We need to be cost-conscious, to budget everywhere in our lives and it is not enough to say “you need to spend more on your food now or pay with poor health later.” Affording better nutrition can feel like a catch-22, so let us get uncaught and debunk one of my favorite myths: Better Nutrition must be expensive.
Tips To Save Money With Better Nutrition
Here are some tips to help you get started saving and getting better nutrition for the true win, win:
1. Make A Time To Go To Grocery Store
I know and respect that your time is money, and that there are days where there is no extra time. I am not suggesting scratch cook everything but I am suggesting you do not pay someone else to assemble your food, most days. The amount of money we pay for someone else to prepare food – like the ready to eat foods in grocery stores or even at better quality fast food places – really adds up.
Additionally, much of these prepared foods contain ingredients to “stabilize” and retain freshness that you would not use at home, and that do not contribute to better nutrition. We have more control over quantity, quality, and nutrient balance when we assemble our food at home so stock canned organic lentils, hummus, or soup which is as easy as rinse and puree in blender with some spices and oil. Once a week you can also take chickpea flour (or make it from dried chickpeas) and water, blend it and keep it in a mason jar with a shaker cup ball (to quickly rewhisk it) and you can have tortillas or “socca” pancakes in a minute for any delicious pit stop. The same goes for nut and seed milks, even easier if you use cashews, macadamia, or manitoba hemp hearts as there is no soak time required.
2. Make Use Of Your Freezer
Chill out. The freezer is one of the greatest health-enabler, budget-saver places in your home as you can buy in bulk to save, even bargain shop online these days to see who has the best prices, and once or twice a month load up on frozen organic vegetables, quality sources of protein (animal or vegetable) like burgers (turkey, wild salmon, buffalo, grass fed beef, rice, quinoa, sunflower), organic nuts and seeds, and organic fruits. Frozen food is as fresh, if not fresher than the stuff in other parts of the store and you do not have to deal with a short shelf life.
3. Time-Saving, Health-Gaining, Budget Making Cooking Tips
Defrost on your way out the door.
As you make or grab breakfast, grab a bag of veggies or a piece of fish from the freezer and put it in a bowl in the fridge. They will be defrosted and ready to go when you get home. If you do not end up eating it, you can always cook it 2-3 days later.
Use spices when you cook or marinade versus bottled sauces.
Spices go along way – usually we need just a pinch – and deliver health and flavor benefits on par or far exceeding what is in a bottle.
Overcook – not the food, but the quantity.
Make all the chicken sausages or veggies burgers at once. That way you have some for breakfast the next day as well as the ones that went into your soup, or to add to a salad, or a weekend egg scramble, or even a DIY pasta sauce. Make several portions of grains and beans at one time. If you taking the time to cook, cooking more (quantity) does not add any extra time and will save you time later.
4. Shop Better, Shop Online
These days, shopping online may include a delivery fee but when you look at your time saved, your gas money, as well as the prices, it can often be an overall resource win, especially for your staples.
Your favorite brands often offer coupons full of discounts and even free products for following them on social media or via their e-newsletters. You can keep a folder for these in your email so you do not feel overwhelmed by them all week long but review them once on the weekend or one night when you watch TV and download recipes (note: a lot of my favorite recipes come from brand websites too as they often work with great chefs to create delicious recipes incorporating their products).
5. Consume Less And Left Overs
Yeah this one is pretty straight forward. As we clarify and start to eat proper portions an awesome thing happens as we have more for later. I love leftovers. I recreate them into something else most of the time to avoid being uninspired by having the same thing twice in a row and leftovers save time and money, even if you have something new and your leftover becomes a nutrition pit stop for another family member or you swap with a work colleague.
6. Get Mad Skills
a. Menu planning
While in school for dietetics and later in my intern year at the hospital, I will be honest, I hated menu planning. I thought it killed creativity and took up more time than it was worth. That was because I was not any good at it. Then and over the last two decades, chefs and homecooks and even college students (as patients) have taught me the time-money-saving and better nutrition-taste enabling wins of menu planning.
– How many different ways can I use an ingredient? /
– How much can I lessen decision fatigue (which can lead to poor food choices) by knowing what is on my menu?
– How much more focused and efficient – time and money-wise – is my grocery store experience when I have a menu prepared?
The answer is… it is an epic difference. I love reviewing my patients weekly menus and making suggestions too which helps us trouble shoot so they are more likely to have a winning week. Now that is money in the bank. Not sure how to menu plan? Grab a friend and work on menus each week. This really is a skill earned by way of repetition of effort (aka try, try, and try again).
From television to the internet there are shows and videos that you can watch and do demos along with to acquire basic to professional skills. There are non-profits who teach cooking skills on a budget (they may include menu-planning as well per the point above) and often there are local schools, chefs or home cooks who can do private cooking lessons. You do not need to master all cooking, but you can learn how to prepare a few dishes so they taste great, and thus they become a guarantee of a great nutrition pit stop, which is also a time and money saver. Bonus: classes often include the cost of a meal or more, take advantage of learning and getting your money’s worth and you can team learn so it is a fun way to spend time with the family or friends.
7. Take Out Once A Week
There will be days or nights where you get ready to eat food – either because you want it, they want it, or because your clock has run out and it is dinner time and eating on time and earlier is a better nutrition for better health choice. It is more than okay to order take out. It is great to enjoy someone else doing all the work. And it is okay to skip all of what I am about to say, unless it happens more than once a week.
So you love Beef and Broccoli – love the flavor and love the broccoli again and again by adding a bag or two of frozen (defrosted) broccoli to the container when you bring it home and heat it up and mix it in with the sauce at that moment as they almost always give you too much sauce. After you enjoy your beef, the next night try it with canned salmon or with hemp seeds or blended with red beans or chickpeas.
Its pizza night – order a plain large pizza (ideally from somewhere that uses better quality ingredients) and let everyone top theirs at home with their favorite toppings (which can be all the leftovers from your week) like thin slices of chicken sausage (versus pepperoni), sun-dried tomatoes or tomato slices, frozen (defrosted) sauteed peppers, and some spices – briefly reheat.
Rice it up – how many containers of rice came with your meal? Since a portion size is your fist you are assured of having at least a leftover serving per person. You can all enjoy rice during the week from that one order: like rice for breakfast with cinnamon, some chopped nuts and seeds or a soft boiled egg, maybe even some unsweetened coconut milk. Or saute the rice with frozen (defrosted) vegetables in some oil, or bone broth, or vegetable stock and spices and have with a leftover wild salmon patty you enjoyed earlier in the week.
8. Choose The Ugly Stuff
Ugly fruit and vegetables in the produce section are just as tasty and nutritionally worthy once they get inside your body. They often cost less too. Pick them and blend them, or bake them and you are bound to feel oh so pretty when you save money and enjoy delicious nutritious food.