Eat Well for Less Money

No matter what your economic hardships are, you always want to invest in your own health and eat the foods that will nourish you and give you valuable nutrients. There is no substitute for proper nutrition, and today’s savings on foods can spell tomorrow’s medical bills. That said, there are ways to have it both ways – healthy and economical. Here are some tips to get you started: 1. Produce that is big in health, small in price Here are some healthy autumn staples that won’t break the bank. • Vitamin-rich vegetables can become the centerpiece of your meals without putting a dent in your wallet. In season right now are broccoli, mustard greens, arugula, bok choi, chard, carrots, onions, parsnips, sweet potatoes, leeks, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, and squashes of all shapes and sizes. • Opt for apples, pears, and cranberries for inexpensive fruits packed with nutrients. • Some healthy, flavorful foods that can spice up any dish are ginger, garlic, burdock, scallions, and parsley. 2. Get protein from less expensive sources Soy Products: Get in touch with tofu, which is much less expensive than high-quality meat. Tofu, or bean curd, has very little flavor of its own, so it can be seasoned or marinated to work with any dish. You can get more mileage out of your scrambled eggs by combining half soft tofu and half eggs. How about making a vegetable stir fry that is seventy percent bean curd and thirty percent meat. Low in calories and relatively high in protein, iron, and fiber, soy is filled with histidine, an amino acid that helps your body digest protein, protect red blood cells, and maintain healthy immune function. Beans and legumes also cost very little, but bring a robust flavor and a bounty of benefits to your health. Beans and legumes are packed with protein and fiber, provide the good kind of fat, and are loaded with complex carbohydrates, the nutrients that provide energy to the body. And you can buy in bulk – another savings tip – because dried beans and legumes will keep their quality for 6-12 months in an airtight glass container stored in a cool, dry place. Whole Grains: Few other foods offer such a diverse array of benefits at such a small cost. A good source of dietary fiber, protein, and essential fatty acids, whole grains are filling and delicious. Also, there is much evidence that suggests eating whole grains reduces the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Try barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, spelt, organic wheat pasta, buckwheat pasta, and amaranth. Again, you can buy in bulk and store in glass containers for up to 6 months. 3. Smart tips about leftovers When you make more than one meal at a time, you save money and time. The trick is to plan in advance so that nothing goes to waste. Get creative so that you don’t end up eating the same meal over and over. Yesterday’s chili can be today’s Southwestern quesadillas and tomorrow’s stuffed bell peppers. 4. Soup: the low-cost, low-calorie superhero Not only is soup one of the healthiest ways to fill up, due to the ease at which the body can assimilate liquid nutrients, it is also one of the most cost-effective. Yet another bonus? Studies have shown that soup, because if its liquid content, is a wonderful way to lose weight. You can use the vegetable scraps from the preparation of other meals to make your own vegetable broth. Nothing could be simpler than throwing in leek tops, onion remainders – whatever is left over – in boiling water with a couple of garlic cloves. It’s healthier than the high-sodium canned broth found in the market, and perfect for making soups or sautéing vegetables with. 5. Eat in Eating out is fastest way to blow the budget. Get in the habit of bringing lunch with you. Be adventurous; bagged lunch doesn’t have to be a sandwich every day. Get a short wide stainless steel thermos and bring soup, marinated vegetables and couscous, or eggplant parmesan – whatever will satisfy and inspire your tastebuds. For dinner, why not prepare a fancy, candle-lit meal? Go all out and have an appetizer, a main course, and even a dessert, just like the restaurant you are dreaming of going to. To make it yourself is an enjoyable, creative experience – and it will cost less and taste better. Another option is to throw a party. Have a potluck where each of your friends brings a dish, and have fun being on a budget together. 6. Leave the bottle behind Buying a bottle of water every day, or sometimes several times a day can really add up! Instead of subtracting from your wallet and adding to the recycling bin, invest in a water filtration system. What seems like a big cost at first ends up saving you money – and the environment – in the long run. To learn about a high-performance filtration system that I recommend, click here. 7. Grow your own food Bring back the victory garden! Start simply by just growing your own sprouts in a jar. Then upgrade to making your own yogurt. Eventually, as weather in your region allows, start planting a garden of fresh herbs and vegetables that will bring you a bounty of health benefits. Take it one step farther and learn how to preserve your food – you will be stocked no matter what. And nothing tastes better than food you have grown and prepared yourself. I hope you find the ways to eat well on a budget! May you live long, live strong, and live happy! -Dr. Mao