I stopped into my local vitamin shop the other day, and the flax seed and egg white protein powder prompted a comment from the cashier. "What do you do with all that?", he asked. We fell into a conversation about diet and nutrition and so on. He mentioned that he'd been having a hard time losing twenty pounds and when I asked him to describe his nutritional regime, he said that he eats lots of frozen, pre-made meals. And we're not talking about the better-quality, healthy food store type meals that do tend to be more on the nutritious side. No. This poor guy's eating the type you get in the regular grocery store, laden with sodium, hydrogenated oils and God knows what else!
I tried to conceal my true feelings about eating those things (I was so surprised to hear that from someone working in a health food shop!) and asked why he chose to eat that way. Simple. It's cheap. He said he didn't have the budget to shop at any of the upscale health food stores, so instead, he spends $3 -4 per meal stocking up on frozen, pre-made, things-that-used-to-be-food foods!
Now, I realize that most people probably don't have the finances to go to a mega health food shop and spend without consequence. However, speaking from personal experience, I can say that eating healthy on a budget is not only possible, but quite easy.
Even as a broke college student, I still kept on top of eating my veg, fruit, protein and so on. It all comes back to the same thing- one needs to decide what the priority is and budget accordingly. I've always felt that nutrition is simply not the area to scrimp and pinch on.
Of course, it gets even more challenging if we're talking about a family on a tight budget versus a single college student (the latter of which could possibly just cut down on buying clothing, for example), but it's still doable.
-Use the grocery store flyers that are mailed each week to see which fruits, veg and meats are on sale that week and stock up. You can always buy extra fruit and freeze it to use in smoothies, for example. You can also freeze meat, fish and poultry for use the following week or so. Since the sale items change, this tip will help you to keep your fruit and veg choices varied.
-If buying organic is just too pricey, don't let that be a reason to entirely skip buying produce. Non-organic, conventional (but at least fresh) produce is still favorable to canned or ultra-processed food.
– Buy in bulk when appropriate. Choosing your raw walnuts from the bin, for example, saves as you don't pay for packaging and so on.
-Use your leftovers. Perhaps you'll prepare a roast chicken with veg for your family for dinner one night. Turn what's left into a chicken stew for the next day's lunch. Send the kids (and yourself and spouse!) to school/work with the last night's dinner for lunch. *Bringing lunch from home saves a TON of money!*
-Try making things at home instead of buying 'kits'. For example, rather than paying $5 for a bag of spinach with a packet of dressing, a packet of dried cranberries and a packet of dressing inside, buy those items separately and save again.
-Grow your own fruits and veg. While I realize this may sound like a stretch as many (or most, perhaps) don't have time to garden, but if it's remotely possible, here's yet another way to save. Get the kids involved, too! Seeing the fruits (excuse the pun) of their labor grown may encourage them to eat more produce as well. Even if there's no space for a garden, perhaps a small window box where you can grow fresh herbs and spices in order to jazz up your meals would be an option.
Happy, healthy eating!