By: Cindy Moustafa
If you’re like most people, the idea of starting to eat healthier comes with the fear that your wallet is going to get as thin as your waist. While it’s true that certain health foods are pricey, due to items like chips and soda being subsidized by the government but not fruits and vegetables, there are ways to not break the bank.
To help I’ve put together 3 easy-to-follow steps. Just remember the 3 P’s : Plan, Purchase, Prepare. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle on any budget.
Step 1: PLAN!
Like everything in life, planning ahead is the key to success. The first step is to compile a shopping list before going to the supermarket. Assess the fridge and food pantry (hopefully by now you’ve thrown out anything that contains ingredients you can’t pronounce). The list should include foods that you know you need to make healthy meals throughout the week. For example, eggs, peppers, onions, ground turkey, apples, etc.
You can take this a step further and actually make your own menu. This is helpful to anyone from a college student to a mom of 3. So for example your list may look something like this:
Monday: Baked Salmon, baked sweet potato “fries”,sauteed spinach.
Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with homemade pesto and large arugula salad.
So you would know for Monday and Tuesday you need to buy (wild atlantic) salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach, spaghetti squash, basil, pine nuts and arugula. You just need to adjust for how many people you’re cooking for. When you’re set up for the week you’re less likely to spend needless money in the supermarket or reach for something unhealthy. We like to call this a win-win situation!
Don’t forget to include good foods for snacks on your list. After you complete this, go online and try to find coupons for some of the foods on your list. The days of having to wear a disguise to avoid the embarrassment of using coupons are over. It’s actually becoming trendy-thank you recession! So take advantage and go to the supermarket’s web site or some of the more popular coupon sites and save, baby, save!
Step 2: PURCHASE!
Now that you’ve got the planning down, it’s time to actually go to the store and purchase the foods you need. Make sure not to go to the store when you’re hungry. You’re more likely to throw caution to the wind and a bag of Oreo cookies in your cart. Also, make sure that you stick to your list. Don’t stray!
Once you’re in the store and sticking to the “plan”, there’s ways to save even more. Don’t look at the price of food items, but rather the unit price. The unit price is the price of food per pound, so you will actually save in the long run if one food is cheaper in unit price. For example, if you’re buying brown rice and the larger bag has a $.33 unit price, and the smaller one has a $.55 unit price, go for the larger bag! It’s cheaper and will last longer.
With shelf items such as rice, go with the cheaper brand. However, there are some items you must get used to paying a little extra for. These include items like organic eggs and grass-fed meats. You are only as good as what you put in your body so make sure you’re only putting good stuff in there! Think of this in the same way you shop for clothes. There’s just some pieces that you splurge on because they’re worth it-such as a good quality handbag or the perfect little black dress. Well, people, something like cage-free eggs are your little black dress. Another place to spend a little more is organic berries, since they have the highest amount of pesticides.
Even though certain items are more costly, the money should even out if you’re doing a lot less waste spending with the 3 P’s plan.
Step 3: PREPARE!
It’s time to put theory into practice and actually take the time to prepare the food. Items like quinoa and rice can be prepared for the whole week on Sunday, which is a time saver. Also, another place to save it by taking these foods for lunch. A good way to extend shelf life is to marinate or cook fish/meats/chicken/turkey. This will help the food stay fresher longer. You can also chop all your vegetables so that you don’t waste time prepping before cooking during the week. Items like fresh herbs can be put in a Ziploc and can stay in the freezer for months.
Use the preparation phase to help make bringing lunch with you to school/work easier. This is another great way to save money. The average person can spend up to$20 a day on food. That’s $100 for a 5 day week! Put that money in a savings account and buy yourself something pretty instead of a fattening sandwich at your local deli.
Cooking instead of eating out is
the easiest way to save and keep healthy!