Any healthy eating plan begins at the grocery store. Learning to make smart choices when shopping for food is the key to the success of any healthy diet plan. Learning to recognize the healthiest, freshest foods is a skill every … Continue reading
It is an unfortunate fact of life that many high nutrient, low fat, low calorie foods are expensive, while many nutrient free, calorie dense foods are cheap. This can make buying and cooking healthy foods for yourself and your family … Continue reading
Just about everyone wants to eat better, but budgetary constraints sometimes make healthy eating a difficult goal. It is important, however, to buy the healthiest food you can afford, whether you are cooking only for yourself or for a growing family.
One fun and easy way to cook healthy food while still saving money is to grow your own herbs and spices. Unlike a vegetable garden, that can take up lots of space and involve a lot of work, a simple herb garden can be easily grown in a windowsill or similar small space. There are kits available for just a few dollars that contain the seeds, pots and other items needed to start an herb garden, or you can save even more money by buying the seeds and planters yourself.
Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to enjoy healthy cooking on a budget. Spices and herbs are a great way to flavor dishes without the need for heavy sauces, butter or other high fat preparations. Growing your own herbs give the grower a great deal of control over those herbs. This is important, since many prepared herbs and spices contain large amounts of sodium.
Another excellent way to save money while still eating a healthy diet is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season in your local area. Buying locally grown produce is often the best way to guarantee freshness and quality, and in season produce is generally less expensive since it does not need to be shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles.
Watching the sales at the local grocery stores is important to everyone, but it is particularly important to those who are trying to eat right on a limited budget. Using grocery store sales to stock up on such important staples as whole grain cereals, breads and whole wheat flour is a great way to make even the most limited food budget stretch a bit further.
Using coupons is another great way to make a food budget stretch. Cutting coupons is a great way to save money on products you already buy, as is signing up for various frequent buyer programs and other money savings opportunities.
In addition to manufacturers coupons, many grocery store chains offer customer loyalty cards which allow their customers to save money on products they buy regularly. These grocery store loyalty programs often print coupons for products customers have bought in the past, and they can be great ways to save significant amounts of money. Since most of these programs are free, there is really no downside to their use.
Stocking up on meats, seafood and poultry during store sales is another great way to save significant amounts of money. Buying a second hand chest freezer may be a good investment, particularly for those people with large families to feed. Having a large freezer space allows customers to take advantage of grocery store sales and stock up on chicken, beef, lamb, fish and pork when they are on sale.
Careful meal planning is another great way to save money while still providing healthy meals for yourself and your family. Planning meals well ahead of time allows you to take advantage of what is already in your freezer in order to create delicious, nutritious meals without spending any additional money.
One great thing about most fruits, vegetables and beans is their low cost. Another great feature of these staples is their high nutritional value. Combining these two important features is a great way to make your budget stretch while providing your family with nutritious, healthy foods.
For instance, why not make that expensive skirt steak go further by interspersing chunks of expensive beef with chunks of inexpensive pineapples or green peppers. Not only will you get twice as much food for your money, but you will enjoy a healthier meal as well.
No matter what strategies you choose to make your food budget stretch when cooking healthy meals, we think you will find that cooking healthy is worth any sacrifice it may require. Healthy cooking will pay big dividends in increased health and fitness, as well as increased energy levels.
A big part of enjoying healthier eating is buying healthier foods, and that means making smart choices where it matters most – at the supermarket. Choosing the freshest, healthiest foods is an important first step toward making healthy and delicious meals your whole family will love.
In general, most supermarkets are laid out with the healthiest, most nutritious foods around the perimeter of the store. That is where most stores locate their produce section, their dairy section, their meat counter, and the like. Of course, the middle aisles of the grocery store also contain nutritious foods, such as canned and frozen vegetables, whole grain cereals and more.
And of course each shelf of the grocery store also contains both good and bad choices for healthy eating. For instance, the cereal aisle is home to both the healthy, home grain cereal, and those cereals that contain more sugar than corn. In many cases, the difference will be obvious from the packaging, while at other times you will need to read the nutritional information carefully to ensure the food is healthy for your family.
As a matter of fact, learning to read nutritional labels is one of the most important skills any health oriented shopper must learn. This government mandated labels contain a wealth of information if you know what to look for. Not only do nutritional labels contain vital information on calorie counts, fat grams and sodium content, but they contain detailed information on the percentage of each vitamin an mineral a serving contains.
When looking at nutritional labels, however, pay careful attention to the portion size listed. This is particularly important when looking at calories, fat grams and the amount of sodium. For instance, a serving of juice is generally 8 ounces, while the average juice glass at your home may be 12 or even 16 ounces. It is important to carefully look at serving size, and to do the mental calculation necessary to reflect how much of each product will actually be consumed at one sitting.
