Back in the day, as I was heading off to college, I had among my posessions cans and jars of preserves. I just took it for granted that the fruits and vegetables bought at a good price in season would serve me well throughout the year and they did. My student loan was delayed by three months! Growing up in the country at a time when freezing and canning was still a tradition, this custom came as second nature to most of us, but not so now.
These days life seems to be on high speed. It can be difficult to eat well and on budget. Many times it is only the pre-packaged food that is on sale while healthy fruits and vegtables can be out of our price range. But it can be done. You can still eat healthy and save money. Here are my top 7 ways to help you achieve both.
1. Buy seasonally, buy locally.
When I was growing up this option was a given. We rarely purchased our fruits and vegetables from the supermarket. Maybe canning takes some know how but freezing fresh veggies is a no brainer. Many health food stores are giving classes that cover food preservation these days as well. Stock up when the produce is in season and freeze for later in the year.
2. Planning and prepping to save.
So much food is thrown out and wasted each year that the estimated cost is in the billions in Canada alone. Planning and prepping for meals can save time and money. To me this is the single most important part of eating on a budget. No where else would we be so reckless with our money. I get so mad at myself when I have to throw food out. Plan your meals for the week according to your budget, then stick to it when you go shopping with your list. At home prep as much as you can ahead of time to make sure it is easy to stick to your plan.
3. Fall in love with your Farmer's Market.
This goes along with buying locally. My parents grew fruits and vegetables when I was growing up. We depended on the locals to purchase our products at farmer's markets and from our roadside stand. Many a summer day I spent selling at the market and I loved it. We had an immense pride in all we grew - great care was put into the process. I doubt that has changed for any small farmer to this day. If you buy at the end of the season and at the end of the day you will find great deals. At the end of this past summer I picked up baskets of tomatoes for free and now have jars of tomato sauce in my freezer!
4. Be adventurous.
Try foods from around the world. Many countries are purely vegetarian and have countless treasured recipes which are delicious depending primarily on grains and beans, as cheap staple to their diets. Another good tip is to try vegetarian and vegan options. Grab a cookbook from my fav people like 'Oh She Glows' by Angela Liddon, My New Roots by Sarah Bitton, The Undiet Cookbook, Meghan Telpner and the lovely Julie Daniluk with her anti-inflamatory recipes in her Meals That Heal series.
5. Beans and whole grains are our friends.
As I just said, grains and beans - awesomeness. Highly nutritious, delicious, versitile beans and grains are my favourite food group. And talk about cost effective! Pick up some great Vegan recipes or traditional dishes from around the world and you will fall in love. Extra bonus - both food groups contain tons of fiber while controlling blood sugar.
6. Organize your cupboards.
How many cans, boxes and unmarked bags have you dug out of the back of your cupboards with expiry dates from the last millinium? It happens, but you will feel oh so satisfied when you sit back and take a look at all that beautiful organization. This is about saving by eating the food you already purchased. While you are at it, remember to keep on top of that refridgerator clutter.
7. Eat your leftovers and eat at home.
My, oh my, here is a contentious point. Whether with roommates or family there always seems to be mystery packages in the fridge, usually accompanied by blue and white mold. Remember what and where those leftovers from dinner at the restaurant are and eat it for lunch the next day. Better yet eat at home and eat it fresh.
Lastly, convenience foods were invented with the anticipation that the world would replace fresh food and home cooking with pre-made food. Don't feed the machine of profit - feed your body and profit from better health. Love your farmers, your local business and yourself all at the same time