Category Archives: Fruit

10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

When people are asked why they do not eat healthier foods, a frequent answer is, “Because healthy foods cost a lot more.”  If that is your reason, I encourage you to reconsider because there is no reason to think that way. Many people are eating healthy on a budget.

Yes, some organic produce and other “health foods” can be more expensive; but,  it is not mandatory that you buy organic, etc., in order to eat clean, healthy meals. There are ways to stay on a food budget and still feed your family fresh, healthy foods on a regular basis.

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables in-season.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables will be less expensive that those out of season. You can educate yourself through online sources to make decisions about when to buy different types of produce. If you watch the prices in the groceries stores, that will be a fairly good indication, as well. Out of season produce is usually more expensive; don’t buy those.

Buying at your local Farmer’s Market or finding a good store that stocks fresh, local produce like SPROUTS, helps you buy fresh fruits and veggies at the best prices.  When you find good prices, buy in bulk and freeze the excess for later.

In the past year or so, Safeway has been making a huge shift by providing organic and local produce. Just be sure to read the signs and watch the price points.

  1. Plan Meals Ahead

When you plan ahead (preferably a week at a time), grocery shopping becomes much easier. You buy exactly what you need and can avoid impulse buying.  When you are not sure what you are going to prepare, you pick up a lot of random ingredients that you never use – a terrible waste of money and very hard on the budget.  Plan, shop with a list, and stick to it.

  1. Shop the Perimeter of the Market
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by monkey_business

It is not necessary to buy a lot of fancy foods with exotic names just to eat healthy. The majority of the food you need will be around the perimeter of the market, so limit your time in the middle aisles – go there for specific items and leave quickly.

When you are on a budget, start by making a list of the most basic items you need, such as lean protein, produce, and whole grains. The rest of the food is only chosen, based on what you need for your planned meals or on occasion when you have a little extra money.

  1. DO NOT BUY Processed Foods

Processed foods may seem less expensive, but in reality, you get much less food for your dollars, it has been stripped of nutrients, and it is filled with additives.

For example:  think about the price for a box of instant brown rice, which is good for one meal, compared to a big bag of uncooked brown rice and the number of meals you would serve from the bag.  Yes, it does take a little more time to soak and cook the rice yourself, but you get a lot more for your money, more nutrient-rich food and no harmful additives.

  1. Learn to Cook with Inexpensive Protein Sources

Protein is a vital component of a healthy diet, but that does not mean you have to eat a large serving of meat at every meal.  There are a number of protein sources that are less expensive and good for your body.

For fish, instead of always serving salmon, try tilapia, tuna, or mackerel – all much lower in cost.  Chicken breast, hard cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are also low-cost protein options.

  1. Buy Grains and Beans in Bulk

The American way of life has become so dependent on prepared foods that what I am going to suggest may seem like a real stretch for some.  But, if you are living on a strict budget and want to eat better, try the following . . .

Instead of buying refried beans from a can, buy pinto beans in the bag, soak them, cook them, and add spices as needed. You can buy many grains and other legumes in bulk, which allows you prepare many meals for just a few dollars – and it is real, unadulterated food – so nice!

  1. Be Creative with Leftovers

In addition to lower cost, another reason for buying in bulk is that it saves time.  You can cook larger portions for each meal, and use the leftovers to prepare additional healthy meals.

Instead of buying a small package of two chicken breasts, buy a package of 8-10 chicken breasts and bake them all at the same time. Use two or three for dinner, use two more for chicken sandwiches the next day for lunch, and another one or two the following day for a chicken casserole.  If there are any left, freeze and use for other meals. One package could give you dinner for a week or longer, depending on the size of your family and types of meals you prepare.

  1. Organize Your Pantry and Fridge
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by olesiabilkei

This may seem like a silly tip, but when you pantry and fridge are organized, you can see what you have and use items in a timely manner. It also prevents you from buying duplicate items that you do not need.  Food waste is a major factor in overspending on groceries.

You may have fruit and vegetables in the crisper drawer that are still good but you forgot you had them; or meat in the back of the freezer that could create a nice meal. Keeping your kitchen organized will help you stay within your budget.

