Cheap Healthy Meals
Trying to save money is tough, and food is something we cannot do without (what economists call an “inelastic demand”). But we can reduce the amount we buy, and we can decide to buy wisely. Like anything else, we sometimes buy food needlessly because we go to the store hungry and buy things we would never normally get. Today we’ll explore three areas where you can eat well and stay on a budget: buying protein, buying in bulk and cooking.
Protein is Brain Food (and sustains you longer)
Protein is one of the best things you can put in your body; it’s brain food because you’ll think better after protein than after carbs. Protein won’t slow you down like carbs will, and unlike carbs, protein lasts a long time, so it’s more economical. Unhealthy carbs, such as white flour and refined sugar, digest quickly and make your blood sugar spike, so they only give you quick energy that leaves you hungry. Here are some things to consider with protein:
- You won’t have to eat as often, so it’s less costly.
- Chicken and ground beef are excellent sources of protein, and can be very economical per serving.
- Vegetables, such as legumes and beans, provide protein and are very inexpensive as well.
- Canned chicken and tuna are very inexpensive and can be used for salads and sandwiches.
Instead of eating that jelly doughnut for breakfast, which will slow you down and only keep you filled for about 56 minutes, eat a couple of eggs. Two eggs cost less than 50 cents, and will sustain you throughout the morning.
Economies of Scale (buying in bulk)
You know the old phrase, “cheaper by the dozen”; that’s what “economies of scale” means. Simply put, it costs less per ounce to buy more ounces. Look at unit pricing and you’ll find it costs a whole lot more to buy the smaller packages. Make sure you consider storage and expiration dates before making any huge purchases. Here are some ways to make those “bulky” food purchases:
- We’re all familiar with warehouse shopping clubs. Yes, they do charge an annual membership fee, but if you have a family and are purchasing food for many, you make back the fee in savings in no time. I can find boneless, skinless chicken breasts at these stores for half the grocery store price.
- It’s a whole lot less expensive to purchase produce by the bag, as opposed to buying it by the piece, especially when it’s in season.
- Grains, including cereals, can be purchased in bulk. Make sure you store them in airtight containers. Whole grains, such as brown rice, are an excellent source of nutrients.
Cooking (consolidation of preparation)
Yep, you have to fix your meal. You can eat at home for a fraction of the cost of dining out. Here are some tips for preparing food at home, which will save you time as well as money:
- Cook at the beginning of the week for multiple meals. A couple of nights later, when you don’t feel like cooking, you have the leftovers to enjoy.
- For a change, you can put leftovers in soups or stews. You can start with a broth base and add the leftovers for a great treat. Another option is to buy whole grain tortillas and put leftovers in them for a tasty burrito.
- Not enough left over? You can combine leftovers from two meals for a “combination plate” which can make an interesting meal.
Another way to save on your food bill and still eat healthy is cutting the junk food. Junk food is expensive and usually has absolutely NO nutritional value. Go to the farmers market; you’ll not only be supporting the local economy, but you’ll also get great prices and great-looking produce that is fresh and very nutritional. When you do go to the store, make a list and stick to it; you won’t be tempted to buy things you’ll never eat. And one last suggestion: take a picture of the inside of your refrigerator before leaving to go to the grocery store; you’ll see what you need (and don’t need) and where it will fit in your refrigerator.