The Ultimate Guide To Eating Well For Much, Much Less
Your income does not define your ability to eat well. Eating three healthy meals a day is possible even with a slim grocery budget. There is no need to pad your diet with processed foods or unhealthy packaged snacks. If you have ever thought that fresh, nutrient-rich meals were out of the question for you at your income level, read on. In this guide, you will learn to recognize good food for its value so you can get the most for your money.
An Affordable, Healthy Breakfast
Start your morning with protein. A protein-packed breakfast will give you energy and stave off cravings for the rest of your day. Fiber-rich foods also make fantastic fuel sources. It is a common misconception that you need to skip breakfast to save money. Many people just do not have the time to prepare breakfast before leaving for school and work. Others find it difficult to even think about eating when they wake up without gagging. If you start your mornings with even a small snack, you will soon find it easy to eat breakfast. In fact, you will begin to look forward to waking up to a delicious, healthy meal.
Eggs are a great source of protein. Many people are afraid to eat eggs because of their high cholesterol content. The truth is, if you do not have a history of cholesterol-related health problems, the benefits of eating eggs for breakfast greatly outweigh the negligible amount of cholesterol. If you rush in the morning, boil eggs on Sunday night and keep them in your fridge for an instant breakfast snack all week. They’re delicious and highly portable.
Protein shakes are another common source of morning protein, but they can easily become expensive. Save money on your smoothies and shakes by purchasing protein powder in bulk. Make sure you find a brand you really like before buying an economy pack. Some protein powders are grit-free and do not have much flavor, so you will be able to change up the ingredients to create new, unique drinks.
Fresh fruit and vegetables quickly become expensive if you blend them every morning, but you can save money on fresh produce by shopping at your local farmer’s market. Stick to produce that is in season. Enjoy apple shakes in the fall and strawberry blends in the summer. Bulk frozen produce is also a good cost saver.
Grain-based breakfasts are filling and will keep you satisfied until lunchtime. Cold cereal is a good choice, of course, especially if you purchase it in the bulk bags. Avoid cereals that are high in sugar, even if they claim to contain all of your daily vitamins. Sugary cereals meant for kids provide a short-lived source of quick-burning energy. If you need some extra sweetness to start your morning, a spoonful of frozen or dried fruit will do the trick. Even a modest amount of a sugar substitute in a good cereal is acceptable because you will have more control over your nutrition.
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An Affordable Lunch Worth Your Lunch Break
Full-time workers have the most trouble saving money on the second meal of the day. When all of your coworkers are ordering takeout or inviting you out for lunch, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to spend. After a long morning of hard work, you deserve to sit down to a lunch you will actually want to eat. So, it is understandable if you avoid making lunch at home in favor of fast food and frozen entrees.
Your typical midday cravings can give you a good idea of what to make for lunch. While you will not be able to go out for a greasy burger and salty fries when you’re trying to save money, you can still satisfy your cravings for a quick meal by giving in to your cravings – the affordable way.
The easiest way to have ready-to-eat lunches to pack every morning is to freeze large batches of food in plastic containers. A big batch of beef stew with carrots and potatoes is incredibly cheap and packed with nutrients. Just throw the ingredients in a slow cooker over the weekend and pack it into your freezer for the week.
Bulk batches are a huge money saver for packed lunches. A few pounds of chicken breast can be cubed, shredded or chopped for sandwiches, wraps, pasta, rice, tacos or burritos. If you are very short on time in the mornings, make a few burritos or wraps on the weekend, wrap them in foil or reusable containers and pack them in your freezer or fridge. Then, you will be able to just throw them into your bag before leaving the house in the morning. Instant lunch!
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Snack-sized foods tend to be expensive because they require extra packaging. Bags of chips, bottles of juice and cups of fruit are all unnecessary expenses. Instead, buy a big bag of your preferred snack and portion it into baggies or reusable containers. This is the best way to enjoy your favorite premade snacks while having complete control over your portion sizes. You can also make your own snack packs with fresh produce and miniature containers of hummus or dip for a healthy change.
Dinner for a King On an Affordable Budget
Dinnertime is the most difficult time to avoid overspending, especially if you work long hours and come home too tired to cook on most days. It’s easier to get takeout or heat up some ravioli in the microwave. An arsenal of quick, healthy recipes and cost-saving shortcuts will help you save money on dinner.
Lentils are a lifesaver when it comes to quick, healthy, affordable cooking. Unlike beans, which require an overnight soak, lentils are ready to cook from their dry form and soften in about 20 minutes. Throw some tomatoes, carrots, beef broth and lentils into a big pot and let it simmer while you handle the rest of your nighttime routine for dinner in less than an hour. Lentils are a filling, nutritious food that is also, pound for pound, extremely cheap. Try them as a main course in vegetarian meatloaf, or use them as a satisfying side dish.
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Potatoes are extremely versatile. You can make them differently every night and never get tired of them. They do take from 30 minutes to an hour to soften, depending on whether you are boiling, baking or pan frying them. To save time, you can make mashed potatoes and freeze them into single servings. Mashed potatoes freeze very well, and they can be seasoned to go with any dish. You can also bake a potato in the microwave for 10 minutes, but oven-baked potatoes are far superior in texture and flavor.
Potatoes are an Irish staple for a reason; they provide an almost complete source of nutrition. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Leave the skins on as often as possible. The skin has the most fiber, and you will save time by forgoing peeling. If you decide not to peel your potatoes, make sure to scrub them very well before cooking.
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To save time when cooking most kinds of meat, opt for boneless cuts – they cook more quickly. Flattening or cutting your meat into small pieces also shortens cooking time. Meat is usually the most expensive part of any meal, so spend wisely. Lean meats are slightly more expensive than those full of fat, but it is worth the few extra cents. More of the meat’s weight will be from the actual meat, and not from fat, so you will still get a good value. Cutting meat from your diet can save you a lot of money if you substitute it for protein-rich nuts and grains, but vegetarianism is not for everyone.
Vegetables are a very important part of your diet, and you should never neglect your produce needs to save money. Fresh produce spoils quickly and can be expensive when it is not in season. Try frozen instead, never canned. Canned vegetables are often loaded with salt for preservation. Frozen vegetables are usually frozen at peak ripeness, meaning they can be even more nutritious than fresh produce. A big bag of frozen veggies will last you a long time and help extend your meals.
The current season and your area of residence will make a big difference in which foods are more affordable and which are not. Subscribe to your favorite grocery store’s promotions and updates and plan your meals around the meat and produce that is on sale. Planning your meals reduces leftovers so you get more out of your food. For example, if chicken breast is on sale, plan to use the ingredients in your pantry to create a variety of chicken-based meals for the week.
The quality of your diet depends on two things: freshness and your cooking skills. If you hate to cook and hate what you make, you will find it very difficult to eat your own homemade meals. Practice makes perfect. The more you cook, the more you will learn techniques and recipes that you actually want to eat. Get inspired by the foods you crave and make your own affordable, healthy versions of them. There is no such thing as a person who cannot cook, and once you get really good at it, you will realize that you absolutely love cooking. The savings will just be an added bonus.