Many people say that a healthy diet costs more. But they don’t know that with careful planning and knowledge, you can spend the same amount on nutritious foods in the grocery store and get a lot more for your money.
Knowing how to eat and cook on a budget is very important considering the cheap access to fats and pre-cooked meals. Here are some tips that will teach you how to eat healthy on a budget.
Make your own meals
Try not to rely on too many pre-prepared packaged foods or fast food’s meals which generally cost more. Taking the extra time to prepare your own food with nutritious ingredients can save you money and it’s generally taste better.
Meal planning consists in writing down every idea for your meals and distribute them on all days of the week. This system allows you to never run out of self-made dishes and make some foods ahead to have them available for lunches or to re-purpose them for dinners. Here is a three-steps tutorial that you should follow:
- Write down your healthy recipes that you like. If your budget is tight, pick cheap recipes or see below how to save money by buying meat and fish.
- Write on a small sheets of paper: your ingredients and how much of these ingredients you need. When you have about 30 recipes, put them in a box.
- Once a week, pick out the number of meals you need and put them in order for the week.
Healthy food choices
Food is at the base of all the dishes. This is why the choice of the aliment is very important. For example, here are the oils that you should choose:
- Olive oil is heart healthy oil, mainly used in Mediterranean-style dishes.
- Flaxseed oil contains two essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6.
- Fish oil usually comes in capsule form, but it is a source of Vitamine E.
Fruits and vegetables
You should eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day or 25% of your plate. The economical advantage is that they are generally cheaper in terms of calories/price than the meats. Fruits have a natural sugar that gives you longer-lasting energy: it’s a good alternative for snacks which are generally more expensive and bad for your health. The fruits are also a great source of natural fibers.
Note: pre-packed vegetables and fruits last longer than unwrapped products. Try to keep your fruits and vegetables in their packaging as long as possible.
If your children don’t want to eat vegetables, follow this tutorial: how to make my children eat vegetables?.
Before buying meat for your family, you should know that the choose of your meat is essential for your health. Choose grass fed, ethically treated meat. Do not hesitate to reduce your meat consumption to cut your budget. There are great reasons to bring organic and fresh foods into your diet:
- Purchasing organic produce lessons the toxic burden in our bodies, on the environment and on farmers. Organic meats are free of antibiotics, added hormones, GMO feed and other drugs which increase the productivity in massive rearing.
- Choosing to eat meat from animals that are ethically treated, raised in natural settings, and free from synthetic chemicals protects animal welfare and provides us with more nutritious. This food is less toxic than the meat of mass rearing.
The purchase of organic and free range poultry is also advantageous. Chicken is the meat of choice for developing muscle mass while reducing the level of fat: its protein content is higher than red meat, while its fat content is lower. Ideal to build muscle and stay lean, you can buy less poultry for the same protein intake than red meat. Furthermore, they are less expensive than red meat and their environmental impact are lower.
Fish are a great source of protein and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. They contain healthy fats that will reduce your cholesterol and improve your health. However, some fish are very expensive, so see if there are any good deals on fresh varieties. Tilapia and sole are relatively cheap. If the cost is prohibitive, choose frozen fish fillets, fish sticks or fish steaks, the cost is generally less high because it’s easier to preserve frozen fishes.
If you can, opt for plain fillets rather than marinated fish, because it contains less fats. If fresh fish happens to be on sale, buy some for today and some for your freezer.
Moderate sugar and salt
Sugar is essential to life, however, simple sugar such as saccharose (also known as Table Sugar) have an energetic contribution which is based on the short-term. In addition they are the cause of most of artery disease. This is why it is necessary to limit the consumption of this simple sugar to turn to naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter.
Salt is not as essential to life as the sugar, but we need it in small quantities. Lowering your salt intake can reduce your risk of heart disease and make you leaner. Reducing the consumption of salt is a good way to lower the blood pressure. If you think that your food needs more flavor, substitute it with healthy spices: parsley, chili peppers, cinnamon…
You should switch to water. Why? Because it’s healthier and cheaper, especially if it is tap water. Don’t forget to bring your bottle if you go to the restaurant: you will not have to buy expensive sodas.
Note: contrary to preconceived ideas, wine and beer aren’t bad for the health at low doses (one or two glasses a week). It can even regulate blood pressure.