Note: I wanted to talk about Food Inc. today..I really, really did. But I haven't managed to fully wrap my head around what it is I want to say (there is so much, where does one begin??) so I thought I would share this article with you. It's one of my writing samples but its also relevant to one of the key issues I took away from Food Inc. and that is the cost associated with healthy eating. I hope you like it!!
It seems that everywhere you turn there is a growing emphasis on nutrition as a part of a healthy and active lifestyle. Nowadays there is little doubt that a wholesome and balanced diet is good for your well being, longevity and ultimately your waistline but what about your pocketbook? Food prices across the country have been on the rise in recent years and healthy fare is no exception. Everything from apricots to zucchini have seen a noticeable increase in the last decade which can make grocery shopping for the cost-conscious consumer quite challenging. That’s not too say that eating healthy while maintaining a budget is impossible but it does take some planning:
Buy in Bulk
Non-perishable items like rice, grains (quinoa, couscous, and bulgur), dried beans, nuts and seeds are less expensive per serving when purchased in larger quantities. Stocking a pantry with these hearty dietary staples can save you both money and time when putting together a weekly meal plan.
Homemade- The Preferred Choice
Prepackaged meals may save you time but there is usually a price tag attached to the convenience. Making meals from scratch can lower your grocery bill while also allowing you to control the quality of the ingredients that go into your food. Double or triple the recipe for homemade soups, stews, chili and lasagna and freeze the rest for quick and nutritious meals throughout the week.
Buy What’s In-Season
Produce tends to be cheaper when it is in season because there is less cost associated with getting it from the farm nearby to your local grocery store. Planning your shopping list around those items which are available now can save you money and ensure that you get all the nutritional benefits of food that didn’t ripen on a truck while it was shipped from thousands of miles away.
Farmer’s markets and roadside stands in rural communities are other options that can also offer some of your favorite fruits and vegetables at better prices then many supermarkets.
Go Vegetarian (At Least Some of the Time)
For many people going meat-free is an ethical decision but it can also add up to huge savings over the course of the year. Eating two or three meat free meals a week should reduce the amount of money that you spend on food on a monthly basis as well as potentially providing noticeable health benefits over the long term. As an added bonus, less meat can also encourage you to get more creative in the kitchen and experiment with new foods and different recipes.
Eating out at restaurants can be an enjoyable experience but it isn’t necessarily the best choice when being frugal or health conscious. One meal in a restaurant often has the same price tag as the groceries for several meals made at home and will more than likely contain more fat and sodium then the food you would typically prepare for yourself. Reserve dining out for special occasions and instead create an experience out of eating in by using decorative plates and table linens, lighting a few candles and playing soft music in the background. Alternatively, having a themed meal (Mexican Fiesta, Indoor Picnic etc) can be a fun way to engage the entire family without even needing to leave the house.
Pack a Lunch
Similar to dining in a restaurant for supper, eating takeout for lunch can have a negative impact on your health and your bank account if done too often. Bringing a lunch from home is not only a less expensive alternative but also tends to be the healthier choice. Nutritious eating on-the-run isn’t impossible but it can be challenging when you are in a rush during your lunch hour. You can save time by making bigger quantities of your healthy dinner the night before and packing leftovers for the next day.
Healthy eating is an integral part of a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle but it doesn’t have to be a financial burden. Learning a few quick and easy cost-saving tips can lower your food bill while allowing you to maintain a diet rich in nutrition.
So tell me, how do you save money on food?