Buying Real Food On a Budget

Healthy eatingMost people assume healthy eating has to cost you an arm and a leg. Not true in my opinion. It all comes down to making the right choices, sticking to a budget, and knowing where real value lies. Here’s what I mean.

Nonsense Shopping

So often I observe people in the supermarkets going for these cheap pre-made meals, nuggets, cheap sausages, frozen or canned pasta because it seems to be affordable. First of all as an Italian…yuck to canned pasta! Second of all I agree it’s cheap, but it’s cheap rubbish that should never be deemed worthy for human consumption!

Marketing Ploys

Pay careful attention to those clever marketing ploys that make you believe you need the deal of a 3 for 1 when that item wasn’t on your list in the first place. They are designed to make us feel we’re getting a bargain by placing them on a convenient eye level, it seems like a great deal so we buy them for a rainy day…but whose the fool now? I watched a marketing documentary where they show how we as a consumer are essentially tricked into buying sale items. The way they do it is by pricing the initial item for more than what they’re looking to get for it, only to bring it down the next month to a sale item allowing us to think we’re getting a smashing bargain when actually that was the price in the first place. Of course certain items will probably be a genuine discount, so if it’s on your weekly list than buy it because you’ve scored a saving.

When To Buy Organic

Eating Organic can sometimes break the bank. I’m feeding a family of 5 and sometimes the organic brand is just way to pricey for my budget. I would love to buy only organic but I don’t think I’m going off the scale into “unhealthy” eating if I choose an ordinary carrot instead. Choosing a healthy carrot whether it’s organic or not is still the better option than having crisps in the trolley. Most of the time I’m choosing a locally produced carrot over an imported organic one, which in my opinion local will do just fine! Again organic is best, but if you can’t afford it, the goal here is simply to have healthy bare essentials in your trolley.

Superfood Myths

The media and health experts are always throwing these crazy and highly expensive superfoods our way. I’m a firm believer in superfoods – but this is where most people get mixed up thinking that healthy food costs an arm and a leg. Not true! You do not have to sacrifice quality to get a healthy result. Most normal foods are also technically classified as superfoods they’re just not always placed in that category because after all green superfood powder sounds way fancier than boring but very affordable, and very nutritious spinach or kale. Of course green superfood powder is pretty amazing stuff but if you’re on a budget don’t feel you’re missing out if your spinach is the more affordable option. If you have extra cash in your budget then that would be the time to splash out on green superfood powder just for a bit of variety and fun. I did a post a while back on affordable superfoods.

High Prices & Health Stores

As a handmade skincare enthusiast I understand the high prices health food stores sometime demand. If it’s a true health product the shelf-life will be the main pricey factor as it will usually mean preservative free, therefore short shelf life. Of course you have to do your research as just because it’s a health food store it doesn’t mean it’s altogether natural and preservative free. Whenever I buy something at a health store I make sure it’s not the exact same product that I can find cheaper at a regular supermarket first.

7 Step Guide

Here is my 7 step guide for healthy eating on a budget.

  1. Make a list – If you’re new to budgeting/healthy eating, I would strongly advise a shopping list as this will help you remember everything you need, save time and money, and help you avoid the mistake of throwing on extra items that will just stuff up your kitchen cabinets or empty your pocket. Once you’ve gotten the hang of what it’s all about and you feel you can subconsciously stick to the “list” making good food choices, you can choose to keep or scrap the list. If you’ve ditched the list but feel you’re slipping a bit, then pull out that trusty list again. It’s a muscle!
  2. Stick to a budget – Budget shopping is healthy shopping as you limit yourself to only buy the basic essentials. I do my bulk shop once a week, this way I can buy fresh but I can also stretch out my shopping to last me about 7 day’s. I find it way more cost effective doing a weekly shopping as opposed to every couple of day’s as you’re bound to buy less because you have that list and budget to keep in mind. If you get into the habit of shopping every couple of day’s the chance of you adding an extra item that you really don’t need onto your shopping trolley is inevitable as in your mind your trolley doesn’t look that full so you allow a sneaky item in. Of course there may be bread or milk that I’ll have to occasionally top up on during the week.
  3. Is it fresh or processed? Aim to buy items with as little packaging as possible this way you know it’s not been processed. There are of course a few items that have to be packaged such as meat, cheese etc. Buy frozen vegetables and berries if cheaper than fresh. I usually only go for the frozen berries, peas, corn, broccoli and string beans. Make sure you’re buying a good quality that say’s 100% peas and not precooked. This is the only type of frozen meal you should be buying. Frozen can sometimes retain more nutrients than fresh produce as they’ve not been sitting on the store shelf for a while, and are frozen straight after being picked.  If you go for frozen fish avoid the battered kind and instead go for 100% fish.
  4. Be a part-time vegetarian – Meat is not only one of the more costly items on your shopping list, but also not necessary to eat on a daily basis. I personally follow the meditterannean diet (more to come on this one) which would involve eating red meat once a month or every 3 weeks. Legumes and nuts are on my daily protein list, along with eggs, poultry and fish being 2-3 times weekly. According to the World Health Organisation, the recommended daily intake of protein is roughly 0.75 grams per kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 70 kg, you would need: 70 kg x 0.75g protein= 52.5 grams of protein per day.  Just to put it into perspective: 2 slices of wholewheat bread alone contains 7 grams of protein. 1 egg contains 6 grams of protein. 1 cup of lentils contain 18 grams of protein. 2 cups of broccoli contains 10 grams of protein. There is protein in just about everything and most people eat more than is necessary.
  5. Is it a basic essential? Stick to bare essentials such as, vegetables, pulses and legumes, bread, eggs, cheese, fruit, pasta, rice, fish, and chicken. Buy nuts and seeds for snacking. If you’ve gotten the basics and have extra in your budget save it for those extra healthy goodies such as green superfood powder, or see if you can choose more organic products.
  6. Make instead of buy – Ditch those pre-made sauces! They’re full of preservatives, sugar and stuff that doesn’t fall in line with healthy eating. You can make just about any sauce fresh yourself, and it will be tasty and good. This is also a good time to get used to eating food in its original form, appreciate its natural flavors…no need to lather it up with unnecessary calories.  Olive oil is a delicious and healthy alternative when you feel your food is a bit dry and you’re looking to juice it up a bit.
  7. Buy whole – If buying chicken always buy whole, it’s so much cheaper than buying chicken breasts. Fish is another example of an over priced item due to the demand for fillets as opposed to a whole fish. If we got used to cooking a whole fish it would bring down prices and lots less would go to waste. It’s not that hard to chop up and is actually quite fun. If you would like to learn how to chop up a chicken check out this Jamie Oliver video

Budget Shopping is Healthy Shopping

At the end of the day I believe shopping on a budget is what makes it a healthy shopping. When you stick to a budget you avoid buying anything unnecessary as you make a conscious decision about what you’re going to put in your body that week nothing more, nothing less. Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive if you go back to the basics.

xx Lara

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