One of my most popular posts has been How To Eat Healthy For Cheap that I posted back in 2011. At the time, my idea of “healthy” was totally different, but I made it work on an extremely limited budget of time and money as a grad student. (When I’m talking limited- see my post on how I live on a tight budget) I had about $800 a month to spend and due to my living situation wasn’t conducive to having a ton of fresh produce around. I’m still on a very tight budget, but I’ve found ways to make fresh foods a priority without breaking the bank or making my time in the kitchen turn into a chore.
Contrary to the successful job of marketers who want you to feel that “true health food” comes from expensive organic markets, it’s not true. While Whole Foods does have a wild assortment of hard to find healthy ingredients, there are many exotic and delicious health foods that are cropping up at more affordable stores. I have been stoked to find the ingredients I crave like chlorella, chia seeds, quinoa and cashew butter for a fraction of the price at chains like Fresh & Easy or Trader Joe’s.
Additionally, I can find locally sourced honey, cheese and bread at my farmer’s market for reasonable prices- anything else that isn’t perishable, I can comparison shop for online within minutes. When many of us try and get on track to eat healthy or begin juicing- our mind immediately goes to Whole Foods or other pricey “health” stores, (great job marketing department!), but unless an item is super rare, chances are you can find it cheaper elsewhere!
That’s right…simply juice. I make a morning smoothie or juice in under 5 minutes with basic ingredients I have in the fridge already. If you’re attempting to cut costs and cut calories, throw whatever leafy greens you have in a blender with some supplement powder (try Vega One or Collagen Sport) and liquid of choice (I usually use soy milk or apple juice) plus a bit of fruit- whatever you have on hand, and you’re done.
I have found that the easiest way to ensure you get your 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day plus the frugal benefit of ensuring nothing in your crisper goes to waste, throw it in a blender! Since I’ve put together morning smoothies, I’ve had more energy, 0 sick days and dropped my BMI. By far, green smoothies are the easiest and cheapest way to eat healthy.
Don’t jump on the “EVERYTHING ORGANIC!” bandwagon unless you have money to burn and don’t care to learn. Some foods are just naturally pest resistant and don’t need to be organic, while others are especially hard to clean properly
I currently love to shop at Fresh & Easy (which is a chain that’s primarily on the west coast) and they have the best clearance aisle- chock full of fresh produce that’s about to reach the sell by date. Save money on fresh fruits and veggies by snagging things on sale- then take the time upfront to prep. Buy fresh on sale, then clean, cut, bag and freeze. I always snag my bread on clearance then freeze it- warming it up in the toaster later, same goes with meat and soup bases.
Seriously, everything you eat should have fruits or veggies added to it (especially if you are a vixen who can snag ’em on sale!). If you want to make healthy eating a habit, do not attempt to overhaul your diet with tons of new recipes and extreme changes. Instead, use up what’s in your fridge while making small changes to what you currently eat.
For instance, I started adding diced peppers, mushrooms, kale and tomato slices to my morning eggs- but now I have more veggies than eggs in my pan! I also amp up a salad with leafy greens I snag on sale, with a random assortment of fruits, veggies, nuts and a variety of light vinegar/oils that keep salads exciting and super healthy. I also add extra berries, citrus or cucumber to water to create new flavors without the calories. It feels doubly good to eat healthy and efficiently empty my fridge without wasting a morsel!
I still struggle with meal planning, but do my best to create a set of staples I can pull together based on what’s on hand & choc full of veggies. When you’re out, keep an eye out for healthy but versatile staples that can be used in a variety of dishes- when beans, grains, or veggies are on sale, double or triple your favorite soup or stew recipe and freeze the leftovers for a quick and healthy meal–perfect when you’re in a time pinch!
Grains, beans, roasted or grilled veggies, salad dressings, sauces, soups, stews can be prepared ahead of time and enjoyed in the coming weeks or months. One thing to keep in mind though- don’t assume you can eat all the produce you snag on sale in time before it perishes (especially since it’s usually on the way out when it’s on sale), or even that you’ll find eating a croc pot full of veggie chili by yourself to be enjoyable. Batch, prepare, and freeze whatever you can’t eat- don’t overwhelm yourself with large quantities that could go to waste!