Times are tough for many and food often is one of the higher costs in ones budget. So it is to be expected when one needs to economize, the food budget is the easiest ones to adjust. Only problem is that how most people stretch their budget is by buying poorer quality, and thereby cheaper, food: white bread instead of wheat, margarine instead of butter, frozen vegetables instead of fresh. But although one may think one is saving this way, you pay the price in other ways — with your health, both short and long term.
I am a big believer in eating healthy and I’ve found creative ways to do this while also stretching my food budget. Here are 5 ways I do it:
- Eliminate processed food as much as possible — with processed foods you are paying for, well, the processing, and also the packaging, instead of instant potatoes in a box (who would want these anyway?) buy fresh potatoes. Instead of TV dinners, cook extra of meals like lasagna and freeze some so you have your own TV-style dinner.
- Buy bulk — I’m not talking about Cosco here, although you can save there too, I’m talking about the type of bulk you can find at a food co-op or ethnic market, foods like dried beans, lentils, and grains like rice, corn grits, bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries, barley as well as couscous, pasta and spices.
- Stretch your meat — To make one package of meat serve many, add grain, beans or vegetables. Here are some examples:
- Ground beef — bulgur goes great with ground beef and is almost indistinguishable. Use it 1:1 in meatballs, shepherds pie or chili
- Ground turkey or chicken — Unlike beef, there isn’t much fat in poultry, especially turkey, so you need to add enough moisture so it is not dry. I find grated carrots and zucchini provide just the right combination in meatballs or chili
- Any kind of meat on or off the bone — Sauce it up with other vegetables and serve with rice, pasta or potatoes. Ever thought about that only countries that are fairly wealthy eat a sizable piece of meat for dinner? The reason for this is that meat is expensive so in countries from Asia to the Caribbean, meat is chopped up and mixed in a sauce with vegetables. This allows a small piece of meat, like one half of a chicken breast, to feed a family.
- Eat more pulses — Pulses, also known as beans and lentils, are very affordable when purchased dry and are not hard to cook. They can be used in so many ways and I describe in this post.
- Cook more — Consider it an investment both in your budget and your health. We are all busy, I am no different, but if we always opt for convenience we pay the price down the road. Keep it simple at first. Pick one or two dishes, cook extra on the weekend and freeze some for during the week. The benefits will manifest before you know it.
Do you have a way you stretch your food budget that is also healthy? Let me know. I’d love to hear it.