It makes no difference what your income is, we have all noticed that food is getting more expensive. We are buying less and less for more and more. I noticed this trend almost a year ago when I was living in the US and as a family of six, it did have its effects.
Now with more people strapped for cash and out of work, there is a movement away from healthy eating in an effort to save money. We see this in McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s steady rise in income despite the global economic down turn. People are looking to buy calories and not nutrients.
In the long run, this choice is not cost effective. Being sick is very expensive, especially if you do not have health insurance. Also, if you are sick, you cannot work.
There is no denying that many people are experiencing profound stress and depression at this time and food may be the last thing on their mind. However, remaining well nourished is an investment in our health and in our future productivity.
Even in the best of times my family has had a food budget and over the years I have learned many “tricks and techniques” to eating healthy while remaining within my budget.
Eating out is expensive and can blow a food budget to pieces in the first two weeks of the month. If you are used to eating out more than once a month, you have a very lucrative place to start.
Here are some tips to eliminate this budget buster (you may also lose weight):
- 1. Take your own lunch to work. Leftovers are great, so are soups, salads and sandwiches.
- 2. Cook for a day, eat for a month. Many times people eat out because of lack of time. Plan to set a day aside when you are going to prepare some meals for the month and then freeze them. When you are pressed for time, surprise, you already have a healthy and budget friendly meal waiting in the freezer.
- 3. Buy a crock pot. There really is no easier way to prepare a meal, literally you set it and forget it. Just make sure you have it adjusted to the right temperature.
- 4. Start a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly tradition of having a potluck with neighbors or friends. Just because you are on a budget does not mean you cannot have fun. If you each are preparing only one meal, not only will you save money, you will also be able to splurge a little on ingredients to have a truly rich feast. Even better, you are building community.
Some people do not eat out, but they buy a lot of packaged foods or ready-to-bake meals. Packaged foods may be easy, but they are not easy on your pocket book. These foods also tend to be nutritionally dead and are more expensive than homemade foods, even if you buy them at big box stores. They are just not a good health investment. This does not mean that you will never buy packaged foods again; you just want to be selective in what you are buying and how often.
Places like Costco and Wal -Mart offer bulk prepared foods, but they are usually of the lowest quality. In other words, you are buying calories, not nutrients. Fortunately, Costco does sell organic prepared foods, but purchasing them should not be a common practice.
Also Keep in mind that meat is expensive, period. We do not need to consume animal protein every day. We do need protein every day, but we can get this from other sources. Reduce intake of animal protein to 1-2 times a week.
Other sources of protein that are good for you and your wallet are:
- 1. Whole grains
- 2. Vegetables
- 3. Eggs
- 4. Beans and legumes
- 5. Nuts and seeds
- 6. Milk
- 7. Cheese
- 8. Broth made from leftover bones
In the end it comes down to planning ahead. We get used to eating out and buying prepared meals, it is a habit. If we can re-program ourselves to plan meals ahead, cook ahead and make the most of our leftovers, we will establish a habit that is cost effective and healthy.
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