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Eat Healthy, Eat Cheap

May 3, 2011
tags: , ,
by Brittany

The biggest complaint I hear from people about eating healthy is how expensive it is. It’s hard to make a meal from whole foods for a family when you’re on a tight budget. Fruit and vegetables go bad too quickly. It’s too hard to plan a week’s worth of food at the grocery store.

But the bottom line is that healthy food isn’t really that expensive. It’s just that processed food is cheap.

As a lady on a budget (I’ve been saving every extra cent for a trip to London, and I’m only $300 away from my goal!), I feel the pinch, too. So today I thought I’d share my top 5 tips for eating healthy while sticking to a budget.

1. Make extra, utilize leftovers.

I’m so bad at not making extra food when I cook! I’ll only make enough for lunch the next day, and then I’m stuck starting from scratch the day after. Well this weekend, I made a delicious dish (to be shared when I post the latest food photography project photos), and I turned it into a delicious chili, inspired by recent recipe.

Surprise ground turkey dish gets turned into spicy turkey wheatberry chili, complete with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt. And I made enough for the next day, too. :D

These guys were about to go bad, so I used the last 3 little crackers to scoop up some chili.

I also had some leftover canned guava from this weekend’s project (now you’re getting curious, aren’t you?), so I put the leftovers in a jar with some coconut (also used this weekend!) and made tropical overnight oats.

Overnight Oats, Cuban Style

1 serving

  • 1/2 c nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c skim milk
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 3 canned guavas, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • >1 tablespoon honey almond butter, for the topping
  1. Put it all in a jar (minus the almond butter), shake it like crazy until completely mixed, and refrigerate overnight. Top with almond butter in the morning.

2. Think frozen.

Frozen berries and vegetables don’t go bad anywhere near as fast as fresh fruit/veggies, and their nutritional value is underrated. Frozen fruit and vegetables, unlike fresh ones, are picked at their peak ripeness and then frozen. By allowing them to ripen on the plant versus off the plant, they have more time to absorb nutrients as they develop.

Vegetable mixes (just plain mixes… no sauce!) are great for stir fries, and frozen berries are great for overnight oats, smoothies, or even warmed up and used as a topping on.. well, anything. I don’t always have fresh spinach on hand, so frozen spinach is a pretty terrific replacement.

3. Go veggie.

You don’t always need meat as a part of your meal.

I repeat: you don’t always need meat as a part of your meal.

Tempeh is one of my favorite ways to get protein without opting for meat. Tofu is another option, but I try to stay away from unfermented soy as much as possible (here’s why). Tempeh is a bit of an acquired taste, though, and it’s not for everyone.

Cue beans.

Beans are excellent sources of fiber (the “good for your heart” part of that rhyme isn’t a lie) and help keep you satiated long after your meal. What’s more is that there is an endless variety of them that can be incorporated into almost any dish. Lentils (my personal favorite). Black beans. Kidney beans. Baked beans (minus the pork). Butter beans. Lima beans (okay… these aren’t my favorite, but some people like them).

4. Get creative with what’s about to go bad.

Waste not, want not… spend not?

Before leaving town for Easter, I had a bunch of spinach and kale left over. It was still fresh, but it definitely wouldn’t be when I got back. So I cooked all of it. In one dish.

So much superfood…

I sauteed the spinach and kale in a little olive oil. The thing about sauteeing greens is that it may look like you’ve got a ton when they’re raw, but they cook down so much, you’ll have maybe a fifth of this when they’re done.

And the best thing about greens is what you get for your caloric buck: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron all for around 7 calories per cup of raw spinach. Kale is a bit more at 33 calories per cup (I used about 1 1/2 cups here), but it also has 206% of your daily dose of Vitamin A and 134% of your vitamin C in ONE CUP (you can put your glass of OJ down now).

Dried red lentils a-simmering…

Unlike brown lentils, my red lentils were way mushier when they were done. But I liked it. :D

When everything was done, I threw the lentils, greens, and some leftover quinoa and wheatberries into a pan with the curry sauce I’ve made before.

