Thursday, February 9, 2012

Healthy Eating On The Cheap

In these tough financial times, it's important to learn how much it costs to eat clean healthy food. Healthy food should always be a priority, but if times are tough and you can't afford your local organic shop then it can be easy to slip into bad eating habits. The truth is, now is the best time to eat well, as you don't want to be catching a cold or getting sick and having to pay for doctor's appointments or medication.
Fruit & Vegetables
1. Shop at a market if you're not doing it already. For $10 you can buy a week's worth of vegetables. Cook your food in larger batches so you don't waste any food that gets old at the bottom of the fridge.
2. Buy food that is in season. Food that is not in season ALWAYS costs more. If you don't know when each fruit or veggie comes in season then shop at a market or your local green grocer as they will only stock the fresh stuff. For this reason you should avoid supermarkets as much as possible.
3. Frozen vegetables are a good option to keep in your freezer for when you run out of fresh food. They don't taste as good as fresh, but they are fine when used in cooking.
4. Vegetables that I have found to be the cheapest and go a long way are cabbage, onion and potato. These are so versatile, and if you vary your herbs and spices you will get a great range of tasty meals.
5. Fruit is often more expensive than vegetables and generally doesn't fill you up so much. If you are counting your pennies then I suggest forgoing fruit. Vegetables generally have a higher nutritional value so you won't be missing out on much.
Meat
1. My number one tip here is to shop at a farmers market. They are EVERYWHERE here in Melbourne - from Collingwood to Hurstbridge, you can find a farmers market near you. The markets tend to travel so some market locations are monthly, while others are bi monthly or weekly. Search online for a farmers market near you so you can plan in advance when to go.
2. Make friends with your local butcher. The meat is better quality than the supermarket and often cheaper too. Buy larger quantities to cook up a big batch of something, which can be portioned and frozen for future meals. You can also bulk up your meals with potatoes, onion, capsicum and other cheap vegetables.
3. If you have a fishing rod, consider catching a meal or two.
4. Meat is not a cheap source of protein so if times are tough then you should consider vegetarian sources of protein.
Other Protein
1. Dried beans and lentils are dirt cheap. For $2 you can buy a decent sized pack that will last a couple of weeks. Remember to soak overnight and rinse before cooking. Go to markets or Indian grocers to find different varieties.
2. Vegetarian protein can be mixed with meat sources to bulk up the meal while still providing good nutrition.
Other
1. Oats are a decent breakfast choice if eggs are out for you. You should be able to buy a kilo for $1 at most supermarkets.
2. Tinned tomatoes can be very cheap. Stock up on them when you see them on special for under $1.
Cooking Ideas
Veggie stir fry
Combine onion, cabbage, capsicum, broccoli, mushrooms and any other veggies in a big pan. Stir fry with some oil, and spices of your choice. This is a good veggie base that can be added to potato, legumes, tuna or other meat. Refrigerates well.
Chili mish mash
Cook onion, minced meat, pre-soaked kidney beans, carrot, capsicum, tinned tomatoes, some water and any other veggies in a pot. Add salt, pepper, garlic, dried chili, ground cumin, coriander, paprika and any other spices you like. Freezes well.
Dahl
Soak some lentils overnight. Be sure to drain and rinse well before cooking. Put in a pot with a tin of tomatoes, some water, vegetables of your choice (eg cauliflower, capsicum, onion, garlic) and add salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric and any other spices. Cook until soft. Freezes well.

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