Benefits of Cheap, Healthy Food
You don’t need to sacrifice your health to save money on food. Eating cheap, healthy food is easy, satisfying, prolongs your life, and gives you more money to save toward financial freedom.
Fast Food vs. Healthy, Inexpensive
Meals at Home
Most of us know that meals at our favorite fast food restaurant aren’t very healthy for us. But are they less expensive than nutritious, budget meals prepared at home? A study published in the April, 2010 issue of Family Medicine concluded that eating fast food is not only less healthy but also more expensive than eating cheap, healthy meals at home.
The costs compared in this study were only for buying the food. However, there are other expenses that are often overlooked and potentially much greater than food costs. They are the expenses associated with the health problems resulting from unhealthy eating habits. Poor eating can lead to health problems such as obesity, stroke, cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and many others. Although the health care costs due to these conditions can be overwhelming, they are easy to ignore because they usually don’t occur until sometime in the future.
In addition to the monetary costs of unhealthy eating, there are also intangible costs. How do you put a price tag on the reduction in the quality of life or even premature death that may result from poor eating?
Family Meal Planning with Cheap, Healthy Food
It isn’t difficult to incorporate cheap, healthy food into your family meal planning. It is important to always keep in mind both the cost and nutritional value of any food you select. Here are some tips to create healthy, cheap meals:
- Avoid most processed or convenience foods. Many processed foods contain high amounts of sodium, trans-fats, sugars, and preservatives, all of which are very unhealthy. In addition, these foods are usually more expensive because you are paying for processing, packaging, and convenience.
- On the other hand, don’t be afraid to use some “convenience” foods like frozen vegetables. Many experts agree that frozen vegetables can be as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Also, when fresh vegetables are not in season, frozen vegetables are a cheap, healthy, food alternative. Wait for frozen vegetables to go on sale and then stock up.
- Don’t go overboard on the proteins. According to the American Heart Association, most Americans eat too much protein. Much of that protein comes from red meat, which is relatively expensive. Try to limit red meat to two servings per week and instead substitute proteins like chicken, eggs, fish, and nuts.
- Learn to understand nutrition labels and read them before purchasing foods for the first time. Make sure you know what is good and bad about each food so that you understand exactly what you are paying for, nutritionally speaking.
- Plan each meal so that half your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and a quarter with starches. This rule of thumb will help ensure you are eating balanced, budget meals.
- Find cheap, healthy food in season at the farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets are wonderful places to find fruits and vegetables that are fresh, colorful, and full of flavor. Don’t assume that everything is a good price, however. Visit the market regularly so that you can monitor the prices as they move up and down. For instance, I watch the blueberry prices closely so that I can buy them at the lowest price of the season. Then, I buy a large quantity which I freeze and use all year long.
It may take a little more work to find cheap, healthy food. It isn’t as easy as picking up a pizza or popping something into the microwave. But, in my estimation, the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle and saving money on groceries are well worth the extra effort to plan healthy, inexpensive meals.
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