HEALTHY CHOICES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLES BY BARBARA B. MINTZ, MS, RD
Take your own food inventory, look at your food bills and see where you might be spending some extra hard-earned cash on foods that are really not good for your wallet or you.
There is so much conversation around this topic today. And it is no wonder. When you shop for healthier foods or organic produce and compare the prices to the cost of processed foods, it can be tough for anyone to stay on a budget. If you are a busy parent who is trying to feed her growing children, it becomes more complicated. We know that processed foods have less nutritive value and more hydrogenated oils, refined sugars and chemicals and we want to make the healthier, whole food choice. The good news is that you actually can eat healthy and save money on your food bills. The trick is in looking at the big picture, examining your food bills and shopping lists and thinking differently about fast and convenient foods.
Believe it or not there are studies that have proven that eating healthy ultimately does save money. For example, if you are going to Starbucks for your coffee and muffin in the morning, you are probably spending five to seven dollars daily on something that is high in calories, fat and sugar. A well-renowned public health advocate, Dr. Marion Neslte, has stated that you could actually get your full day’s requirement of three fruits and four vegetables for just 64 cents in 1999-period dollars. Taking into account inflation, you will still be spending less than you would in the morning at Starbucks.
Here are some tips that will help you stretch your food budget dollars and stay healthy too!
1. This is the number one of all number one tips: Stay away from convenience foods and stores. This means coffee chains, fast food restaurants, as well as those items in supermarkets that are pre-cut, pre-packaged and pre-cooked.
Take a look at the price of pre-cut carrot and celery strips, broccoli, apples or pineapple just to name a few. You will find that a fresh, organic bunch of carrots, or whole organic fruits like apples, is less costly per pound that their conventional prepared version. The same is true for poultry and meats. A whole grass-fed chicken is less expensive
than four, tiny, pre-cooked chicken breasts. A package of low-fat ground beef is cheaper that pre-cooked meat balls or prepared hamburger patties. Once you decide that saving a little time isn’t worth the extra money, you are on your way to planning a healthy weeks’ worth of meals
2. Buy locally and in season if possible. These foods are always tastier and more nutrient-dense than their out of season counterparts. Once you understand what foods are harvested in which season, you are going to have more nutrition at less cost.
3. Frozen fruits and veggies are healthy! f you buy them in bunches in season and put them in your freezer, you
will always have something to add to your meals or use when cooking soups and stews out of season. If the preparation is too much, buy those fruits and vegetable already frozen when they go on sale. They are usually frozen at harvest, locking in nutrients. This makes them the healthier, less-expensive alternative to those foods sold out of season.
4. Try having more meatless meals. You can do this once or twice a week. Not only do these foods have an abundance of nutrients and fiber, they are naturally low in fat and have no cholesterol. They are also cheaper than meats. Good alternatives are legumes, chick peas, tofu nuts and seeds. Additionally, the more high fiber foods you eat, the fewer calories you will eat, and the fuller you will be. This will help keep you at a healthy body weight and at less risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers
5. Plan your meals weekly. I know this seems difficult and time-consuming, but it will pay off in the long run, not only in your food bills but your health as well. But it will pay off in the long run, not only in your food bills but your health as well. Find some time over the weekend, or the night or morning before, to prep your next day’s meals. Some folks find Sunday afternoon a day to prepare and even cook the following week’s menus.
6. Make a weekly and monthly shopping list and follow it. Whenever you are in the supermarket with your list of
healthy foods, you are left defenseless to food marketing techniques. They are very subtle but powerful and can entice you to buy impulsively, racking up the bill at the check-out counter. Also never shop hungry. This is a recipe for disaster. You will most likely buy things that are easy to open and eat right away, enticing you to purchase
expensive and unhealthy processed and convenient foods.
7. Look for sales in those circulars. Try and add some things that are healthy and on sale every time you go to the
supermarket. In fact, when you are making that shopping list, pull out the coupon portion and the market advertising in the newspaper. This will help you plan meals and save money.
8. Brew your own coffee and tea. Remember that five to seven dollars a day on high calorie lattes and muffins adds up to 25 to 35 dollars a week or 1,300 to 1800 dollars a year! That is the equivalent of about a pound of fat in one week. You could be looking at close to 40 or 50 pounds of extra body fat in a year! You really can save money when you look at this from an aerial view. Take your own food inventory, look at your food bills and see where you might be spending some extra hard-earned cash on foods that are really not good for your wallet or you. Remember you can’t put a price on your health. And, if you stay healthy, you will also spend fewer dollars on co-pays at the doctors, medications, prescription, or over the counter for colds and the flu, not to mention the price of diseases that actually develop from unhealthy food choices and obesity. A healthy life really is about making healthy choices which you CAN do on a budget.•
Don’t go to supermarket unarmed with your list of healthy foods. Food marketing techniques are very subtle but
powerful and can entice you to buy impulsively, racking up the bill at the check-out counter. Also never shop hungry.
CUTTING COSTS: Take a look at the price of pre-cut carrot and celery strips, broccoli, apples or pineapple. You will find that a fresh, organic bunch of carrots, or whole organic fruits like apples, is less costly per pound that their conventional prepared version.
HEALTHY CHOICES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLES
Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, Vice President of Healthy Living and Community Engagement for Barnabas Health, New Jersey.