Habits take time to change. The way we eat and WHAT we eat are some of the trickiest bundles of ingrained habits to tackle, because ... they are just such a part of every day!
Unless, of course, you never eat? ;) Solid, healthy nutrition is key in anyone's healthy lifestyle, regardless of goals or hurdles. Tackling old habits to weed out the unhealthy ones is an important move toward any goal. Today I read an article that might be a good introduction to a person who hasn't yet really DUG into nutrition. The article is:
"Eating Healthy on a Budget
Save Money Without Sacrificing Quality"
...by Rebecca Pratt, SP contributor
I agree with almost everything written, but found that it only briefly touched base on each issue, which of course is appropriate since it was a short article, not a book. The reader can START from this article, and dig to find how much more lies beyond it. Ms. Pratt states: "You can save money and still have quality. " Yes!! She is so right!! Wish I'd known that back in the early 90's when my budget plummeted and I didn't think in terms of 'nutrients' yet!
PROTEIN, a BIG PART OF MANY GROCERY BILLS:
I never really thought or worried too much about grocery costs until sudden disability plummeted my income years ago. I DID, however, believe that I was providing good, solid nutrition for my family, for myself. And I was not preparing what I now consider healthy planning, purchasing and preparation of meals! Meat took up a huge part of my food bill, when in fact I now know that we were doing what many Americans did: eating much too much protein! And that adds up on the grocery store bills.
Protein can be healthy and not expensive; remember, limiting that nutrient has already cut down the cost, but now the per-unitcost can go down. Protein, as you know, comes in many forms. Look up various foods and you'll find it exists in places you don't consider as protein sources. Milk? Yogurt? Yup!
Meals don't NEED meat. I use a lot of beans, quinoa, for example. Soup can be a well-balanced meal. All depends on what you put IN that soup. The author of the article suggests using canned soups/broths and experimenting. I use a broth that comes in a carton, not a can. It is low-sodium, no fat. This combines with either fresh veggies and some lentils or beans... or with the leftovers from some other meal. Voila; truly delicious, nutrition soup-MEAL at a low price. And you don't even need to buy or make a meat broth. Cook up a bunch of veggies that you like and the water is your broth. Add some seasonings, some form of protein and there's your cheap but tasty meal.
Batch-cooking, as Ms. Pratt indicates, is another tried-and-true method that is now part of my lifestyle. Why didn't I do this more often when I had a family AND a separate freezer!? Sheesh, think of allthe time and money I could have saved! Ah well, thats water over the dam for ME, but anyone with a family should definitely take advantage of batch-cooking because just as it helps me, it is great for family meal-planning too.
Ok, someone just thought "oh, but that's where the expensive foods ARE!" No. Once we are really used to the produce and other items, we SAVE money by avoiding those center aisles. How can I say such a thing? Easily. My expenditures for meals are less than half the cost they were before I became a perimeter shopper! It's all in getting used to a new way of preparing meals. The center aisles of a grocery store contain very few items that I buy. Perimeter-shopping is not just a goal, but also once it's habit is a sign that one is eating a more healthful way. Um, unless, of course, you're not only not skipping but hanging out in the deli an bakery sections!
Grains are interesting to explore. I seldom use rice, but when I do it is brown. Over the years, I've found that certain staples like white rice, white bread, white FLOUR... just don't have as much flavor as other foods. A potato without butter? Without a glob of sour cream? Yes! Totally doable. And a lot less expensive. Add seasonings or mix the potatoes or rice or grains with veggies for good taste that is nutrient-dense. And yes, potatoes are high in potassium and just fine! What we often put on those fine potatoes can be a worse problem that the potato itself. Me? When I cook red potatoes (other than steaming) I plop them into water with vinegar; drain them, add a little more vinegar (white or white-balsmic) and add fresh dill. Sometimes I do splurge and add a SMALL amount of unsalted butter, but not often. A bar of butter lasts 3 weeks, often longer.
AMOUNTS MATTER IN THE BUDGET:
The amount that we eat is as much a concern in cost as is the food selected.
If we eat too much meat, for example, it can make a huge impact on caloric intake but ALSO on that grocery bill. So staying within ranges is a key to watching the cost of food.
GET THE MOST FOR THE LEAST:
In her article, Ms. Pratt states "Make “variety” the watchword of your eating" is one of several 'basic tips' for healthy eating. Years ago I'd have said, "Yup, I do that!"... and would be right... and totally off-track.
To me the key watch-PHRASE for inexpensive AND healthy is:
You can have variety but not have all the nutrients you need. You can be in your recommended calorie range, right on the numbers within requirements for carbs, proteins and fats... and still be far off from meeting your needs in other absolutely crucial nutrients! So. Ditch the "variety" and replace it with the more substantive "nutritional density" as your guideline in creating a healthy eating habit. Habit. Not Plan. Habit!!
To save money AND eat a nutritionally dense diet, one might have to really focus on those nutrition labels on packaged foods... but the more you read, the more aware you are that the longest lists of ingredients have the least amount of true value. I made it a sort of game to seek to get the most nutrition from the least amount of expense. And it changed how and what I eat.... and cut my food bill in half.
How about you: did you lower your food bill when changing how you ate/eat?