Did you know that almost 40% of the food we buy gets wasted and food waste is a serious issue today in our homes, supermarkets and restaurants?
I recently came across The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z by Tamar Adler. I thought, she gets me, I am always trying to use up what is in the fridge in creative ways as I really hate to waste food. And it is fun too.
Now I know, many of us are not inclined to do this and that is okay. We have other superpowers, right?
However, as many of us know everything in the supermarket costs more these days and budgets can be stretched thin by higher prices.
And what suffers? Our health.
Why? Because we are under the assumption, we are going to have to eat ramen noodles and mac ‘n cheese from a box to make ends meet. Low cost food (actually I wouldn’t call them food, more like food products) that is ultra-processed and not healthy.
But what if you could eat well on a budget. Is it possible? Yes, indeedy. The trick is in the planning to get the most bang for your grocery buck.
Here are some tips on how to save money next time you go shopping:
1. Buy food items that last, such as:
a. Frozen fruits and vegetables are especially good choices as fresh fruits and vegetables can go off rather quickly, before we are ready to use them. And if we don’t know what to do with them, as they get overripe, they go in the trash and money is wasted.* Buy plain frozen foods, as the ones that come with sauces tend to add extra salt and fat, and season at home.
i. *overripe bananas can be frozen and used in recipes, or to make a creamy “ice-cream like” dessert and wilted celery and other vegetables can be frozen and added to soups.
b. Canned vegetables should be drained and rinsed before using and choose the ones that are low-sodium or no salt as a better choice.
c. Canned fruit should be used sparingly; however I do like to have some mandarin orange or pineapple chunks handy for a recipe. Just choose fruit “in its own juice” and buy unsweetened apple sauce.
2. Choose store brands
a. They are of equal quality, but if you must, only buy your name-brand item when you have a coupon or its on sale
3. Go to farmers markets for the best prices on produce
a. Go later in the day and haggle for an even better price
4. Use coupons judiciously. Stick to the plan.
a. I am not sure how I feel about coupons (paper or digital) as I feel that most of these are for items that are processed, and so I use them sparingly for cleaning products and the like. I do like the coupons you get that give you money off the bill. That I will use.
5. Shop the weekly specials
a. Yes, like your mother used to do. Make a meal plan and stick with it based on the weekly specials to save money and reduce waste. My mother was really good at meal planning, which was a boon with five hungry kids.
6. Check out your local dollar stores for bargains
a. canned tuna, chicken and tomatoes
And make sure you stock up on healthy items that are cheap because if you have empty cupboards you are more inclined to order fast food, and that isn’t good.
(12) healthy staples to have on hand
1. Brown rice
2. Cans or packets of tuna or chicken
3. Dried beans and lentils
5. Frozen fruit
6. Frozen vegetables
7. Cottage cheese
8. Greek yogurt
10. Whole grain pasta
11. Whole grain crackers (Triscuits have 3 ingredients – wheat, olive oil and salt)
12. Cooking oils (olive, sunflower, grapeseed, avocado)
And here are some healthy (and cheap) meal ideas:
Pasta and salad – Make a meal with whole grain pasta, with a simple marinara and some cheese, coupled with a fresh salad, dressed with oil and vinegar, or oil and lemon, oil and lime, oil and orange
Chicken breast, brown rice and vegetables are always a good combination for satiety. And those frozen chicken breast and vegetables will come in handy to put this together fast.
Or you can make a stir-fry using the same frozen chicken breast, sliced and cooked in a little beat of oil, along with broccoli, carrots and onions or buy a frozen bag of stir-fry vegetables (no sauce). Use low-sodium soy or try Braggs Aminos for even less sodium.
Make a batch of vegetarian chili and you can always use the leftovers to top a baked potato for another meal.
Eating healthy while on a budget is doable. It just takes a little planning.
*Overripe Banana Ice Cream
(2) Frozen overripe bananas – let thaw a few minutes before putting in food processor
1-2 TBSP of almond milk for smoothness
1-2 tsp of maple syrup or honey (for a little added sweetness)
Blend together in food processor until creamy (like a soft-serve)
· Fruit (banana slices or berries)
· Mini chocolate chips