Tuesday, April 3, 2012

a healthy budget

I realize that slowly making changes to your eating habits can seem overwhelming in several ways. For instance, if you decide one day to head into a "health food" store at start looking at "health food"it's going to seem ridiculously expensive.
So I've tried to break it down into a few steps so you can eat well on a budget.
These are all things that I do, so I can try to feed our family the best I can, without spending too much.

Shop. Everywhere. 
This is a huge reason I am so thankful to live in the city.......so many stores to choose from, not too far from my house. Yes, it takes a little more time and planning ahead to hit up a few places, but it's worth it. I have a small handful of stores that I visit, and each provide me with different needs at the best prices. I follow my favorite stores like Whole Foods and Sunflower Market on facebook--they are constantly updating with sales so I can know what's there before I go in. When shopping at pricier stores (hello, Whole Foods) you HAVE to go in with a plan...or at least a semi-plan, or you will end up spending waaaaaaaay too much. MY personal plan is to only shop the sales--there are awesome deals to be found if you are looking. If I have items on my list that aren't on sale, most times I will swap them out for something that IS on sale.

Go easy on the weekly meal plans
So if you are shopping like I do--looking for the best sales, it's hard to make a weekly meal plan. You'll have your grocery list made up for your week, and then show up to the store and half of your items aren't on sale......now what? I usually plan my meals on the day I shop for my produce. That way I can get the best deals, bring it home and turn it into meals for the next few days. In the summer when we have our garden and I'm frequenting the farmer's market, I find it easier to plan out my meals because I know exactly what I can get.

Dumb it down. 
Sometimes I stumble upon someone's weekly meal plan and (while drooling) I can't believe how much food people eat. A mouthwatering meat dish with several sides to go with it......every night of the week. I can't help but wonder what is happening with all the leftovers? And how much does it all cost?! I love making full-on delicious "fancy" dinners for my family, just not every night of the week. Most nights we eat very very simply. Simple soups, pastas, sandwiches, salads. Lots of whole grains, beans, vegetables, and less meat. Keep it simple.

Stock up on staples
Items I ALWAYS have on hand and can be turned into dinner quickly.
Beans--for soups, salads, tacos, burritos, hummus.
Whole grains--like pastas, brown rice, bulgur, barley, quinoa. Mixed with veggies, meat or fish for main dishes, perfect for sides or salads or thrown in soups. Oats and steel cut oats for breakfast.
Bread and tortillas. I got an email a few weeks back asking what bread I like, and I really don't have any favorites. I love to make bread, but I have to do so sparingly....I've found when there is homemade bread in the house we eat it, oh, in about a day. There is a local brand that I like to buy when it's on sale, and other than that I look for sales on loaves that have the least ingredients. I like Whole Foods whole wheat tortillas.
Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce for soups.
Chicken stock--both from the store, and stock I've made after we eat a whole chicken--I keep this in the freezer with chicken, beef, and fish.
Potatoes. They store well and can be served with just about anything.
Frozen berries for smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal.
Eggs for breakfast burritos or sandwiches.
Having all these items on hand, I know that there is always SOMETHING for dinner, and depending on what produce or meat I may bring home, I always have something to go with it.

Buy in bulk
Bulk bins are my favorite. You can get as much (or as little) as you need, and get a good price because you don't have to pay for packaging. 
I love buying nuts, seeds, rice, flours, lentils and grains in the bulk bins. 
Shop Costco.....cautiously. It's easy to buy something because "it's such a good deal!" and then it ends up going bad and is wasted. But there are lots of (giant) options to stock your pantry and freezer. I also feel like Costco is getting more and more healthy options each time I shop. 

Know how to eat leftovers.
Chances are, you won't have enough leftovers for another full meal the next evening. So I usually eat leftovers for lunch the next day (or two). Look for ways to incorporate your leftovers into a totally different meal. With this taco recipe below, I had extra filling so I added it to some spinach for a twist on a taco salad. 
blackbean lentil bulgur tacos copy
Black Bean, Bulgur, and Lentil Tacos
this recipe is friendly on your wallet because it doesn't have meat in it, and the filling is made straight from the bulk bins.
the best thing about recipes like this is how interchangeable they are. 
You can use any combination of beens/grains/lentils that you have. 
Swap the black beans out for pinto or kidney. 
Swap the bulgur out for brown rice. 
Swap the yellow split peas out for red lentils.

2 cups of prepared black beans
2 cups prepared yellow split peas
1 cup prepared bulgur
large handful of diced onion
large handful of diced red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of cumin
salt and pepper

saute onion and peppers until tender. 
add remaining ingredients and cook through until heated.

Avocado and Cabbage Slaw
1 avocado, diced
a few handfuls of shredded cabbage
3 green onions, sliced thin
juice of one lime
handful of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Serve in toasted corn tortillas with pepperjack cheese, sour cream and lime.

