Today we’re talking about healthy eating on a budget. It’s Friday, and it’s time to tackle some more reader questions. I have two related questions today. I’m definitely going to need some reader help with these questions today, as I’m still learning to eat healthy on a budget.
Without further ado, let’s get to the questions!
First, Jennifer asks,
I really want my family to eat as much organic food as possible and as little processed, enriched, preservative-laden foods as possible. However, when you are on a tight budget, organic sense goes out the window. Any ideas, suggestions, or tips on how to eat to the best of our health while shopping to the best of our wallet?
And then Jan asks,
With the prices raising….it is hard to eat a “heart healthy” diet. Expensive! Do you or your readers have any suggestions for those of us who must eat healthy….because of high cholesterol and/or the need to watch sugar intake???
Thanks, Lynnae! BTW the Amish Oatmeal that your son loves sounds good. It was that recipe that prompted my question.
I’ve been really struggling with eating healthy on a budget lately. June was the first month I bought all organic fruits and vegetables, and it definitely impacted my budget. This is what I’ve learned from my readers so far. And I’m sure you’ll find even more great advice in the comments.
First, if you’re making the commitment to eating healthy, you’re going to pay more. But if you’re going to allow yourself a splurge in your budget, healthy food is a good place to splurge a little.
Second, when it comes to organic foods, local is better than organic. Fresh, locally grown produce is better than organic produce from Chile. Plus, if you buy at the farmer’s market, you can ask the grower about pesticide use. Sometimes a farmer hasn’t taken the steps to become certified organic, but doesn’t use pesticides.
If you hit the farmer’s market late in the day, you might even be able to get a good deal on produce, though the selection won’t be as good. Some farmers will lower their prices at the end of the day, so they don’t have to bring extra produce home.
Consider signing up for a CSA. It will expose you to new fruits and veggies, you’ll support your local growers, and it’s generally a good deal for organic produce.
And if you can’t afford to go completely organic, know which foods are important to buy organic, and which don’t matter as much.
My biggest tip for healthy eating and eating a heart healthy diet is to cook from scratch. As a general rule, making things from scratch is less expensive and healthier than eating processed foods.
I like cooking from scratch, because I can choose what goes into my food, and I can make substitutions where needed. For instance, in the Amish Baked Oatmeal recipe, I tried to cut the sugar in half and replace all the oil with applesauce. It didn’t turn out too well, but I think if I add half the oil back in, it will work better.
If you have a recipe that calls for an egg, use two egg whites instead to lower cholesterol. I’m not very good with substitutions yet, but as I learn, I’m hoping to get better. And if you can do it, adapting recipes is a good way to make sure your food meets your needs.
Also, base your meals on beans, rather than meats. Meats are expensive, and red meat is not good for cholesterol. Beans are cheap, tasty, and very good for you. We’ve eaten a largely bean based diet this month. I thought it would get old, but I’m really enjoying the variety of things you can do with beans. It helps that I love Mexican food.
That’s about the extent of my knowledge on this subject, so I’ll turn it over to the readers. I know some of you are much more adept than I am at healthy eating on a budget, so let’s hear your best advice! What do you do to make sure you have a healthy diet without breaking the bank?
For those who are interested in CSA but can’t get in. Try bountifulbaskets.org. You pre-order online and then pick up later in the week. You get about $35 worth of produce for $15. It is only available in some areas but if you are lucky enough to have it in your area, it is well worth it! Also, I have started a series of articles based on cooking with produce that is in season. Feel free to follow if you are interested!
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Man this one is hard for me, but I try to balance it all out. I’m on Weight Watchers with a really long way to go, so I have to try to do these things as economically as possible.
We try to eat all of our leftovers so there is no money wasted there. Food waste that was big in the past is no longer. I find a way to turn it into some kind of something. As an example, the other night we each ended up with about half a chicken breast leftover. We cut them up and then mixed them into a can of corn, some cooked brown rice and a can of black beans (as someone said, less meat, more bean) and threw in some cheese for good measure. I rolled it up into my version of Chipotle. Healthier and used the leftover chicken. Normally we would have each given our share split up to the dogs.
Ground beef is expensive, so now I use Morning Star crumbles. Not only do they freeze well, but they cook quickly and have fiber in them (another good healthy thing to have in your diet).
Eat fruit, find the one on sale and make it your staple. I find that there’s usually at least one fruit on sale each week (shop the sales). For me some weeks it’s strawberries, then grapes, etc.
Start snacking on veggies you like. If you have trouble with them then check out hungry-girl.com and see what she’s got for recipes. Or sparkpeople.com.
For everything you eat see if there is a healthier swap that you like better, or close enough ;) I snack on cucumber or apple slices now. I get fat free ranch or fat free caramel sauce to dip them in (just like mcd’s!).
Keep in mind that often the healthier choices are more filling anyway. I find that for things I used to eat two servings of I only eat one of the healthy choice because it’s usually not filled with any kind of preservative.
Best of luck to us all!
Excellent tips and comments. We do eat a lot of meat including red meat. I have to add to Rob’s disclaimer about eggs & butter that red meat is good for you, too! Animal fat provides things that soy-based fats simply cannot. We buy our meat directly from a farmer for far cheaper than grocery store beef and it is hormone and antibiotic free.
I’ve actually made an adjustment down in our grocery budget to help make up for the rise in fuel. It helps having local cheap produce. I am canning and freezing a ton!
I’m fiding that it really isn’t too much more expensive to feed your family a healthier diet, but it does mean making some changes. I think, in some ways it can actually cheaper. And you don’t have to go the total organic route, although I do spend more on things my family prefers like organic milk and some organic produce.
As an example, buying apples, carrots and celery for snacks for the kids can save ALOT over prepackaged snack foods like potato chips or cracker snacks.
Buy a couple pounds of bananas instead of that big bag of chips or that 1/2 gallon of ice cream.
Try cutting the amount of meat you use in meals in half. Do you really need a whole pound of hamburger in that recipe? Would anyone really notice if you cut off 1/3 of it and put it up in the freezer and after doing that 2 or 3 times you have enough for another meal?
If we just really THINK about what we are buying and notice the prices of the unhealthy foods vs healthier ones it is easier to spend less and eat healthier.