No, I’m not pulling your leg. Yes, it is possible! Some of you may already practice healthy eating and find that you save money while doing it. Others may be skeptical that healthy eating actually ends up costing less in the long run. Regardless of your situation, I was inspired to write this article to motivate and encourage you to think about ways to curb the spending and make tasty, healthy meals for your loved ones. I am in no way suggesting your current eating habits are unhealthy; I’m simply trying to challenge some myths about healthy eating and saving money, and hopefully show you that it is entirely possible to save money in a world where food prices are on the rise and packaged foods are constantly pushed on us. So, without further ado, here are three things I find useful when applying healthy living to cost-friendly eating habits.
1. Buy the good stuff
A lot of misconception around the belief that healthy eating costs less is because the products that go into a healthy dish cost more up front. For example, a bottle of pure maple syrup costs a lot more than a bottle of corn syrup. If you purchase the pure maple syrup, at the surface it looks like you are getting less bang for your buck when in reality you are saving. The reason why you are saving is because you need less of the pure stuff, since it is a lot more concentrated and flavourful than processed corn syrup. Also, you are investing in your family’s health in the long-term. Pure maple syrup is chalk full of nutrients, including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, and even copper. Of course, it does still contain sugar. On the bright side, since it contains sugar you can even use maple syrup in place of white or brown sugar in baking recipes. Enough about maple syrup. My point is that if you buy the good products up-front, it may seem like you are spending more when in the long run you are saving big bucks because you can use that ingredient in many dishes and use less of it as well. A good product goes a long way. Buy the good stuff, ladies!
2. Think ahead and carve out the time
True, it takes time to prep and cook a recipe from scratch rather than buying it pre-cooked and pre-packaged. But if you think ahead and carve out the time necessary to prepare meal ideas and cook, you will find it really is not as bad as it seems. Think of a weekly meal plan, and at the beginning of the week purchase the stuff needed to make every meal. Make more than one meal at the same time, refrigerate them for later use, and heat the dish up when you are ready to eat it. Most dishes can be refrigerated for 3-5 days, sometimes up to a whole week. Prep a giant bowl of salad in advance and put everything in except for the meat and dressing. It will keep for easily 3-5 days. Sip on a nice glass of white, red, or Rosé while cooking and put on some relaxing tunes. Even enlist your little ones to help you. Get creative with your meal-prep and you will find it to be quite an enjoyable experience. I typically do my weekly shopping and meal-preps on Sundays, but you know what works best for you. The hardest part is getting into the habit of doing it. As soon as you create a routine, you will likely find that you look forward to the evening of rationing, organizing, and cooking in advance. Keep snacks on-hand, because looking at and smelling a weeks-worth of tasty meals might give you and your loved ones the munchies! Think ahead and carve out the time necessary to create healthy, tasty, and cost-efficient meals in advance. You may be pleasantly surprised at how satisfying and easy this is to do.
3. Buy in bulk
Rather than buying a box of pasta, head to the Bulk Barn and purchase a large bag of it for roughly the same price. Rather than buying a jar of pre-made pasta sauce, buy a big can of tomatoes, a few spices and herbs, and make your own. Rather than buying a tub of pre-packaged lettuce, buy a romaine heart and wash/cut it up yourself. You get my point. Grocery stores are so good at selling us ‘convenience’ items at a huge mark-up. Sure, it is convenient. But it is also extremely costly and produces more waste than we know what to do with. There are so many benefits to buying in bulk, and it’s extremely easy to manage. Wash and chop your lettuce yourself and save $2 or more, just like that. Take the time to cut up your vegetables and store them in a leftover container in the fridge. It really doesn’t take as long as they’re leading you to believe and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much money you will save in the long run. Purchase a large tray of chicken breasts rather than two at a time, prepare all of them at once and freeze the ones you do not plan on eating right away in one or several freezer-safe Ziploc® bags. Or, buy a whole bird and roast it; you can use all the meat in different recipes throughout the week, and even boil the leftovers to make a chicken stock. Not only are you saving money buying in bulk, you are also saving the environment by purchasing less plastics. Buy in bulk!
So, there you have it. Three simple ways to curb the food budget and feed your loved ones healthy meals so that they have the nutrients and energy to succeed. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative with your routine. And don’t be discouraged if you miss a week. Trust the process. You’re already here reading this, which tells me you are curious to try something new and change your habits. Try these three habits above, pay attention to your budget for the month, and let the numbers speak for themselves. Enjoy saving money and eating healthy!