5 Tips for Eating Right on a Budget
Whether you’re a single gal in the city or suburban mom with several mouths to feed, keeping the pantry stocked with inexpensive, truly healthy foods can be a challenge – and it’s one that most of us face at least three times a day! How to come out a winner and fill those bodies with nutrients at a reasonable price? Here are a few pointers that have helped me and many of my patients stay on track throughout the child-rearing years – and far beyond!
1) Drink smarter.
If you have a soda or fruit juice habit, please, I beg you, STOP! Aside from the disastrously high amounts of sugar, chemicals and artificial sweeteners in every glass, the costs can really add up. Do your body a favor and drink water – it’s virtually free! Instead of bottled, use filtered tap water, which is kinder to the earth. For something delicious to sip on throughout the day, I make up a supply of inexpensive “beverages with benefits, ” to keep in the fridge or take along to the office. My favorites are cleansing lemon water, and healing, caffeine-free teas like hibiscus, peppermint, red rooibos and chamomile.
2) Snack pretty!
Instead of a sad-looking bag of empty-calorie, chemical-laden chips slumped over on the counter, connect with your inner Martha Stewart and lay out a pretty decorative bowl filled with inviting fresh fruit that’s easy to grab and delivers nutrients to your body. Less delicate fruits like apples and oranges can last for days in the bowl (and even longer in the fridge), so when you see a good deal on them at the market, don’t be afraid to buy a few extra!
3) Stretch the breakfast budget with fiber and protein.
A home-cooked bowl of steel cut oats is loaded with belly-satisfying fiber and roughly 70% less expensive than a breakfast sandwich from the drive-thru. Boost your breakfast bowl with chopped apple, nuts and even a small scoop of chia seeds to add more nutrition to the mix. Add a touch more flavor with a dusting of cinnamon, the tasty spice that also delivers blood sugar and weight-control benefits.
4) Have amazing lunches, for less.
The healthiest, easiest and least expensive way to do lunch at the office? Brown bag it! Not only does a brown-bag habit keep your lunchtime costs well under control, it will do wonders for your health because it puts you in charge of the ingredients and how they’re prepared. You’ll also save time in the middle of the day by not having to wait in line at the deli for an anything-but-energizing, boring old sandwich! My favorite healthy lunch is my super-nutrient dense Swift Salad in a Jar: Use a mason jar (1 quart) to help with portability. Make sure you leave enough room at the top so when you’re ready to eat, you can shake the jar to mix the ingredients. Using the food template below, assemble the layers so the dressing is on the bottom. Just before serving, give the jar a shake or two to distribute the dressing throughout the vegetables.
Layer 1: Dressing – 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and herbs whisked with extra virgin olive oil)
Layer 2: Crisp vegetables that will withstand being in the dressing (such as carrots, cucumbers, radish, jicama)
Layer 3: Protein Layer – such as canned fish, 2 hard-boiled eggs, cooked chicken, turkey, tofu, or lentils
4: Add-ons Layer – such as ¼ cup of olives, nuts or seeds
5: Greens —at least 2 cups of arugula, spinach, romaine, watercress, mesclun greens, etc
5) Make dinner go further with a filling favorite.
To help keep dinners healthy and on budget, I like to make a large pot of brown rice once a week, divide it up into several portions and store in the fridge/freezer so it’s always ready “grab & go.” Adding rice to your plate alongside steamed veggies or tossing into stews, soups and stir-fries is an inexpensive and effortless way to add healthy fiber and essential nutrients such as manganese and selenium to the evening meal. Another tip? Leftover veggies and rice work well for those brown bag lunches too!
For more ideas on eating well for less, stay tuned for my next post on “5 More Tips for Eating Right On a Budget” and take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s EWG's "Good Food on a Tight Budget" booklet for body and budget-friendly shopping tips.