The current state of our economy hasn’t made things easy for anyone. A lot of us are trying to be smart with our money and make the most of every dollar. To make matters even worse the rise in gas prices has increased the cost of everything, especially groceries. These factors are leading to unhealthy eating habits for many people. Eating well is so important for your health and there are things you can do to make it more affordable.
Organic vs. Conventional Fruits & Vegetables. Organic fruits and vegetables are unquestionably better for your health. They are free from pesticides, irradiation and are never genetically modified. The downside is that they are more expensive then conventional produce. Research done by the Environmental Working Group shows that consumers can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the 12 most contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables and eating the 12 least contaminated instead. This means that we can pick and choose the vegetables we buy from the organic section to help reduce our grocery bills. There are 12 fruits and vegetables that you can get away with buying non-organic –
- frozen sweet corn
- frozen sweet peas
All other vegetables we should buy organic as often as possible to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals. Pesticides have been shown to cause cancer, liver, kidney, and blood diseases and cause extra work for the immune system to do its job well. This is an essential part of a healthy diet.
Bulk foods. Most grocery stores have a bulk food section where you can buy a lot of the staples for a healthy diet at much lower prices. If you’ve never explored this section of the store it is well worth it, they have huge bins filled with rice, beans, nuts, grains, even some healthy snack foods. You can buy as much or as little as you like so it’s also a great way to try new things. It is inexpensive and environmentally friendly because there is little to no packaging involved since you scoop out what you want into a small plastic bag. For example, a pre-packaged 1 lb bag of organic brown rice costs anywhere from $3.50 – 4.50 in most grocery stores, in the bulk food section its usually $1.99 per lb. That is a huge savings!
Smart home cooking. Preparing meals at home cuts costs significantly and increases the nutritional value of the food. The key to making it work is leftovers; cook once, eat three or four times. Cook a meal you love and make enough for three or four portions so you don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking. Bring your home cooked meals for lunch at work as well. This method will also reduce your electric bill since you are only doing it once. A trick that I use often is to put on a pot of brown rice or beans to cook while I’m doing other things like laundry or paying bills. Just make sure to set a timer so it doesn’t burn! This way you have things ready in the fridge to throw together a burrito or a quick stir fry when you get home from work. A pot of brown rice can go a long way – a stir fry for dinner, rice porridge for breakfast the next day, wrap it in a burrito for lunch, and then healthy “un-fried” rice for the next dinner. A few other things you can make at home to save money include salad dressings, muffins, fruit salads, and smoothies. Buying any of these items pre-made is very expensive.
These three ideas will significantly cut the amount of money you spend on food. It is common for our diets to suffer when money is tight but we cannot let this happen. Eating poorly will lead to long term problems and huge medical expenses. A healthy diet prevents many chronic and life threatening illnesses that occur as a result of poor food choices. Start exploring your grocery store and put a little more thought into each meal and you will be able to afford a very delicious and healthy diet.