5 Easy Steps to Eating Healthier Without Blowing Your Budget

Portrait of happy young housewife putting money into piggy bank after shopping on local market

Do you want to eat better but healthy foods just don’t fit into your budget?

 

In a study by the Harvard School of Public Health  researchers found the difference between buying food for a healthy diet (foods rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts) was only $1.50 per day more than buying foods that are considered less healthy.

 

Do you find yourself caught in the trap of buying foods because they are cheap versus healthy?

 

I was in a mom’s group many years ago and one mom complained how expensive it was to feed her kids fruit when it was so much cheaper to give them Oreo cookies.

 

I held my tongue but what I wanted to say is that by feeding her kids fruit she was investing in their future health but by feeding them Oreo cookies she was setting them up for a lifetime of poor eating habits and health issues.

 

Do you tend to focus on cost versus nutrition and short-term versus long-term benefits?

 

So how do you increase your intake of healthy foods without blowing your budget?

 

First of all creating a low budget healthy meal plan can be challenging if you are used to buying mostly packaged foods.

 

I am always seeking out ways to get the most nutritional bang for my buck.

 

Ideally I try to purchase at least 75-80% whole foods (organic when possible and not cost prohibitive) which means produce, lean protein (eggs, fish, beans, tofu), organic whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats) and nuts/seeds.

 

Foods like gluten-free pasta, whole grain cereal, almond milk, tomato sauce, and Greek yogurt are fine to include in your diet but they are still processed because they are not directly from the earth.

 

These foods had to go through a refining process to get from the raw ingredients to final product.

 

These foods can be eaten in moderation but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet.

 

Eating whole foods is ideal but this means food preparation which takes time.

 

I believe that people would eat more whole foods but cost and food preparation can be a barrier to eating a healthier diet.

 

The good news is that there are many inexpensive whole foods and so many ways to prepare them.

 

I priced out some whole foods that you can find in pretty much every grocery store in the country.

 

Here are a few versatile whole foods including the price (in my grocery store) and some practical uses:

Bananas-$.49/pound                                                                                                                                    

Eat whole, sliced with nut butter, add to muffins/cookies/smoothies/protein shakes, freeze and blend for a sugar-free soft-serve ice cream, slice and bake to make into a chip, dip in dark chocolate and freeze for a sweet treat.

 

Sweet potatoes-$1.69/bag                                                                                                                      

Baked, chips, roasted, mashed, mash and formed into a patty, in a pie, soup, fritters, flourless brownie (really).

 

Oats-$2.99 32 oz. container                                                                                                                          

Hot cereal, homemade granola bars, cookies, snack balls/ bars, muffins, quick bread, flourless pancakes, grind into flour, yogurt topping.

 

Chick peas (garbanzo beans) $.69/can                                                                                                              

Salad topper, roasted with cumin (spicy) or cinnamon-sugar (sweet), in soup or pasta, falafel (little patty), hummus (spread), mock tuna salad (sandwich filling), burgers, flourless cookies (again really), dip, sautéed with greens, in a slow cooker.

 

Every single one of these recipes for each of the foods above can be found on Pinterest.com.

 

It seems like there is an infinite number of recipes that you could make using just inexpensive whole foods.

 

If you would like to eat more whole foods to either save money or eat healthier then here are five steps to get you started:

  1. Spend about 30 minutes looking through some whole food recipes that would appeal to you. I recommend just putting a food like “butternut squash” in the search on Pinterest. You will find dozens if not hundreds of ideas.
  2. Choose 1-2 new recipes that look doable to you depending upon your time availability and cooking skills. Simple is better.
  3. Add the ingredients to your shopping list.
  4. Schedule in a time to prepare your recipe like on a Sunday afternoon.
  5. Repeat this process each week and when you find a recipe that everyone in your family loves add that to your monthly menu plan.

How do you simplify incorporating whole foods into your life? Do you have any tricks or tips that could help my readers?

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