When it comes down to it, we need to remember that it's our health we our talking about.
Providing healthy fuel for our bodies, instead of junk that may harm them or slow them down. Isn't that worth taking a little more time to check the sales, or putting a little more effort into making a simple meal, rather than buying a pre-made meal? I think so. 
How do YOU save money when it comes to eating healthy?


SEO australia said...

I like the little Red House healthy budget.sell my house

Maria said...

great tips! I do most of these things already.

Anna said...

I think a lot of people think healthy expensive when they are looking at packaged, processed and premade foods. I love making things from scratch so I save money by buying the ingredients and then turning them into what I want to eat. For example, I buy a half gallon of local organic milk and make two quarts of yogurt for half the price of buying them. I know it takes more time, but it is fun, doesn't have any weird ingredients, tastes great and does save some cash. It's amazing to discover what you can make at home that you used to buy.

whitneyingram said...

I buy barely any snacks. Packaged snacks are so expensive and you barely get anything in the box/bag. Fresh fruit and veggies are cheap for snacks. Plus, when I do buy fruit snacks, chips, crackers etc, my kids think it is Christmas morning.

Going meatless is a great way to save. Like tonight, we are having potato soup and cornbread muffins. I am going to guess that this meal is going to cost about $5.00 to feed everyone.

I also don't bake a lot. Butter and chocolate and sugar are expensive.

I also keep the side dishes to a minimum. Like a main dish and one other side- rarely three. It's cheaper and we don't have tons of leftovers. But on Sundays, that is when I splurge. We have a big meal and decadent dessert.

And I recognize that slate! Sad. I miss you.

Jane said...

great tips and points here. knowing how to use produce for a variety of meals throughout the week is huge. having pantry basics and being playful with produce bought for the week can be real wise for the wallet. excited to try this recipe.

Moments and Impressions said...

I am going to have to check out Costco. There is one about 20 minutes away - just never been.

I buy organic veggies from the "dirty dozen" from a local delivery. I compared and it is cheaper because they buy in bulk and/or from local farms. Plus I buy no extras. Other veggies that are safer I buy on sale and cheap.

For example: local store had broccoli .99 a bunch. I bought a few and we had broccoli in two different meals this week. I also blanched some and froze for later.

Kellie said...

Great tips! And those tacos look amazing.

I have something to add to some of the things I would like to learn from your blog. I've been wondering lately what some simple and healthy lunch ideas would be, especially for my children. I hate turning to mac n cheese or chicken nuggets for lunch. Any ideas you have would be awesome! Thanks!

Eid. said...

Since I'll be moving out/ mostly living alone abroad in the next few months, I've been constantly thinking a how to do a budgeted meal. Great tips, Thanks for sharing these..

sarah@mysleepykitchen said...

I love to buy free-range meat from my local street market on Sundays - there are some great deals as long as I am willing to branch out and try new things.
Buying raw ingredients (instead of pre-made or packaged foods) to make my own staples (like granola, snacks, dinners, etc) helps save money, especially when it comes to eating gluten free - packaged gluten free foods are pretty expensive!
Unfortunately, eating healthy does have a price (I could be eating processed, artificial food for much cheaper), but I think of it as an investment in my health. I've been using nutrition as a way to overcome Chronic Fatigue and it has made such a difference in how I feel - well worth the time spent hunting for bargains and cooking meals from scratch!

brooke kathryn said...

These are awesome tips. I remember when I first started consciously eating healthy I had no idea how to do it, and I ended up spending way to much money on food. Over the last couple of years I have really learned how to shop for groceries (: One tip I might suggest that I have found very helpful is to check sales at home before you head to the store, that way you can at least have a rough meal plan in mind. I know stores around me like safeway and fresh and easy have all their sale information and coupons online; very helpful!

infinitezest said...

I like to use similar ingredients in my meals that arent that noticeable, like nuts, herbs, green onions, etc. buying from bulk is also a great way to save money. I try to focus on produce more than anything, which saves me a lot of money and makes me feel even healthier!

Hannah Mayo said...

This is great outline for a healthy food budget. I do a lot of these things too, and I also check the weekly sales flyer from the grocery store, and plan some meals around that. Now that I have a newborn and a 3-yr-old I'm trying to plan ahead more so I don't have to bring them both to grocery store by myself!

Lindsay said...

Wow, thanks, Sheena. These are great, simple ideas to make it easy and inexpensive. Thanks again.

Jessica said...

Thanks for this info, it's very helpful! And I have to say, every recipe you post looks divine and so healthy! I've pinned several and can't wait to try them. Thanks!

Sprouted Kitchen said...

what a helpful list! I love these tips. I repurpose leftovers everyday. I make a general meal plan, but I know that ground turkey gets made into turkey burgers and turkey meatballs or canned pumpkin goes into pumpkin bread and some homemade veggie patties. It takes some thought for sure, but it makes me feel good not to waste. Thanks for the tips and the tacos look fabulous!