocery stores. A lesson I learned when I really started paying attention. It's more expensive to eat processed, premade items, then it is cooking from scratch. In the hustle bustle world we live in, so many people want to save time in the kitchen. I save time by spending a little time planning menus as well as stocking items that can be thrown together for quick meals. Then I take what time I need to execute my plan.
Bottom line: Shop wise. Only use coupons for items that you normally buy. Look for specials and stock up.

4. I can't stress this point strongly enough. In these trying times it is more important than ever to stretch our resources. One of the most cost effective ways to do this is cooking at home. An average family of four will spend up to $50 in a sit down restaurant after drinks, desserts and tip. That will serve them for one meal. OR you can spend the same $50 and have countless meal possibilities. To me this doesn't really leave room for argument. For those who don't think you have time--It takes just as long, if not longer, to get all the kids together, get to a restaurant, order, wait for your food. This is true if you order pizza delivery as well. In the thirty to forty minutes you are waiting for that pizza you could have made dinner for the family for a fraction of the cost. For those of you who are losing weight, the only way you guarantee what you are eating is if you cook it yourself.
Bottom line: Save your money and eat at home. If you don't know how to cook, learn. It's not hard. Start with simple recipes with minimal ingredients. Learn how to make your families favorites in a different way. If you don't have money to buy cookbooks, check them out of the library.

5. One of my favorite ways to save money is using my slow cooker and freezer. This involves a little planning, but oh, the joy of slow cooking. Most recipes take less than 30 minutes to prep and get in the cooker. Turn it on and forget about it. Depending on your family size full meals will serve you for days. I make tomato sauce, casseroles, lasagnas, stews, chilis. The possibilities are endless. Not to mention, most slow cooked recipes lend themselves to freezing. More bang for the buck. I also use my slow cooker to prep dried beans which I freeze and use the same way I would canned.
Bottom line: Use your slow cooker and see the savings add up.

6. I never go shopping without a list. I find recipes I want to make, review what I have, make a list of what I need and stick to my list. I also don't go shopping when I'm hungry. This stops me from impulse shopping.

7. Merely a suggestion that works for us, but I know won't work for many of your homes. Start one day a week and work up to more. Find meatless recipes. Beans, whole grains, pastas and vegetables make wonderful meals that are healthy, filling AND cost effective.

8. Almost if not all meals can be doubled. Leftovers can be used for lunch the next day, dinner the next night or frozen for a meal at a later date.

These are tricks that work for me. In an effort to save money, an amazing thing happened as well, I rediscovered a love for cooking. According to the USDA Cost of Living plan I should be spending $350 a month for my family of two on their thrifty scale. I knew I was saving money. I didn't realize how much until I found this chart. (Thank you Rebecca for the link to this site). http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2009/CostofFoodJun09.pdf
Because I believe in full disclosure--our monthly food budget is $200. This includes Sam's Club, Winn-Dixie and the occasional stop at Publix. Some months we spend less. Feeding us as healthy as I can while also saving money makes me happier than having someone else do the work for me.
1/21/2010 09:13:51

Couldn't agree more. I never understood why so many people make the "healthy food is expensive claim" when it's demonstrably untrue. There's so many healthy and inexpensive foods available out there. I've created a blog with hundreds of recipes that I call "laughably cheap"--recipes that are healthy and so cheap that they make literally laugh out loud.

I think part the issue is due to the fact that our culture tends try to solve problems by throwing money at them--hence the multi-billion dollar diet industry. Also, it's easier for people to toss off a handy, intractable-sounding excuse (e.g., I'd love to eat healthier, but my budget doesn't allow it) instead of making conscious, active and long term choices to be more mindful of what they spend and what they eat.

Thanks for sharing a great article.

Dan @ Casual Kitchen

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Julie
1/21/2010 14:11:16

Dan,

Thank you for the feedback.

Julie

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