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Can You Eat Healthy on a Budget?

By May 11, 2009 - 9:42pm
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I gave a lecture this afternoon to a group of women who appeared to be low middle class at the most. Their employer was sponsoring the lecture and the topic they selected was Eating Healthy on a Budget. Many people think that eating healthy is more expensive (this includes eating out). What are your thoughts?

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I think eating healthfully on a budget is very possible, money-wise. But I think the trap we fall into is with time, not money. If there is time to buy fresh produce and wash, chop and prepare it; if there is time to buy, sort, soak and cook dried beans instead of using canned; if there is time to prepare meat, veggies or pasta instead of buying frozen food, then eating on a budget is very feasible.

But for people who rely on convenience foods because time is short, the price goes up. If you buy organic frozen veggies, they cost more. If you buy packaged salad greens, they cost more. Anything that's prepackaged, pre-chopped or pre-sliced runs up the total. And of course eating out is much more expensive than eating at home, unless you're driving through a fast food restaurant, which means your nutrition takes a hit even if the budget doesn't.

And when you count the time factor, it also takes time to plan the meals, write the grocery list of ingredients, and make sure you use the food before it spoils once you have it home. I love to cook and I love to grocery-shop, and I wish I had the time to do it well. But I usually don't.

The fact that our stores are now filled with deli counters that have dinner to go, produce departments filled with chunks of chopped watermelon and cantaloupe in plastic containers, and baguettes at the checkout stand is evidence of how strapped for time we all are. In some ways, solving the time issue might solve the budget issue for itself.

May 14, 2009 - 9:12am

You absolutely can eat healthfully on a budget.

Shop the periphery of the store, avoiding the aisles as much as possible. The aisles are set up to market "empty calorie" foods. The periphery is where the fresh foods are.

Grown container veggies and save some money on your grocery bill. You can even learn how to harvest seeds from some of the veggies you eat, potato eyes, carrot ends, etc.

Buy in bulk and learn to properly store and date your foods. Investing in a vacuum sealer is well worth the cost in the long run.

Never go shopping on an empty stomach.

Plan your meals so that you can make more than one or two out of one purchase. For example, left over roasted chicken can become chicken pot pie or chicken salad.

Clip coupons, and see if there's a coupon swap near you (or start one).

May 12, 2009 - 5:14pm

I think it is possible to eat healthy on a budget. While I may have thought otherwise, I ran my own personal experiment and found it is possible.

With my budget in mind, last time I went grocery shopping I didn't make a list (first mistake), went before eating dinner so I was already hungry (second mistake), and ended up spending around $85 for foods that were good, but not healthy, like pizza bites and corn dogs.

Now that the summer is approaching and my own personal angst against eating heavy meals when it's hot out, I've decided to become a pescetarian for the next few months, with the occasional skin-less chicken breast thrown in. So, this week I purchased lots of fruits and vegetables, salmon, pasta, and some other miscellaneous healthy bites.

Anyway, without intentionally trying to save more money than last week, but simply purchasing sale items, I spend $88. So, it is possible to eat healthy on a diet and still enjoy a delicious meal.

May 12, 2009 - 10:08am
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