Getting The Most Out of Your Food

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I don’t have a new recipe for you this Friday.  I am in the middle of recipe testing a few new ideas as well as learning how to take better food pictures.  No more iPhone pictures on this website!  I do, however, have some food related advice for you today.  How to get the most out of the food you buy, healthwise and moneywise.

I have talked before about eating well on a tight budget, but it is a subject that should be talked about again.  One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about eating healthy is that it is way too expensive.  This will keep some people from even trying to eat better because they think that they don’t have the funds to sustain a healthy lifestyle.  But have no fear, I am here to squash those misconceptions and show you that it is fairly easy and inexpensive to eat well on a budget.

Real talk: Adam and I have not had a paycheck come in for over a month.  We knew that this would happen, and we made sure to save and budget well in the months before this happened, but we still have had to be very conservative with our budget these past few weeks.  I take care of all the purchasing of food in our house and I have made some tweaks to make sure that we are still eating well along with not shelling out too much money.  It does take some planning but it isn’t impossible, so here are the ways that I have been keeping our grocery bill to a minimum.

Cook more meals.  Yup.  You need to get in the kitchen and get out of the restaurants when you are trying to save some money.  Adam and I rarely go out to eat and when we do, it’s usually to a place that we have a gift card or a coupon for.  It is much cheaper to plan your meals and cook them at home than to eat the same meals out at a restaurant for twice the cost.  Look around online, might I recommend this very blog, and find some recipes that you can handle and look tasty.  Learn to make a few healthy meals really well, then branch out from there and soon you will have a handful of meals that you can whip up in no time!

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Keep it simple.  When looking for recipes to make, keep it simple!  Don’t pick a meal that will require you to purchase a bunch of ingredients that you will only use once or that cost a ton of money.  What I like to do when I am thinking of meal ideas is to take stock of my fridge and pantry and see what I can make from the ingredients that I already have.  That way I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of extra things, just one or two that I might not have in my stock.  Plus by keeping your meals simple, you can really learn your way around the kitchen as well as keep your plate healthy!

Follow the sales.  Pretty much every grocery store will have sale items each week.  If a product you normally buy goes on sale, stock up.  I like to do this with canned foods, like diced tomatoes, but I also do it with fresh food.  A lot of fresh produce can be frozen so it doesn’t spoil before you use it.  Last week our grocery store had a sale on avocadoes (large Hass avocados for 99 cents!), so I stocked up.  When the avocadoes ripened, I cut them in half, removed the pit, wrapped each half in saran wrap, and then placed them all in a large freezer bag and stuck them in the freezer.  You can do that with a lot of fruits and vegetables, here is a great website that shows you how you can store a lot of fresh produce.  So keep an eye on sales, and when you can, stock up on those items.  Note, DON’T buy things just because they are on sale.  That will be a waste of money because you’ll end up buying products you don’t normally use, so you will have no idea how to use them and they will go to waste.  That isn’t very budget savvy now is it?

Check out your freezer aisle.  Speaking of frozen foods, check out your freezer section and see what they have to offer in terms of fruits and vegetables.  Frozen foods are just as healthy as their fresh counterparts and will cost less money.  Just make sure to read the labels on the fruits and vegetables to make sure that there is ONLY fruit and vegetable in the package.  The one time last week that I didn’t read labels on two bags of frozen vegetables, I got home to find out that one had added salt to their peas and another had add a preservative.  It was a doh! moment on my part and a great reminder to always read the ingredient list even on things as harmless as a bag of peas.  Also don’t even think about wasting money on frozen dinners.  Even if they say they are healthy and all natural, they are usually loaded with chemicals and preservatives.  Spend your hard earned cash on better food.

Use all of your food.  What I mean by this is don’t be so quick to toss out what you think isn’t edible.  This mostly goes for fresh vegetables.  Many people will throw away the stalks of vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower without even realizing that those are perfectly edible!  Cut up the broccoli stalks into bite size pieces and steam them along with the rest of the vegetable.  Or shred or grate the stalks into a salad.  Don’t throw away the tops of beets or other root vegetables.  Wash and cut up the leaves and use in a salad or saute them with some pepper and lemon juice.  You can even save scraps of onions, carrots, and garlic and make a homemade vegetable stock.  The point is, make sure you are using your food to it’s full potential.  You get more bang for your buck this way!

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A few other quick tips:

  • Check to see if your grocery store offers discount days or refunds for using reusable bags
  • If a store near you has a bulk section, use it! Stock up on beans, grains, pasta, and even spices. Bulk items are much cheaper in the long run
  • Check online for coupons for products that you normally buy
  • Try to cut down on processed food products.  These may seem cheaper but they take a toll on your health and your wallet
  • Make a meal plan and list before you head to the store, that way you only buy the items you need and not whatever looks appealing

By taking just a little extra time and thought with your food as well as using some of these ideas, you should be able to minimize your grocery bill all while still maximizing your health.  Two pretty good things in my opinion!

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