Friday, December 9, 2011

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Part 1

Today, I'm starting a four part series on "Eating Healthy on a Budget." For the next four Fridays, I will be bringing you tips and recipes that will help you feed your family and stay within your food budget. Learning to live a healthy lifestyle isn't rocket science but it does take some planning and willingness to try new things.

There is a learning curve. It can become overwhelming as you learn more and more about what is good for you and what is not. I may have mentioned before that I almost had a nervous breakdown on the cereal aisle of Walmart over the summer! But with these tips and recipes, you'll be better equipped than I was to head to the grocery store and get what you need to put your family on track to leading healthier lifestyles and losing weight if need be.

Before I get into tips for eating healthy on a limited budget, let me give you three important tips for losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle, no matter what your budget is...

1. Plan Your Meals (and don't forget snacks, too) - I can tell you that meal planning has been a big part of my weight loss success. I will confess that I've grown a little slack with it and I can tell a difference. I'm more stressed at meal times, wondering what I'm going to be able to throw together that is healthy. Trust me, taking the time to plan meals for a week at a time, including snacks, is very beneficial. As a rule, I generally plan for four big meals and several different types of snacks. With a family of three, four big meals, will last us for more than one meal at a time. I also keep salad ingredients and sandwich ingredients on hand for quick meals like lunch throughout the week.

2. Make a Grocery List - Plan your grocery list the same way you plan your meals. Once you've finished your meal plan, take that list and transfer it to your grocery list. Be sure to check your cabinets and refrigerator for ingredients that you already have. I try to write my grocery list according the the order of the aisle's at the grocery store so that I'm not going back and forth constantly. It makes grocery shopping so much easier.

3. Go Shopping - Don't wait until you're out of food and at the mercy of eating out or going through a drive through for your hunger needs! Make grocery shopping a weekly event. 

Jessica's Tips for Eating Healthy on a Limited Budget

1. Eat beans - dry beans are fairly inexpensive and are good for you as long as you're not adding things like ham hocks to it. They are full of protein, fiber, have a low glycemic index, and they are full of nutrients...B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and folate. To season, try ham flavored Goya for that ham taste without the fat. Beans can be eaten on their own as a meal or as a side dish. They can also be added to soups, casseroles, etc. 

2. Whole Wheat Pasta - pasta is generally inexpensive, especially generic brands and it's good for you as long as your not eating huge portions all the time. As with anything, portion sizes are important. You can easily make a quick, healthy sauce to go with it by sauteing some vegetables in extra virgin olive oil and adding in some tomatoes or tomato sauce and spices. 

3. Buy Generic - most things in generic form taste just as good as the name brand and costs way less. Grocery stores will put the name brand at eye level, so beware. You may have to do more than a glance to find the generic equivalent but it's worth the little extra effort to save on your grocery bill.

4. Make One Dish Meals with Few Ingredients - casseroles, soups, and crock pot meals are all examples of one dish meals that often require very few ingredients. Just be sure that the ingredients are healthy, hearty things that will fill you up but not compromise your waistline!

5. Eat Leftovers - I'm being honest here. I used to HATE leftovers and would only eat leftovers of such things like pizza, chicken fingers, or some other high fat food. Eating leftovers will greatly help your budget. I generally cook a meal that I know will last me more than one eating and I often double a recipe that was cost efficient in order to save money and have more leftovers. I haven't gotten to the freezing meals part yet but when you can double and put half of the meal in the freezer for a later time...even better.

6. Eat Less Meat - I'm not saying go vegan or vegetarian but as Americans we can realistically cut down on the amount of meat that we are eating. Try going meatless once or twice a week. Meat is extremely expensive and will cut your grocery bill down if you aren't buying it as much. When you are going to eat meat, choose leaner cuts of meat like chicken or fish. 

7. Stock Up When You Can - if your budget allows you to buy some extras, do it. Don't buy junk though. Buy things that you use on a regular basis. For me that's reduced sodium chicken stock, quinoa, cans of tomatoes, etc. Later on down the line when your budget may be a little more tight, you'll have some wiggle room due to extra ingredients in your pantry.

8. Buy Fresh Fruits and Vegetables - it may be a little more work to wash, peel, and cut up your own fruit and vegetables but it's so much cheaper. And when you buy fruits and veggies, buy what's in season because they will cost less. To ensure that we eat more of these fruits and vegetables, once I return from the grocery store, I wash up what I can  and cut up what needs to be cut up and store them in air tight containers in the refrigerator. They are then ready for consumption and are more likely to get eaten. 

9. Search the Internet - the Internet is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recipes and tips. I spend time most weeks looking for recipes on the Internet. 

If you want to start living a healthier lifestyle but feel stuck because of your limited budget...You don't have to feel that way! It may take some creativity and work on your part but if you are serious about it, you'll find a way. I hope this helps you get started living your healthier lifestyle.

For the next three weeks, I'll be featuring tips and recipes from friend's of mine. If you have some tips that I didn't cover on this post or a recipe you would like to share feel free to leave a comment!

Below is my recipe for Basic Chili using Tip #4 - Make One Dish Meals with Few Ingredients and Tip # 3 - Buy Generic

Jessica's Basic Chili
Feeds 4

1 pound of lean ground beef or turkey
1 pkg of Seasoning Blend (frozen onion, celery, and peppers mixed together)
1 can of light red kidney beans
1 can of black beans
2-3 cans of petite diced tomatoes
1 packet of McCormick's Original Chili Seasoning (or generic equivalent)
Chili Powder
Garlic Powder

Brown hamburger or turkey in a stock pot. Season with salt and pepper. When meat is about halfway done, pour in Seasoning Blend. Once meat is done and veggies are tender, drain meat. Return meat to pot and add beans, tomatoes, and chili seasoning packet. Stir. Add extra chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder if desired. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer for one hour. Serve and enjoy!

Peace, Love, and Healthy Living,


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