Eating healthy on a budget begins with tools for a healthy lifestyle. It’s time to rethink how you look at your weekly grocery budget and what you do with it. We’ll start with the basics, check your refrigerator and discard anything that has expired. Do the same in your pantry- take inventory and write a list of what you do have. Inventory your freezer for meat and fish and add it to your inventory list. Now that you know what you have, it’s time to make a grocery list. Take time to plan your meals for the week, write a menu.
Statistics show that people who plan, eat better, manage their weight better and are healthier overall because of a conscious effort to plan to eat and what to eat. Makes sense doesn’t it? I’m sure you’re saying I really don’t want to write a menu, but trust me- it will make a difference!
In your pantry, keep these items on hand: flour, peanut butter, canned or dried beans, brown and white rice, pasta. canned tuna and salmon. Low sodium canned tomato’s, sauces, vegetables and fruit. Buy nuts in bulk, especially if they are on sale at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. If you are buying canned fruit, use low sugar or natural juices variety.
Invest in flavor, use the summers best fresh herbs; basil, oregano, cilantro to name a few. Don’t forget the dried herbs, soy sauce, vinegar, and bouillon cubes. Buy what’s in season. Utilizing fruits and vegetables in season is less expensive than buying those items out of season. Buy in bulk and freeze fresh berries, strawberries and blueberries are in season now. Snack on fresh fruit and vegetables, or invest in a food dehydrator and make your own dried fruits and make trail mix for snacks.
Freeze really ripe banana’s in their skin’s in the freezer until solid, bag and use them for banana bread. I generally take out three banana’s for 1 cup of ripe mashed banana for my favorite banana bread recipe. The skins will be black, but what’s inside is sweet and really ripe, perfect for banana bread or muffins.
Don’t buy bags of pre-made salad mix, they are expensive. Buy a fresh head of lettuce, tomato’s and cucumbers, for a salad base, add homemade croutons, cheese, onions, chopped salami, or shaved provolone. Try a mix of dried fruit, glazed walnuts or pecans and gorgonzola or feta cheese. You can create a wonderful salad and be creative, budget conscious and healthy too.
One of Trader Joe’s best bargain buy’s is their homemade refrigerated pizza crust, It’s less than $2.00, makes wonderful pizza crust, just add your favorite sauce and toppings.
I got a great deal on eggs last week, now what to do with all of them? I baked up a dozen in muffin tins, sprayed with non-stick spray, topped them with salt, pepper and grated cheddar, baked them @ 375 12-15 minutes. When they were cool I put them in the refrigerator for breakfast sandwiches. I bought a bulk pack of English muffins, and a large bag of sausage and beef patties that were microwaveable and I had my own tasty version of Egg Mc Muffin.
Use coupons either from your local grocer or those from the local paper and internet. Look for products in your local store brand that are on special, and less cost than national brands. Shop more than 1 store for the bargains. I write a specific list for each store and items I want. If I get there and they are out of stock- get that rain check at the register! Do all your shopping on the same day, once a week. Statistic’s show if we make multiple store trips we spend a lot more money than we have planned or budgeted for food and household goods.
Make your own soup, using fresh produce, and creating stock from bouillon cubes. You can use less expensive cuts of meat for soup or crock pot meals. Try using soup bone, or inexpensive pieces of chicken to add to the stock. Add pasta for a hearty meal.
Make your own garlic spread mixing 1 softened stick of butter or margarine with a tablespoon of fresh minced garlic. You may add more or less depending on your taste preference. Spread on bread and pop into a toaster oven or under the broiler. You’ll never go back to store bought again.
Consider trading one or two nights meals made with red meat for salmon or tuna fish, or a vegetarian dish. Add beans or lentils in place of red meat in your favorite casserole or dish. Double your recipes, freeze half for a meal later.
Buy loaves of bread on sale and freeze for future use, take out what’s needed and quick thaw on the counter or in a microwave. Make home made croutons or stuffing with extra bread nor loaves that are stale, don’t throw them away.
Don’t buy pre-cut or steam- ready packs of vegetables like green beans, they are expensive. It takes a little time for you to wash, and cut your own vegetables, versus the cost of pre-cut. Utilize your local farmer’s markets for great local buy’s on produce. Their main focus is sustainable living.
Buy bags of potato’s and keep them in a cool dark place to keep them fresh. Make a meal by making fresh potato pancakes, beans and applesauce for a non meat meal.Or try breakfast for dinner, waffles and pancakes are a favorite in our house.
Create your own herb vinegars and oils for seasoning and using on salads, vegetables and meat or fish. There are numerous articles on the web on the how to make your own homemade vinegars and homemade herbal oil.
Buy a bottle of good extra virgin olive oil it’s heart healthy and good for you! Olive oil is good for your heart and keeps your cholesterol levels healthy, but that’s not all it can do. Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that can reduce inflammation and may help to prevent some forms of cancer.
Drink water instead of soda, flavor with a twist of lemon or lime and ice for some cool summer refreshment. Make a batch of sun tea in a gallon container. Switch to fat free or low fat milk.