When shopping for healthy foods, it is usually better to opt for les processed foods. For instance, 100% fruit juice would be better than a fruit juice blend that may contain as little as 5% or 10% fruit juice. And plain frozen vegetables would be healthier than vegetables in a butter sauce. When shopping for meat, try to buy fresh meat whenever possible. Frozen meat products, or those already seasoned, heat and eat products, often contain unhealthy ingredients as well as preservatives.
When it comes to dairy products, it is best to buy low fat and non fat varieties when at all possible. The one exception to this rule is feeding babies and young children. Their growing bodies need the fat and calories contained in whole milk products, but adults and older children are better served by low fat alternatives.
When choosing canned soups, there are a number of fat free and low sodium varieties. Try to choose these soups for a healthier lifestyle. Other high protein, low calorie soup choices include black bean soup, lentil soup and split pea soup. These healthy soups are good sources of protein, fiber and folate.
Ethnic foods, such as Mexican and Chinese, can be excellent sources of healthy meals, and the traditional ways of preparing such foods are generally very healthy. It is important to stay as authentic as possible when choosing and preparing Mexican, Asian, Middle Eastern and Italian food. This will help guarantee both great taste and healthy eating. For instance, traditional salsa is an excellent, low calorie, and nutritious dip, and the traditional Mexican black bean dip is usually fat free.
Seasonings can be an excellent way to spice up healthy cooking without adding additional fat and calories. Herbs and spices are a great way to add zest to any meal, and starting an herb garden of your own is a great way to save both time and money while providing fresh tasting, healthy meals for your family. When buying spices in the grocery store, be especially careful about sodium content. Read the label carefully, since the first ingredient on many bottled spices is actually salt (another great reason to start that herb garden).
For many people, a limited food budget can be a real roadblock to healthy eating. It is an unfortunate fact of life that some of the lowest priced foods, from fast food value menus to cheap potato chips, are also some of the least healthy. It is possible, however, to create excellent tasting, nutritious meals, even on a tight budget.
The key to planning and creating healthy meals on a limited budget is good forward planning and solid nutritional knowledge.
Step 1 – The shopping list
Anyone who has visited a supermarket lately knows how dangerous it is to enter the store without a shopping list in hand. Shopping without a sense of what you need – and don’t need – opens you up to all manner of temptation, and most of those tempting foods are not nutritious.
In addition, picking up all those extra items can easily blow your food budget and leave you without the funds to plan those healthy, nutritious meals. A good trick is to keep a note pad near the table or refrigerator. Having the notepad within easy reach makes it easy to keep track of the foods you need to stock up on.
Step 2 – Watch those flyers
Most major food store chains publish weekly sales ads, usually as inserts in the local newspaper. Keeping track of these sales, and taking advantage of the low prices to stock up, is a great way to gather a cupboard full of healthy food. Once the pantry is full of fruits, vegetables and other healthy fare, it will be much easier to create healthy recipes the entire family will love. In addition, locally grown, in season fruits and vegetables are usually more of a bargain than out of season or shipped fruits and vegetables.
Step 3 – Stock up on staples
Essential staple foods, such as flour, rice, and pasta are frequently put on sale as loss leaders at major groceries. Stocking up on these essentials when prices are low is a great way to stretch any food budget.
Step 4 – Never shop when you are hungry
The old advice to never shop when you are hungry is definitely true. Shopping when you are hungry is a sure way to give into temptation, bust the food budget, and stock up on all the wrong foods.
Step 5 – Become a label guru
Nutritional labels contain a wealth of information, but it is up to each shopper to read those labels and understand what they mean. Nutritional labels contain complete information on not just calories and fats, but the amounts of various essential vitamins and minerals as well. It is important to know how to read labels in order to get the best nutritional bang for your food bucks.
Step 6 – Pay close attention to package sizes
Just because two cans look alike it does not mean they are. Packaging can be deceptive, so get in the habit of comparing weights when shopping for canned fruits, vegetables and other items. Also take advantage of the lower prices available on store brand and generic products.
Step 7 – Use coupons, but do it wisely
Manufacturers coupons can be a great deal when used on products you already buy. Buying something simply because you have a coupon, however, is typically not a good idea.
Step 8 – Replace meat with beans and other less costly substitutes
Eating less meat and more beans and lentils is a good way to save money on your food budget while still getting the protein you and your family need. Try experimenting with some vegetarian recipes for interesting ways to use these non meat alternatives.
In addition to the tips listed above, there are several ways that smart shoppers keep their food budgets at a minimum while preparing delicious, nutritious meals for their family every day.
One trick is to keep the refrigerator and the pantry well stocked with staple foods. Keeping a good supply of staples on hand will avoid unnecessary trips to the store and also avoid the need to buy such products when they are not on sale. When staples such as bread, flour, peanut butter, canned vegetables, etc. are on sale, be sure to stock up.