Another tip closely related to this, is to always check your pantry and fridge for items on your grocery list before you go shopping.

  1. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Are Acceptable Alternatives

There is nothing wrong with quick frozen produce. It is extremely convenient, saves money and also helps eliminate waste – because it doesn’t go bad as quickly as fresh produce – and it is great when you are in a hurry. Just be sure that you are buying frozen produce that has NOTHING added – including sugar and salt – pure fruits and veggies.

You can buy these year round – seasons do not affect the price and you can use partial packages and save the rest for latter.  So, when the items that your family enjoys are on sale – or specials – stock up.

Freezers should be set at 0° or colder. Eating frozen foods past suggested deadlines is not dangerous as long as the temperature has been stable, but flavors and textures will begin to deteriorate.

  1. Try Off-Brands

You do not have to buy brand names to eat healthy.  Learn to read labels and buy foods with no additives, salt, or sugar.  Buy a small amount and test them for taste, texture, etc. If they work for you and meet the “clean” criteria, there is no reason not to stick with the new lesser-known brand.

There are specific “organic” brands, but there are also generic brands offering the same nutritious ingredients. The main key is to ALWAYS read labels!

Food manufacturers play games with labels – and have no qualms about misleading the public. It is up to you to make sure you are eating the kinds of foods you want – that are good for your family’s health.

You and your family can start eating healthy on a budget today. It takes a little planning, but it can be done – and well worth the effort.

I challenge you to take care of yourself and your family by changing the way you think about food and healthy eating. 

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Is Clean Eating Expensive?

One reason (or excuse) that people use when deciding NOT to try a clean eating diet is the cost. Is clean eating expensive? Fact or fiction? It does not have to be.

Everyone has felt the budget pinch when it comes to the rise in grocery costs over the past few years. It could be difficult to find an extra $100 in the budget to spend on healthy food, if it were really necessary.

There are several things  you can do that will help overcome that excuse. Let’s take a look at them:

Eat Seasonal Foods

Learn when foods are harvested and buy produce that is “in season.” It is not only less expensive, but it gives you a nice variety of foods for your table though out the year, rather than eating the same dishes over and over.

Seasonal foods are less expensive as a rule, whether you buy them at your regular grocery store or the farmer’s market.

Seasonal produce picked at its prime is much better than cold storage produce that is picked early and shipped long distances. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables also taste better and provide more nutrients that your body needs.

Buy in Bulk

This does not work well when buying for one, but if you have a family, it is a smart choice. You can purchase staple foods like brown rice, quinoa, whole grain flour, and even dried beans and peas in bulk.

See what your local grocery stores have to offer. Also, check online prices – sometimes those are better.

Buying these items in bulk makes your weekly shopping trip easier because you have less to buy – and it saves you money.

Cook from Scratch

Over the past couple of decades our society has become so dependent on convenience foods that making dishes from scratch is almost a lost art.

It is not uncommon to spend hard-earned case on sodium-free, organic chicken broth rather than using bones from your chicken dinner to make your own broth. That is a two-for-one process, and you control what is in the broth. It is cheaper and healthier.

It is not difficult to start cooking from scratch. In fact, it is easy to cook your beans, make soups, stews, and salads from scratch.

I challenge you to make at least one new homemade dish every week.

Try your hand at baking bread or biscuits. Try making some homemade barbecue sauce. Not only will you save money, you also have full control over the ingredients. So-o-o-o much better!

Buy from Local Farmers

Fruits and Vegetables - Colors of the Rainbow
Image by Val’s Photos

Go online and find your local farmer’s markets; plus look for farm stores in the area. They are a great source of local produce, diary, and eggs. If you are lucky, you may even find meat. Since there are no shipping costs involved, you will be able to get fresh, high quality food at reasonable prices.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes are another excellent source of local fruits and vegetables. You buy a share of a farmer’s produce for the year and end up with a box of assorted fruits and vegetables throughout each growing season.

Go to http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to learn more and find farms in your area that participate.

