• Nina

Goddess Tips: Healthy-Eating on a Budget

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Note: I would like to preface this post by saying that I will be speaking from my own experience and referencing the resources that have been available to me in the areas that I’ve lived in in the United States; food deserts often leave many without access to affordable, nutritious food options. To learn more about food deserts, and what you can do to help, please visit https://foodispower.org/access-health/food-deserts/

Floral Produce Arrangement

When we’re broke and busy, it can be tempting to stock up on instant-ramen and cheap, frozen dinners. It’s inexpensive, there’s no cooking time, and tastes pretty good. It’s just terrible for you; I know, you want to make better choices, but you’re not sure where to start. In all honesty, fresh produce, chickpea-pasta and oat milk can be expensive; sometimes it seems as though our favorite healthy-influencers think that we all have money to spend on exotic fruits and ancient-grain granolas. But eating healthy doesn’t have to be so complicated or expensive, and certainly not bland. Here are just a few pointers that I’ve picked up along the way to save on eating healthily when I’m in a pinch.

It’s okay to buy frozen fruits and vegetables

Frozen produce items are most often significantly less pricey than fresh produce. Freezing may change the vegetable’s texture, however, frozen vegetables are in no way less nutritious than fresh vegetables, and could potentially be even more nutritionally valuable, as the vegetables are frozen at their peak. Plus, if you find yourself too busy to cook for a few nights, you don’t have to panic over your veggies going bad, since they’re perfectly okay hanging out in the freezer. Less waste = more money for you. Roast up some frozen broccoli, or throw some frozen strawberries into a smoothie (I only ever use frozen fruits in my smoothies, as the frozen texture makes my smoothies come out thicker, and I’m a thick smoothie kina gal. If you’re not, just add some extra liquid to compensate).

As always, another case for veganism

You know what’s like, not cheap? Meat. You know what costs like, $1-2 a lb? Tofu. Tempeh. Even less than that? Beans. At least in my grocery store, even plant-based meat products like Gardein and Tofurky tend to be cheaper per lb than most of the meats they sell (brands like Beyond Meat tend to be a little pricier). Meat is gross and boring. Plant-based proteins like the ones listed above can be transformed in so many ways to give you your daily protein intake. As a vegan person who lifts, I set my macros to include 25-30% protein, and I do just fine. Most of us only need about half of that on a regular basis.

Buy non-perishable foods in bulk

Rice, pasta, dry or canned beans and legumes, flour, oats, and a variety of other non-perishables are the least-expensive items you can find in the grocery store, especially when bought in bulk. Items like dried fruits, chocolate chips, and nuts are also significantly more affordable if you buy in larger quantities. Sometimes, grocery stores will have a bulk-bin aisle; head straight there (however, I believe most have temporarily removed their bulk-bins during the pandemic to encourage customer safety). Try to purchase your spices in bulk if you can, it’ll reduce the cost per oz. Make a list of non-perishable food items that you tend to or plan to use on a regular basis, and invest in some larger-sized bags that you can keep around for a while. To make sure they stay fresh, you might choose to purchase some tight-seal food-storage containers to throw them in. And definitely, definitely buy your spices in bulk. When you purchase spices in jars at the store, you're mostly paying for the jar. You can get an entire lb of cinnamon on Bulk Foods for a little over $9; that's $0.56 per oz, while your typical 3oz jar at the store costs (at the lowest) $3.00, making it almost double the price at $1.00 per oz. Spices have a 2-3 year shelf-life, and dried herbs have a 1-2 year shelf life, so you'll have plenty of time to get through a larger supply. Think about what spices you use on a regular basis, and make the investment to get them in bulk. And, a bonus, buying larger quantities means a whole lot less packaging to throw away!

Root-veggies tend to be cheaper

Head to the produce section; onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables are also typically some of the most affordable foods in store. They also last a lot longer than your more colorful veggies, so it’s alright to buy in larger quantities and go through the supply over a couple of weeks. Most stores will have bags full of onions or potatoes that you can purchase at a bit of a discount. And stop demonizing the potato, on its own it’s a nutritious starch that’s relatively low in calories.

Healthy-fats without splurging on avocado

To get your serving of healthy plant-fats, look to nut butters. Tahini is perfect for drizzling on top of meals or mixing into a dressing, and a little goes a long way, you only need a tablespoon per serving, so if you get a big jar, it’ll be around for a while. Use it to make your own hummus! Peanut butter is usually affordable, and makes for a great addition to your oats in the morning, works as a classic PBJ, or made into a peanut-sauce for a Thai-inspired dinner. And of course, a little drizzle of olive oil makes everything a bit more filling.

Snacks though

I highly recommend buying a sack / jar of un-popped popcorn for a budget-friendly snack! It takes no time to pop on the stove with just a little bit of oil, and costs much less than pre-made popcorn, or chips. And again, way healthier for you than the processed garbage. When I’m on a budget, my rule is that if I want chocolate bars or cookies or any other sweets, I have to want them badly enough to be motivated to make them myself. Overtime, it’s more economical to bake your own treats with simple ingredients than to continuously buy boxes of cookies. You could spend $3.15 on a slice of Starbucks pumpkin bread, or you could bake your own entire loaf at home for about the same monetary equivalence. Plus, everything tastes better when it’s made with love.

If you don’t have time every day to cook, find a couple hours once a week to meal-prep, so everything is nice and ready for you to grab-and-go, or scarf down at the table as soon as you get home from work or school. Chilis, curries, pasta / noodle dishes, stir-fry's, and overnight-oats are usually insanely inexpensive to make, and are fine to sit in the fridge for a few days. Youtuber Cheap, Lazy Vegan has a few videos with fantastic budget recipes that don’t take too much effort; I recommend checking her out.

As with many of the things I preach about, eating healthy even in tough times is so incredibly important, and if you have access to some of these ingredients, you’ll be investing in your future by choosing to do a bit of cooking instead of picking up fast food or instant meals. Take care of your body; I promise, when you’re eating fewer processed foods you’ll have more energy every day, and it will benefit your health in the long-run. Give yourself that bit of time during the week to cook up or plan your meals. You’ll be saving your money, and benefitting your overall wellness.

What are some inexpensive meals you like to make? How do you like to save money on food? Let me know if you'd like to see a few low-budget recipe posts!

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