10 tips to Clean Eating on a Budget
1. Budget and meal plan - First step, set a budget for a week of groceries. Then, examine your current stock in the fridge and pantry. Make your own meal plan (or utilize one of the dozens of online sources) that includes items that you already have in the house. Be sure to incorporate perishables that are nearing their expiration. Now make a shopping list of what you will need to complete the meals. Have a snack or small meal before you shop to ensure that you don’t make unnecessary purchases motivated by your hunger.
2. Cut down on packaged and pre-made – We buy these items for convenience and to save time but most of them are awful for us in addition to being pricey. Set aside 2 blocks of time per week to do food prep. I personally like Sunday’s and Wednesdays. These times are written into my schedule just like any other appointment that I can’t break. Invest in storage containers that can be frozen, microwaved and dishwasher safe. After a few weeks, you will become efficient and it will take half the time than it did the first week.
3. Eat leftovers – After you finish a meal, don’t discard the scraps. Last nights dinner makes a great breakfast or lunch the next day. This is especially helpful is you are one of the people that misses breakfast due to lack of time. Pack the leftovers as an actual meal as opposed to just throwing them in the fridge. If you have to fuss with them you will be less likely to grab them.
4. Buy cheaper cuts of meat - Experiment with cuts that are unfamiliar to you such as chicken thighs if you are always buying chicken breast
5. It’s not all or nothing when it comes to organic – We can’t all afford to stock our kitchen with nothing but organic products. The simple guide to the “dirty dozen “ and the “clean fifteen” will help tremendously with making educated decisions about produce. Check out the Environmental Working Group's lists to determine your priorities for organic purchases. There is even an iPhone app.
*Quality animal products including eggs, meat and dairy, and wild-caught seafood are worth investing more money in when it comes to your health and clean eating
6. Make your own dressings and sauces - The average bottled dressing costs $3.00 a bottle, and is loaded with preservatives, sugar and sodium. If you want an “organic” bottle of salad dressing, you’re likely to spend $5.00. You can make dressings at home for pennies with olive oil, assorted vinegars or lemon juice and spices. Here is a typical ingredient list from a very popular packaged dressing
- INGREDIENTS: WATER, SOYBEAN OIL, SUGAR, BUTTERMILK POWDER. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: SALT, DISTILLED VINEGAR, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, PHOSPHORIC ACID, XANTHAN GUM, ONION POWDER, GARLIC POWDER, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, SORBIC ACID AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY), POLYSORBATE 60, SPICES, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, PROPYLENE GLYCOL ALGINATE, MALTODEXTRIN (CORN), NATURAL FLAVOR, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SOY LECITHIN.
Need I say more on this topic. Why would you coat your healthy greens with corn starch and MSG?
7. Source online – Many ingredients on your shopping last can be purchased online for cheaper than the grocery store. Make a list of your most frequently used products and price online.
8. Buy in-season produce and frozen veggies – The cost of a pound of apples can vary by as much as $2.00 per lb depending on the season. Stick with seasonal fruits and veggies. Many fruits freeze well - stock up when they are on sale. Blueberries are great example. Frozen options (without seasonings and sauces) are a great option too. The other benefit to frozen is that you don’t have to worry about tossing molded or wilted fruits and veggies every week. Most large markets always have at least one brand of frozen vegetables on sale each week.
9. Buy in bulk – Grains, nuts and seeds, and expensive flours can be bought in bulk either online or at natural food stores. Buying from bulk containers allows you to only buy what you need and without the fancy packaging your costs are even further reduced. This is true of supplements too. If you don’t already know about this- check out TrueNutrition.com
10. Stock up on the essentials during sales – set aside room on your pantry for stock. This seems obvious but is often neglected. I like to tell my clients to spend $15 each week of their budget on stock.
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