Grow Your Own Produce

If you have space in your yard, considering planting a garden. Create you own produce department. Growing lettuce, tomatoes, and  cucumbers is very easy. Depending on your climate, you may want to try melons and strawberries. Or if you don’t have much of a yard, try planting in containers.

You can even grow you own produce when you live in an apartment. Plant an herb garden or grow sprouts.  You can grow spring greens in a pot or bowl in the kitchen window and enjoy a nice bowl of fresh salad every few days.

It is an easy, fun and delicious hobby. Give it a try! You may surprise yourself.

There are a couple of side benefits, as well. It gets you outside and it is a great way to teach your children about where food comes from and what it takes to grow healthy fruits and vegetables that are good for their bodies.

Closing Thought

So – to answer our question: Is clean eating expensive?

The answer: It does not have to be.

Do not let budget constraints prevent you from eating healthier foods.

It is not only doable on a limited budget; it will also save you money in the long run by preventing health care costs that can arise from poor eating habits.

Have fun – stay healthy – and save money by eating clean!

 

Grocery Shopping for Your Clean Food Diet

By now it should be clear that a grocery list for a clean diet is very different from your typical grocery list.

If you have been cooking for a while, you may be in the habit of filling your pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer with processed convenience foods that make your life easier.

Since processed foods are completely off the menu, grocery shopping for your clean food diet will become a very different experience.

To help you out and make grocery shopping for your clean food diet easier, here are a few tips: 

Find a Good Source for Fresh Produce

Fresh produce is the foundation of clean eating. We suggest the following choices:

  1. Grow your own produce
  2. Shop locally
Growing your own clean food
Image by brebca

Growing your own fruits and vegetables is the better choice. Nothing beats “grocery shopping” in your own back yard; but, this is not a realistic option for the majority of city dwellers.

If you do have room, you may want to plant a small garden in your yard. Or, plant an herb garden or perpetual salad bowl on your counter.

The next best thing to growing your own is to find locally grown produce.

  • Most areas have a local farmer’s market – find the one in your area.
  • Get to know the local farmers.
  • Check out the neighborhood – there may be someone who is willing to barter or trade for fruits and vegetables.
  • Look for a SPROUTS Farmer’s Market in your area – they often carry local and organic produce – reasonably priced.

If you can find free or inexpensive produce locally, consider buying seasonal produce in bulk; then,  canning or freezing what you cannot use right away for later in the year.

Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store

Shopping for your clean food diet requires that you avoid the center aisles of the grocery store. That is where they stock the processed foods – not the foods you want to buy and eat.

Clean Foods are found on the perimeter of the store – produce, meat, dairy and frozen foods (for fruits and vegetables that are not in season). Be sure to buy “flash frozen” fresh produce with nothing added – especially salt and sugar.

Shopping for your clean food diet
Image by monkey_business

It would be wise to avoid temptation by staying out of the center aisles. Go there last to pick up necessary staples that will probably be stocked in that area and head for check-out.

Also – DO NOT EVEN LOOK at the “impulse-buy” items – candy, chips, etc., which they purposefully stock at the end of the aisles and at the check-out line.

Plan Ahead

Plan your meals ahead of time and always shop with a list. A list keeps you focused and ensures that you don’t forget anything.

This is particularly important when you are trying new recipes. It also hinders impulse buying and keeps you from cheating since the rule is, “you cannot buy what is not on the list” – unless it’s toilet paper, and then by all means buy some even if it is not on the list.

Eat Before You Shop

This may sound crazy, but it is helpful. It works better than you may think. Make it a cardinal rule to never shop when you are hungry.

When you have just eaten a yummy veggie wrap or bowl of fresh fruit, it is much easier to say no to a quick candy bar or box of doughnuts.

Always shop after a meal or at least, after a substantial snack. It will do wonders for your willpower, your waistline, and your health.

As you purchase your clean foods, enjoy the thrill of knowing that you are making some wonderful choices from which your entire family will benefit.

Necessary Staples for Clean Eating

The only way you to ensure that you eat healthier on a daily basis is to keep the right kinds of foods in your pantry, cupboards and fridge. You must make it easy to fix clean meals and snacks by keeping your kitchen well-stocked with necessary staples for clean eating.