Ready for the next day’s lunch!

5. Buy in season.

When berries aren’t in season, you’re not just paying for berries to be shipped from a farm. You’re either paying for the extra transportation (maybe even overseas) or for a climate-controlled growing facility. Regardless, it’s bad for both your wallet and the environment.

There are so many fruits and vegetables that there really isn’t a reason to need any particular kind year-round (and you can always get the frozen variety). Apples. Peaches. Any variety of grapes. Blackberries. Blueberries. Kiwis. Oranges/tangerines/clementines. And my particular seasonal favorite… PUMPKINS (and you can always get the canned variety year-round). The same goes with vegetables. They’re cheaper when they’re grown naturally (think field, not greenhouse) and closer to you (seen gas prices lately?).

And lastly, buying in season is a great way to try out new vegetables. I promise you, no one’s ever died from trying a new vegetable (on second thought, let me check up on that…).

I hope these tips helped encourage you to eat healthy and stay within your budget.

If that doesn’t convince you, think of it this way: eating healthy may cost more (money) just like working out does (time), but you’ll make it up on the back end. I rarely get sick, and I’ve never taken a full sick day in my professional life. I’d rather spend my money on good food and my time on a good run than on medical bills and moping on a couch with a cold (if you’re going to take time off work, make it for something fun!). And I haven’t even touched on the long-term effects of living a healthy lifestyle.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2011 9:26 am

    I think this post is brilliant. If people just planned a little better and utilized leftovers and their freezer a bit more, it certainly is possible to eat cheaply and healthily.

    On a side note, aren’t Ak-Mak the best? I love those crackers.

    • May 4, 2011 9:37 pm

      I LOVE them! I end up grabbing a piece every time I open my pantry… but they’re even better for scooping up chili.

  2. May 4, 2011 4:51 pm

    This is a fantastic post and I 100% agree with your tips and the idea that eating healthy doesn’t have to be cheap. Seasonal fruit all the way!

    • May 4, 2011 9:37 pm

      And I’m VERY glad it’s strawberry season. :)

  3. May 4, 2011 5:06 pm

    I’m going to have to try that greens & lentils combo…

    • May 4, 2011 9:37 pm

      It was great! I highly recommend it.

  4. May 8, 2011 6:36 am

    Love your tablecloth…! Batch cooking also saves you money on gas and electricity because you are not cooking from scratch everyday and wasting fuel :) x

    • May 10, 2011 6:31 pm

      Thank you! It’s actually a napkin/placemat that I got at World Market.

  5. May 8, 2011 3:01 pm

    Great tips here. You’re so right about making extra food to use in meals later. It’s such a time-saver and I don’t do it enough either. Good reminder.

    You asked about the hotel we stayed at in Moorea, and I’m late on this reply, but it was the Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, which now I think is a Hilton with the same name. I highly recommend it…it was hands-down the most amazing vacation we have ever had.

    • May 10, 2011 6:32 pm

      Thank you so much! I can’t believe how gorgeous that resort looks.

  6. May 10, 2011 8:38 am

    Ah, I love this post! I wish people didn’t equate healthy/organic foods with more money. It’s so worth it! You just have to plan and do a little prep work to have wonderful meals for the week.

    • May 10, 2011 6:32 pm

      I completely agree. And they tend to taste better, too. :)

  7. May 12, 2011 7:59 am

    Fix: Homemade matzo. Make your own snack food with nutritious and inexpensive ingredients. There are only two ingredients; whole wheat flour and water. Two parts flour to one part water. Mix them in a bowl, knead, cut into chunks, and roll thin with a rolling pin, drinking glass or Mankiewicz wine bottle. To remain kosher (and, why take chances?) you have to do this in eighteen minutes or less, from start to finish ( because the dough will start to rise and it’s supposed to be unleavened), so, preheat oven to 475 and bake 3-4 minutes. If you are successful and want to try a bigger challenge; drink the bottle of wine first.

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