Think you can’t afford to eat healthy? Think again.
Healthy eating is no more expensive than the average American diet of fast and processed food if you are willing to cook, plan and adapt your menu to what’s readily available. Since going vegan, I have cut out most processed foods and actually spend less on groceries despite the assumptions of many that it is more costly.
This is important to me because money saved on the simple and mundane throughout the year helps to fund my adventures!
Here are a few tips for getting started!
- Eat in Season – Eating in season is one of the most delicious ways you’ll ever save money. That’s because in season food is plentiful, cheap and delicious. For example, blueberries are as tasty as candy during their summer peak season. Zucchini is incredibly cheap and is great in stir fry, fritters and even in chocolate chip zucchini bread. Winter oranges are delicious, portable snacks for just a few cents per serving!
- Focus on Frozen – The frozen food section is your friend. I never buy the cook-in-the- bag stuff because it’s more expensive and unnecessary if you want to use just small amounts at a time. There are certain things you will always find in my freezer including assorted fruit for breakfast smoothies and frozen pineapple which is as good as ice cream! Then there’s always frozen hashbrowns, broccoli, sweet corn, peas and other vegetables. Look at the labels and seek out the things that have nothing in them except what you want to buy. The ingredients list of frozen hashbrowns should just say potatoes and the corn should just contain corn. If there are sweeteners, preservatives or anything else, leave them in the store.
- Keep your shelves stocked – To accompany #2, there are a few other staples in my kitchen including rice and pasta in the pantry. In the fridge you’ll find marinara, salsa and barbeque sauce next to the mustard and salad dressings. These things keep for a while and are great condiments for all sorts of things.
- Use What You Have and Rethink Leftovers- This is easy to do when the pantry is stocked. Also, learn to view leftovers as ingredients rather than something to be tolerated. On Sunday, I used bits and pieces of things to make a delicious lunch. A handful of leftover onions and peppers got sauteed with the end of a bag of frozen hashbrowns to make a base for a bowl. I added some canned black beans, leftover frozen corn, salsa from the fridge and some fresh spinach (that I keep for salads and smoothies) to make a big bowl of spicy goodness. It was delicious and took just a few minutes to throw together. Note that I kept the ingredients separate until making my bowl. Now there are containers of leftover beans, corn and the potatoes seasoned with onion and peppers in the fridge waiting for another meal. The potatoes will be repurposed as a side one night and the corn and beans will go into a salad.
- Cook – There’s not way around it. If you want to eat healthy, you have to prepare your meals. Prepackaged meals are expensive and not especially good for you given all the preservatives, artificial colors, sweeteners, etc. they contain. When you prepare your own meals, you take control over the ingredients and can often save money. That little bag of frozen mashed potatoes is $3 but you can buy a big bag of potatoes that will provide for many meals for about the same price. You can buy bags of frozen smoothie mixes that are packed with sugar or you can make your own with almond milk and frozen fruit for less money.
- Batch Cook – And if you’re going to cook, you may as well make a little extra or save your leftovers for the freezer. For example, a double batch of homemade pancakes can be made healthfully and inexpensively. Freeze the extras to warm in the microwave as you need them. I love vegetable soup so leftovers get frozen in two serving containers – ready to reheat at a moment’s notice on a cold, winter night.
- Cut Down On Expensive Stuff – This should go without saying but it never hurts to point out that there may be expensive items that you can reduce or eliminate. Meat, cheese and packaged snacks are expensive. Snack on seasonal fruits and veggies, use cheese sparingly and embrace meatless meals for a few meals a week.
There are tons of ways you can save money in the kitchen and make eating healthfully affordable. It’s hard and even intimidating to change your habits but you may find that a little planning and simple preparation will save you money. And if you’re not accustomed to cooking you may find that it’s a process you enjoy!
Are you a healthy eater? What do you do to cut expenses? Tell me in the comments!