At times, I used to think that I couldn’t afford the grocery bill that came with cooking and eating very healthy food. (The leaner the meat, the more it costs; the fatter the meat, the cheaper it is. One hundred percent berry jams cost much more than corn syrup/sugar-filled jams. And preservative-free whole grain breads cost at least double the nutrient-low brands.)
To make matters even worse, I thought, on top of buying healthy food, I wanted easy-to-eat healthy convenience foods, like pre-cut veggie trays or pre-sliced fresh fruit trays, which cost more. So sometimes I would get discouraged, like so many people do, and would assume I couldn’t afford to eat much more healthfully.
But I was wrong.
People can afford to eat better by cutting out some of the little expenses that we hardly realize are affecting our budgets. They are in there, in disguise! When you analyze your own purchasing choices carefully, you may find huge blunders are affecting your bottom line: like eating out too much, or choosing the wrong ratio of junk food to real food when shopping. Or believing (and paying for) misleading advertising about what is truly healthy.
For the past two months, I’ve tossed all my receipts in a big ziploc bag in my kitchen drawer. Why? Well, even though I can look online at my bank account and see where my money’s going, the bank doesn’t break down the items I’ve bought. I need to analyze my receipts up close: if $185 of our hard-earned money went to the grocery, was that really $185 worth of healthy FOOD?
Or was it really like this: Did I spend just $50 worth of healthy food, $15 worth of junk food, $12 worth of unnecessary corn-syrup based drinks, $10 worth of diapers and wipes, $15 worth of shampoo and lotion, $20 worth of miscellaneous items we can probably do without, like chewing gum, cotton balls, magazines and kleenex, and $63 worth of gardening soil and fertilizers? You guessed it.
I realized that I could do a lot better. I can cut out luxuries like smoothies bought at a restaurant, or fancy meals out. When you cut out even small bits of “fluff” to make the room financially for healthy eating, it can turn into a fun game.
Here are a few ideas:
1)Cut out gum, bottled water, and packaged snacks.
2) Drink water. Juices, sodas and gatorade are expensive.
3)Eat more legumes and rice. Dried beans and brown rice prepared from scratch is so cheap. If you don’t have time, cook it on the weekend when you do have time, freeze it and use it at least once a week.
4)Plan ahead. If you toss a chicken in the crock pot on Monday for chicken and rice dinner, use the rest of the chicken on Tuesday for chicken ragout. A general plan is important, both for health and for economics in the home.
5)Make soup a staple. Wonderful soups come from leftovers.
6) If you do go out to eat, think healthy and cheap! Try a bowl of chili or a baked potato from Wendy’s, or a 6-inch veggie on whole grain at Subway; they are cheap and healthy. And don’t let anyone in the family order any drink other than water. Those drink bills add up fast, and water’s more healthy, anyway.
5) Use add-ins and spices to make soups or casseroles more fun. Look in the ethnic section of the grocery store. Toss in fresh herbs or chopped raw veggies or a scoop of sour cream or cheese at the last minute onto your soups– the taste is wonderful!
Affordable health insurance is also a must. Compare health insurance quotes by using the form at the top of the page.