One of the most popular excuses for not making better health a priority is that eating healthy is expensive. That simply is not true, a healthy lifestyle does not require a huge investment, just a shift in priorities. A fast food burger that costs a dollar really weighs much more heavily on the family budget when you consider the health implications of a poor diet. In honor of National Nutrition Month, here are my favorite tips to help you fit healthy eating into your budget.
Getting food to the family dinner table, eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That equals out to more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all of that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Wasting less is good for the planet and the budget. If it is not already a habit, make menu planning a part of your routine and only purchase what you need. Plan your menu around and shop the sales at local farmer’s markets and the grocery store. This habit allows you to purchase produce when it is abundant, usually at the peak of the season when it is most nutritious and most affordable.
The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach provides many resources on how to spend smart and eat smart, including a food budget calculator based on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Low-Cost Food Plan that can be found online at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/page/what-you-should-spend
Store it Right
Learning proper food storage techniques can deter food from spoilage and help stretch food dollars. Spraying fresh produce, upon purchase, with a solution of equal parts cool water & white distilled vinegar and then allowing it to sit for a few minutes, will clean it and help to kill any mold spores that have begun to grow on the surface. This produce cleaning technique will prolonging shelf life which is great when you are purchasing enough produce to last the entire week and makes purchasing the more expensive organic options more budget-friendly. Don’t worry after a good rinse there will be no trace of vinegar in the taste or smell of the cleaned produce. When storing fresh onions and potatoes, always remember a cool, dry, place will deter spoiling but also remember to store them separately since each will cause the other to spoil more quickly. Freeze fresh fruit before it spoils to add to homemade fruit smoothies. Most fresh vegetables can be frozen as well, with the proper technique, to add to soups and stews, sauces and homemade condiments.
Learn to Cook
If eating healthy is a priority to you, learning to cook is almost a prerequisite. It is hard to really know what is in your food unless you prepare it yourself. Prepackaged and processed foods are usually high in salt and sugar (or its’ equivalent), preservatives, and chemical additives, none of which should appear too often in a healthy diet. But don’t fret, cooking need not be complicated. Keep it simple. Learn to enjoy foods as nature intended, fresh and unspoiled by processing. A simple mixed green salad can round out just about any meal and takes minimal time to prepare. Learn to prepare homemade vinaigrette made from healthy oils like cold-pressed, organic olive oil, and you can get a healthy dose of good fat. If you spend a lot of your food budget on frozen prepared meals because you don’t have time to cook every night, get in the habit of cooking enough for two to three meals at a time and freeze the leftovers for a quick meal later that is a healthier option than the commercially available counterpart.
Don’t be afraid to try new things, your next favorite meal may be found where you least expect it. Experiment with unusual flavors and textures. Eat more vegetables and fruits and less meat and dairy. Opt for whole grains whenever possible and drink more water, but most of all, be an active participant in your quest for health and wellness, not a silent bystander.
- Dietitians Dish: Eating healthy on a budget (victoriaadvocate.com)
- Seven Foods You Think Are Healthy But Aren’t (pbs.org)
- Nutrition Month – How To Create Tasty Yet Healthy Meals (daydaily.com)
- Sneaky Food Tips: Ways to Secretly Slip Your Family Better Nutrition (jenniferbrowne.org)
- Healthy Family Eating on a Budget (thelaboroflove.com)
- The Inconvenient Truth of Healthy Living (health.usnews.com)
- Seven Fun Foods to Play with in Nutrition Month! (kaplantoys.com)
- To Market, To Market (thedailyround.wordpress.com)
- What do they put in our food??? (gentlebynature.wordpress.com)