A perpetually hungry chat friend wanted me to write more posts about food. Since this is an author blog, I have to tie it in somehow.
I have to eat so I have energy to write. Also, writers and artists are notoriously poor. There. I did it. Onward!
I notice when I go to the store and try to purchase more nutritious food that my bill is higher on average than when I buy crap. No wonder poor people are fatter than rich people. Not to mention rich people can afford personal trainers.
So how do you eat healthy on a limited budget? Here are five tips:
#1—Buy frozen veggies.
Frozen is just as good as fresh, because they are picked at the peak of ripeness. Besides the convenience factor, frozen veggies don’t have the sodium levels that canned veggies do. I have a recipe for Peas Almondine for one:
–3/4 cup of frozen peas
–Butter (just a little)
–Sliced or slivered almonds
Put frozen peas in a microwave-safe dish, cover with water and nuke for 1 minute. Toast the almonds in a dry pan on the stove until they just begin to brown. Drain peas, add butter and nuke 1 more minute. Add almonds and toss.
The most expensive thing there is the almonds. Keep the leftover nuts in the freezer so they don’t get rancid.
#2—Forget coupons; watch sales flyers in the paper.
Coupons tend to be for processed food. The frozen veggie ones are almost always for the kind with fattening sauces. Keep an eye on your local grocery’s sales flyer. You can sometimes sign up for emails and grocery discount cards.
Dry goods hold up well, but they don’t save you money if you’re not going to use them. So buy food you will actually eat in quantities you can use before they go stale. Oatmeal and lentils are cheap and good for you too.
#3—Cook more instead of buying prepared food.
Prices are higher than ever. When you eat out or buy convenience foods, not only are you not getting nutrients you need, you’re spending more. Cooking dinner? Make a little extra for lunches next day. Prepare a big batch of soup or chili on the weekend and freeze individual portions. Then you can pop them in your lunchbox and take them to work.
Explore Japanese bento. There are numerous websites with recipes and tips on preparing these tidy little lunches. Leftovers work great in them. You can get bento boxes online or in Asian stores in larger cities. I got this for my birthday (yes, I like cute Japanese anime characters, so shut up!):
It holds just enough food to make me full, which also keeps me from overeating.
Check here for a tutorial on how to choose the right size bento box for kids and adults.
#4—Remember WHAT you eat is as important as how much.
That nutrition label is there for a reason. Read it! You only need 30% of your daily calories from fat, but “reduced fat” on the label doesn’t mean you can eat twice as much. Look for vitamins, minerals, and low amounts of sodium. If you eat lean protein at every meal, you will stay full longer and save money. A proper portion of lean meat should be the size of a pack of playing cards.
You can get better quality if you only need a small amount. I buy ground round, but because it’s only me, a pound or less is economical.
Low-nutrition food has calories the body doesn’t use for anything, so they get stored as fat. Eat as much fresh stuff as you can, and you’ll be thinner.
#5—Make a meal plan for the week or month.
If you know what you will be preparing ahead of time, it makes shopping much easier. Check over your meal plan. Then make a list and stick to it! You’ll be less likely to buy impulse items or buy something you don’t have the other ingredients for, which might go to waste.
This is a good source for making a meal plan. Try it for a little while and see if it works for you.
College students are a special case, as is anyone who is unemployed or on EBT. But if you plan your purchases well, you can stretch those dollars until they squeal and still maintain a healthy kitchen.
Here are some links to help you:
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ Nutrition information
http://www.squidoo.com/easy-menu-planning Lots of meal planning tips
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=511 Good article on healthy budget dining
http://justbento.com/ All about bento
http://lunchinabox.net/ This is defunct but still has a lot of good bento info.