Yes, you really can eat super healthy without it breaking your wallet. How? First of all, know your food. It’s trendy to buy organic, but it’s also wasteful if you buy something that really isn’t organic, or doesn’t need to be. For example, don’t buy an organic pineapple when you’re just going to cut that thick outer skin off, right? I mean, let’s be realistic. Buy organic fruits and veggies that don’t have skins you’re going to cut or peel, or skins that don’t keep out pesticides.
If you’re eating clean and/or organic then you probably aren’t buying boxed foods anyway, but fyi, there’s really no such thing as 100% organic processed and boxed foods- so don’t be fooled by marketing.
Here are some super healthy foods that won’t break the bank:
Cost: about $3 pound
Benefit: Oats are rich in avenanthramide, an antioxidant that protects the heart. Other oat accolades? The superfood lowers cholesterol and has been shown to possess disease-zapping antimicrobial activity, making organic oatmeal the perfect affordable breakfast item for cold and flu season.
2. DRY BEANS
Cost: about $2 per pound, depending on the variety
Benefit: Forget expensive steak and sausage. Dry beans and dry lentils pack a healthy low-fat, plant-based protein punch. Known as a “perfect food,” just one cooked cupful can provide as much as 17 grams of fiber. Beans are also loaded with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including a few most people fall short on—calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers. Soak beans overnight and rinse them well to eliminate most of the flatulence-causing compounds.
Cost: $1 per bulb
Benefit: This onion relative contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which studies show may decrease high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, according to a research review inThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To boost garlic’s health effects, be sure to crush the cloves and let them stand for up to 30 minutes before heating them. Extend the life of your garlic by storing it in a paper bag in the refrigerator
4. CAYENNE PEPPER
Cost: about $3 per jar
Benefit: If you can handle the heat, this powerhouse pepper is worth your while. The heat in cayenne peppers come from a phytochemical called capsaicin, which can help clear congestion, fight cholesterol, melt away body fat, and jump-start your metabolism. Sprinkle it over veggies and beans to sneak it into your diet—just a half a teaspoon is all you need.
Cost: $1.99 per bunch
Benefit: Eating four sticks of celery a day can produce modest reductions in blood pressure, thanks to the vegetable’s rich supply of phthalides, phytochemicals linked to cardiovascular health. Single? Celery is loaded with androstenone and androstenol, pheromones that help attract women.
Cost: $1.50 per pound
Benefit: Tomatoes are our most common source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease and breast cancer. Stock up at farmer’s markets or from your own garden while you can. Canned tomatoes (a cheaper option when fresh tomatoes are out of season) can expose you to the harmful plastic chemical BPA, which is used in the epoxy coatings that line cans. When fresh tomatoes aren’t available, or aren’t good, look for jarred or boxed varieties, or buy Trader Joe’s.
Cost: $2.99 per two-pound bag
Benefit: This bulb boasts far-reaching health benefits, including immunity-boosting compounds that can help prevent everything from the common cold to cancer. Onions are also rich in quercetin, a flavonoid shown to keep your blood healthy. It’s also a must-have for natural allergy prevention. Tip: Store your onions somewhere cool and dry, such as a dark cabinet or unused closet, and that two-pound bag will last for months.
A few other tips about eating healthy for less money:
1. Don’t buy precut fruit or veggies. It may be convenient in terms of your time, but definitely not convenient for your wallet. Precut pineapple costs twice as much as buying a whole one, which you can easily cut up yourself. Prep these items at the beginning of each week and refrigerate for easy grab and go.
2. Instead of prepackaged (brown) rice, make your own in large batches and freeze in portions.
3. Buy and prepare in bulk. Just like the rice, you can save money by buying meat and veggies and starches in bulk, preparing them and then freezing it in portions. I recently bought a HUGE bag of kale greens from Sams Club for only $3 dollars cooked it down to make 3 quarts of greens. Eat what you want and freeze the rest.
4. Buy cheap. This means if there is a sale on apples, buy them up. But don’t let them go to waste. Invest in a dehydrator.
5. Stop buying drinks. Seriously there’s nothing healthy about soda pop anyway and “diet” drinks are full of poison. If you’re going to eat or drink anything with sugar, just make it real sugar. All those horrible sweeteners are toxic. The only things I buy are coffee, tea bags and organic sugar. I make a 3 QT pitcher of semi-sweet tea about every other day. Invest in a water purifier and get used to it. Water is good.
5. Stop eating out. Honestly it’s just not that easy to eat healthy if you’re eating in restaurants all the time. We eat out only a few times a month, and while I try to stick with healthy menu options, I don’t feel bad about ordering a cheeseburger when it’s once in a while. If I have to eat on the run my number one choice is a Chick-fil-A grilled chicken wrap without any dressing.
6. The number one way to cut your spending is to plan your meals. Just take a little time once or twice a month, write down your families’ favorite meals, search the web for some great recipes, and decide on a meal for every night of the month (unless you know for sure you will not be eating at home on a particular night). If you end up not using a recipe one night, it’s okay, just put it back into the rotation for another day. This way you’ve got all your meals covered and you won’t be tempted to eat out and spend money. Now make your grocery list and set a day or two aside and do some bulk cooking/prepping if necessary. The meal plan also helps so you know a day or even a week ahead of time what needs to be prepped so that everything is ready to go each day. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting ready to cook dinner at 5 or 6 pm and finding your meat is still frozen or you don’t have all the ingredients you need. Check out this link for my favorite meal planning template at The Nourishing Home.