How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
Vox science reporter Julia Belluz talked to health experts to figure out the best ways to eat healthy without spending a fortune. Full story: http://bit.ly/1X1tTyX
- •Keep your pantry stockedBefore you start cooking more, there are a few basics you need on hand: oil, vinegar, salt, pepper (and any other spices you like), onions, and garlic. I'd also add to stock up on cans of tomatoes, tuna, and garbanzos (or other beans), pasta, rice, lentils, potatoes, frozen fruits and vegetables, and coffee and/or tea. If you have these things in your house, you can make very quick and healthy dishes without going to a grocery store all the time.
- •Consider the nutritional bang for your buckAdam Drewnowski, a nutritional epidemiologist who has measured the nutrient density per dollar of food, noted that some healthy foods come really cheap. "Grains, sugars, and fats are cheap sources of calories," Drewnowski reasoned. "But nutrient-rich foods (like dairy, beans, and eggs) are inexpensive sources of key nutrients."
- •Meat should be a rare treat — and when you buy it, look for tough cutsYou can get plenty of protein from non-meat sources — beans, legumes, tofu, eggs. They're also cheaper than meat and fish. If you do buy meat, look for tougher cuts (like beef brisket or skirt), said Dorito Effect author Mark Schatzker: "They take longer to cook than middle cuts, but that investment of time yields incredible flavor and texture possibilities."
- •Buy in bulkFor the essentials, like those listed in point 1, it's often much cheaper to buy larger quantities upfront — a big bag of rice, a couple of liters of oil — than to continually stock smaller portions.
- •Cook in bulkThis will save you time and money. Make a big pot of soup or tomato sauce on the weekend and eat it throughout the week. When you cook a meal one night, make a little extra for lunch or dinner the next day. Freeze meals for the future. Always try to get the most for your cooking time.
- •Don't shy away from frozen fruits and vegetables"Frozen raspberries and wild blueberries are as good as or better than the fresh stuff flown in from lord knows where during colder months, and way cheaper," said Schatzker. The research on this question also suggests fresh and frozen have pretty similar nutritional profiles.
- •Never buy salad dressingNow that you have the essentials in your kitchen, you can make your own salad dressing very quickly and much more cheaply. All it takes is mixing up some olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add garlic or other spices if you like. You can store it in the fridge for a week or so.
- •Make coffee or tea at homeBrewing your own cup in the morning costs a few cents. Buying it in a store costs several dollars every day.
- •Season your food so that it actually tastes goodThe reason restaurant food is so tasty is because it's loaded with salt. But it's unlikely that you'll ever use as much at home as cooks use in restaurants. So don't worry about this too much — season to your taste. If it means you'll feel more satisfied and actually enjoy eating at home, that'll go a long way for health.
- •Replace soda and juice with waterWater is free! Sugary drinks offer little or no nutritional advantage but will definitely fatten your waistline and shrink your wallet. Stop buying them.
- •Don't be scared of expiration dates or food that looks less than perfectI'm not suggesting you eat rotten food, obviously. But Americans waste tons of perfectly edible food based on things that can be considered food snobbery — throwing away bruised fruits or foods that haven't actually gone bad. There are many foods you can eat past the expiration date, which is often a conservative estimate. So think before you throw next time.