Although the holidays are well behind us, the pinch of all that holiday spending is still being felt. On top of that, resolutions made to eat better can seem impossible when budgets are tight. The good news is that there are ways to eat well this winter while trying to cut back on food spending.
Before you give up on trying to eat healthy or worse, run into debt buying pomegranate juice and goji berries, hear me out.
Not surprisingly, there is middle ground between eating Kraft dinner and hot dogs every night and breaking the budget with boxed salad and wild, organic salmon. Sure, it may require a bit more planning and preparation than if you had an unlimited budget, but with time and practice any extra effort it takes now will soon be a thing of the past.
In fact, money aside, many of these tips can help you eat a wider variety of food on top of eating more antioxidants, fiber and other healthy nutrients.
1. Stock up on canned and frozen vegetables and fruit.
Packaging and freezing techniques have come a long way over the last decade so frozen produce is equally nutritious and sometimes riper when compared to their fresh counterparts. Plus, they are often more convenient to prepare since they are sold washed, peeled and cut up. This also save a heap of time in cooking thus increasing your chances of actually eating a vegetable at supper or fruit at breakfast. Since they spoil a heck of a lot slower than fresh fruits and veg, you can stock the pantry and freezer with all different kinds, allowing for more variety. Forget eating broccoli all week to avoid it from spoiling! You could have a different vegetable every night if you’d like.
2. Prepare more meals with plant based protein such as lentils, chickpeas and tofu.
Beans and pulses can be seasoned to match almost any flavour combination. When used as a substitute for meat in your favorite dishes, beans can save you up to 70% of the cost.
For example, if a boneless chicken thigh costs ~$1.00 and a serving = 1.5 thighs cooked. And 3/4 cup of cooked lentils is a serving of meat and alternatives, and costs about $0.45 (or 1/3 of a can of lentils that costs ~$1.30), then it appears that you could reduce your protein costs by about 70 per cent by substituting beans for chicken.
If meat is a must in your house, try diluting your choice of meat with beans (or tofu or edamame). This preserves the meaty flavour while cutting down on the cost of the meal. This idea works really well in dishes like Sheppard’s pie, Ratatouille and chili.
Of course there are other protein rich foods such as eggs (2 eggs = $0.60), cottage cheese (3/4cup = ~$1.30), canned tuna (1/2 a can = $0.80), and even peanut butter (2 tbsp = $0.17).
3. Pack up leftovers individually into freezable containers and make your own microwave dinners.
Rather than buying TV dinners, make your own. Apart from the obvious save in the sodium and bad fat department, they’ll allow you to enjoy a decadent meal for way less. This is also perfect for people who don’t like eating the same thing for lunch as they had last night for dinner. Simply freeze the meal and save for a day next week. Added benefits include helping you crawl out of a sandwich or salad rut and enjoy a homemade hot meal in the middle of the day.
4. Buy what is on sale and in season.
Since sales change from week to week, you can almost be guaranteed to eat a wide variety of foods of you follow this tip. Remember: variety doesn’t have to be day to day or meal to meal. One week of eating more green beans and the next eating more cauliflower is a cheaper way to eat healthy.
This can be a huge help in saving you money on the more expensive foods such as yogurt, breakfast cereal and fresh fruit and vegetables. It may also open your eyes to new products or brands you hadn’t thought to eat before.
Buying produce that is in season means that it will likely be more flavourful and higher quality for a lower price. Check out this chart by SOS Cuisine for what is in season in your area.
Also, one last tip! Throwing out spoiled or uneaten food is a HUGE waste of money. Either changing your buying habits to better suit what you eat or using a basket labelled “eat soon” in your fridge to highlight foods to be eaten asap can help. There is nothing more frustrating than setting a goal to eat better, buying a ton of fresh food, then having it spoil before all of it can be eaten. Pace yourself! Buy what you need and plan out meals in which to use the fresh food. Practice makes perfect when trying to throw meals together with what is in the fridge!
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