One of the most common excuses I hear from people as to why they can’t seem to get healthy is that they think fresh food costs too much. While it’s true that some restaurants and stores mark up fancy ingredients, I assure you that it can be easy to eat healthy on a budget. You just need a few good tips and tricks up your sleeve.
Here are six easy ways that you can keep both your body and bank account healthy:
1. Eat in season.
Instead of finding a recipe then shopping for produce, try this: shop for in season foods, then find the perfect recipe centered around the food.
Foods grown in season always cost less because they are easier for the stores to stock. For instance, blueberries are a great price in May but cost a fortune in December. Pomegranates are easy on your wallet in November but are pricey in April. In season produce is usually in the feature displays in your grocery store with big signs to highlight the great prices.
If you’re ever wondering what’s in season, just ask the manager of the produce department at your local store. Shopping your local farmers’ markets is also a great way to eat in season. Join me over on Instagram to see what I pick up at my local farmers’ market each week.
Beyond being a better price, in season food is usually more fresh, nutrient-packed and delicious than out of season goods.
2. Buy in bulk whenever possible.
You can always shop at a store like Costco to buy in bulk but there are other ways, too.
Just about all grocery stores offer an additional 10% off a case of anything, so buy in bulk if it fits into your budget. Some stores even do so if the item is on sale. For instance, I love the large cans of coconut water but they cost about $2.50 per can. I wait until they go on special for $2 per can and buy a case of 12, bringing them to $1.80 each. Same for organic canned black beans, when I buy them by the case and on special they only cost about 80 cents per can.
There’s one caveat to this rule: only buy in bulk if you know you’ll finish it all before it expires.
In the opposite direction of buying a lot, the bulk section of your natural grocery store will let you buy just a little. This is a great way to save money because you can buy just the amount of an ingredient that you need. Let’s say you only need 1/2 cup or 2 tablespoons of a more obscure ingredient or spice like the yellow curry powder for the curry quinoa salad I mention below; the bulk section allows you to buy that exact amount instead of an entire jar or container. If you won’t use it within six months then never buy an entire jar, just buy what you need. That alone can take your $15 recipe down to less than five bucks.
3. Make your own food.
Most whole-food ingredients are actually quite affordable. Dried beans and pulses, unprocessed whole grains like rolled oats, eggs, and in-season produce are generally inexpensive. Recipes like no-cook overnight oats, easy lentil soup and curry quinoa salad can all be made in bulk and ahead of time to provide delicious satisfying meals that don’t break the bank.
4. Grow your own food, especially herbs.
You can grow expensive ingredients like fresh basil, mint and scallions right on your windowsill. An organic herb plant only costs a few dollars, and you can replant it into a small pot on your windowsill and it will produce for months. Just keep it watered and in direct sunlight, and always leave about 1/2 the leaves in tact so the plant can keep producing (if you pick off all the leaves the plant will die — I only made that mistake once).
I always have mint and basil on my windowsill and for about five bucks I’ll have fresh herbs from April thru October. Leave the root end of scallions in tact and put them on the windowsill in a pint glass filled half way with water — as long as the root is in tact they will keep growing.
If you have more space, then of course the sky is the limit. Gardening not only saves you money, it can be a stress-relieving hobby that your whole family can love.
5. Go meat-free at least once per week.
Animal protein (chicken, fish, steak, etc.) is usually the most expensive thing in your grocery basket. Even if you’re not vegetarian go meat-free at least once per week. A huge pot of vegetarian chili or other protein-packed veggie dish contains just as much protein and feed an army for less than $10.
6. Skip fast food.
This may seem counterintuitive at first, but that $1.99 value meal is going to cost you thousands in health care costs in the long run. Investing in high-quality food is the best insurance you can have against astronomical healthcare costs later in life.
Cheers to eating well and saving more!
Originally published at medium.com