We all know the importance of eating healthy. It is not only crucial for our health, but for our cognitive function and mental ability. In such a competitive market, we need to be on our game. The foods we eat are directly correlated to the way we feel and our performance levels.
Eating healthy can sometimes cost families a good chunk of money. Buying fresh organic produce, nuts, seeds, health foods, and vitamins can add up. Healthy options are not always the cheapest options. How do you combat this? How do you maintain your health while staying on a strict budget?
Eating Healthy on a Budget
You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. A nutrient-rich diet is attainable, you just need to know how to shop and how to prepare your food. You do not need to be a chef to create healthy and delicious dishes. The following tips will help you maintain your health, while your wallet stays fatter.
Stick to Whole Foods
Yes, processed foods are easier, but they’re more expensive than you think. They also provide you with a lot less nutrition in comparison to whole foods. We are living in a society that eats a ridiculous amount of processed foods.
When you eat whole foods, you’re eating food in its natural state. There’s a large difference between an apple and concentrated apple juice for instance. Whole foods consist of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, healthy oils, and more. You would be surprised how much fresh vegetables you can get in comparison to Chinese takeaway.
Purchase Cheaper Protein
Besides water, protein is found the most within our bodies. Our organs, muscles, ligaments, nails, and hair, are all made up of protein. Our brain’s depend on protein in order to function effectively. Although protein is essential, many individuals are consuming too much. This means that they’re also consuming high amounts of cholesterol and fat.
Keep red meat to a minimum. This is in terms of your bank account and your health. There are a number of protein sources that are cheaper than steak. Some cheap options are; eggs, milk, whey, canned tuna and mackerel, cottage cheese, and more.
Fish provides your brain with omega-3 fatty acids, such as ALA, EPA, and DHA. These all provide health benefits, but DHA is especially important for brain function. In fact, DHA makes up 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids within out brain, and 93% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the retina. It goes directly to the tissue of our brain, ensuring optimal functioning.
Opt for Frozen
Generally fresh produce is better, but this is not always the case. It depends where your produce is coming from. You can get some highly nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that have been frozen. As long as the fruits and vegetables were frozen shortly after picking, they may even contain more nutrients than the fresh options. Frozen options are generally half the price and last much longer. Due to their longer shelf-life, you can buy them in bulk.
Purchase bags of frozen fruit in order to make smoothies. Large bags of berries will cost a fraction of the price and last you much longer for instance. More times than not, the fruits and vegetables that are frozen, have more minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants locked in. Since some fresh produce is picked before it is nutritionally mature, it is artificially ripened on its journey. A journey that is sometimes up to 2,000 miles. Once produce has been picked, it begins to lose its nutrients. Which leads me to my next point.
Buy From Local Farmers
I cannot stress this enough. If you have access to local farmer’s markets, take advantage. Not only will they offer cheaper produce, but it’s generally better quality. When you get to know your local farmers, they tend to throw in free items when you buy a lot or buy from them regularly. You can also see where your food came from, which is a connection we have lost. This option is cheaper and generally healthier (as produce has been picked closer to consumption).
Grow Your Own Vegetables
If you have the room, start your own little garden. You can get creative and plant cherry tomatoes in pots if your garden space is restricted. Food does not get much cheaper or fresher, then items from your own backyard. This also gives you something to maintain outside, keeping you active.
Start small, getting to know the in’s and out’s of gardening. This year my husband and I planted a variety of hot peppers (habanero, jalapeno, cayenne, and hot cherry peppers), bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, various herbs, kale, swiss chard, and mixed lettuce. We did this with limited space. For example, cucumbers grow outwards on the ground. Therefore, we tied our cucumber plants upwards along the fence. There are little tricks that you will learn along the way.
Get a Customer Card
You can earn points when you use club cards. Certain supermarkets will offer reward cards that accumulate points. You can then get shopping for free. You’re buying groceries anyways, you may as well get something in return. These points will allow you to make up the difference for some of the more expensive, healthy options you’re after.
Don’t be shy to use a coupon or two. There are some great offers that will allow you to cut your grocery bill down. When you’re looking through the weekly flyer, make a list based off of the sale items. When you’re at the store, stick to your list. If tomatoes are on your list, look around. There are generally a number of tomato options. If your recipe is not specific, choose the tomatoes that are on sale or are least expensive. Just be smart when you’re shopping.
Consume Tap Water
Buying water bottles adds up quick and is terrible for the environment. Invest in a Brita filter and drink your tap water. Purchase a good water bottle to bring to work. This is a much cheaper option and will allow you to consume vital amounts of water. Without water, you will not perform effectively.
Water is essential for our brain. Since optimal brain function is crucial at work, you need to avoid dehydration. When you’re feeling thirsty, that is a sign that you are already dehydrated. This can impair your short-term memory, as well as your memory recall. Mental arithmetic suffers, and our ability to concentrate begins to decrease.
Cook For Your Family
I know that work can be hectic, but cooking at home is great for your budget and your health. There are a number of ways that you can cut your food costs, while amping up the nutrients.
- Make a menu
At the beginning of the week, make a menu. This can be planned around items that are on sale or that you have in your fridge. If you plan ahead, you’re less likely to buy convenience or fast food. Within your menu, plan for at least two vegetarian meals. Incorporate beans or lentils for example. Dried beans are cheap to buy and will last you for a number of meals. Black bean burgers are delicious and high in protein, iron and fibre.
- Stay away from meals that need special ingredients
If your budget is tight, avoid specialty ingredients. You may only need it for one recipe before it goes bad. Experiment with other ingredients or leave it out. There is no point in wasting food, as you’re simply throwing money away. Some of the healthiest meals have no more than four to five ingredients.
- Use your leftovers
Did you cook a whole chicken last night? Make sandwiches for work with your leftovers. Remember, use whole grain bread and pack it with fresh vegetables. You can then use the carcass and remaining meat to make a soup for the following night.
- Make extra
If you’re making a soup, casserole, or any other item, make extra. Don’t let vegetables go to waste. Is ground beef on sale? Make two lasagnas; one for that night and freeze the other. You can make healthy meals that will provide you with two nights worth of food.
- Use seasonal vegetables
If you’re going to your local farmer(s), this will be easy. If not, know what is in season. These vegetables will not only be cheaper, but will yield more nutrients.
Be smart not only about what you eat, but what you buy. You can eat healthy on a budget, you just need to put in the effort. What you consume is so important, as it is a deciding factor in how you feel and perform. Take the time to improve your health and save money. You cannot go wrong. Once you get involved in the foods you eat, this will become a natural routine.