When there is nothing available to prepare a good meal, it is far too easy to run to McDonalds, or order takeout, or even make a quick trip to the grocery stores for frozen dinners.

To help you avoid that problem, below is a list of staples you should always have on hand for quick and easy clean meals.

Dry Goods

Brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, corn meal and grits in your pantry will help you prepare quick and easy, clean, nutritious breakfasts and side dishes.

You also want to have a good supply of potatoes, onions, fresh garlic and an assortment of spices to aid in preparation of tasty dishes.

For snacks . . . keep a supply of clean corn tortillas, tortilla chips and popcorn. (Just be sure to read the labels carefully to make sure the ingredients are clean. My term is “pure” meaning no additives.) And . . . always have plenty of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.

Dried fruit is excellent for snacks and a nice addition to morning cereal along with seeds and nuts (or nut butter). It does not spoil as easily as fresh fruit, it is filled with nutrients and fiber and easy to pack for lunches and recreational activities.

Keep in mind, however that some vitamins are lost in the drying process and watch your portions – ½ C of dried fruit equals 1 C of fresh fruit – so don’t overindulge.

Learn to read labels and buy dried fruits with “no sugar added” – this can be difficult when looking for cranberries, bananas, and pineapple because sugar is often added to enhance the flavor and protect it from spoilage. Sulfur dioxide is another common ingredient that is used for preservation and to prevent discoloration – avoid this, as well.

If you’re including whole grain products in your diet, keep whole grain flour and pastas on hand in the pantry. When you have the correct baking ingredients available, it is much easier to bake up some quick breads; homemade bread and other baked goods.

Of course, for all you pasta lovers – keeping whole wheat pasta, sauce and some vegetables always make for a quick weeknight dinner.

Be careful with spinach pasta – preferably make you own. It does have flour in it; so, when you make it, you can control the ingredients.

Dairy and Eggs

Always keep plenty of “cage-free” eggs in the fridge. Boil a dozen or so and keep them handy for easy snacking. Eggs are so versatile they can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

If you plan to include dairy in your diet – which I definitely do – stock the fridge with butter, raw or whole milk, plain Greek yogurt and clean cottage cheese. I also keep a supply of pure hard cheeses for easy snacking

Vegetables and Fruit

Now – down to business – to the core of your diet – fruits and vegetables. As you know, vegetables do not have a long shelf life except for root veggies (carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, jicama, and potatoes).

As a backup, keep quick-frozen and canned vegetables to use whenever you run out of the fresh variety. Just be sure to buy pure vegetables with no salt, sugar or other additives.

Have a little fun and ignite your green thumb. Start growing your salad bowl. Lose leaf lettuce is fairly easy to grow, along with other vegetables. In fact, quite a number of foods can be produced either on your windowsill or on a well-lit kitchen surface. For more information check out the Organic Consumers Organization website. At a minimum, try an herb garden. 

Image by akodisinghe
Image by akodisinghe

Apples and oranges have the most stable shelf-life when it comes to fruit. My go-to for a fruit supply is to keep a variety of frozen berries in the freezer, which can be thrown into the blender for a quick smoothie snack (or breakfast). Bananas can be frozen, as well, but should be used fairly quickly.

I often buy fresh berries in bulk and freeze them myself. Just be sure to use them within a couple of months so they do not go bad. Flash frozen fruits from the grocery store have a longer shelf life as long as you keep them frozen.

Meat and Fish

Finally – let’s look at a few ideas for meat and fish.

My preference is keep a good selection of grass-fed ground beef, ground turkey and a few bags of free-range chicken in my freezer. That gives me versatile options when I’m out of fresh meat or can’t find good options at the grocery store meat counter.

You should also keep canned tuna or canned Alaskan salmon on hand as a back up to be used occasionally when hard-pressed for time and ingredients. Both are excellent for salads and sandwiches. They can be added to pasta sauces of even as a pizza topping.

The canned Alaskan salmon is much better for you than the fresh “farmed” salmon. As for tuna, I don’t recommend that you eat it all the time, but it is a good ingredient to have on hand when you need it.