Diana Johnson (@DianasaurDishes on Twitter) is a recipe developer, cooking instructor and food blogger who loves teaching people how easy and affordable healthy cooking can be. Visit DianasaurDishes.com for her delicious, easy and healthy recipes on a shoestring budget!
I work on a regular basis with low income families who are trying to change their eating habits. The biggest barrier they seem to have in common is not a lack of desire for healthy eating, but the feeling that healthy food is more expensive and therefore unattainable. Here are a few of my favorite tips for saving money on groceries in the quest for a healthy diet.
Utilize your freezer.
A freezer is one of the greatest tools you have. In fact, if you have room for a standalone freezer they’re easily found on Craigslist and can save you a lot of money in the long run. Fruits and vegetables are more affordable in season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a variety of produce year round. Freezing is one of the least expensive methods of preserving. You can also create cheap recipes like soups and stews in bulk and freeze them in smaller portions for fast and easy dinners.
Do the math.
One of the greatest misconceptions people have about healthy food is that whole ingredients cost more than prepackaged ones. For example, when comparing a $2 frozen stir fry dinner and a $2 head of broccoli, people decide they can’t eat just broccoli for dinner and go for the stir fry. But that two dollar head of broccoli plus some cheap stew meat, rice and a couple ingredients can make a stir fry dinner for 6 people for around $8 or less. That’s much cheaper than 6 of those stir fry dinners! When you start looking at the actual cost of your food rather than the sticker price, you’ll be amazed at the money you can save.
Make your own condiments.
Condiments have some of the highest markups in the grocery industry. You can make your own salad dressings, marinades, mayonnaise, pickles, relishes, mustards and sauces (like steak sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc). Buy basic ingredients like soy sauce, vinegar, oil, salt and honey in bulk to use in a variety of ways. You can actually save hundreds of dollars a year with this tip alone!
Grow it yourself.
Whether you live in a house or a tiny apartment, there are a few things you can easily grow yourself to save some money. Herbs are a healthy way to add a lot of flavor to your food. Prepackaged foods add flavor through salt, sugar and fat which really impact your health in a negative way. You can also grow things like green onions, carrots and lettuce in pots on a windowsill for fresh picked vegetables year round. If you’re interested in deciding what herbs to grow, check out a list of my top ten herbs!
If you’re struggling to eat healthy on a tight budget, don’t give up, you’re not alone! It can be a challenge at first but you’ll be surprised at how quickly making healthy choices can become a habit.
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October 18th, 2011