Eating Healthy on a Budget

Saturday, while on a radio show promoting Back 2 Basics Cooking’s upcoming Whole30 Challenge, a caller by the name of Karin asked me how she could afford to eat healthy if she was on a very limited income. She is on disability, which if anyone else knows someone who lives off this income, they know that they don’t have any wiggle room when it comes to their budget. I answered her question, but I did not feel like I gave her enough ideas. So this post is for Karin.

During our conversation yesterday, I explained to her that when you are on a very limited income you have to go all in when eating healthy. You simply can’t afford to eat healthy AND eat junk food. Also, if you quit the junk food, you will be amazed as to how long you can go without food. It takes sometime, but your body will adjust.

You are not suppose to feel like you’re starving a few hours after a meal.

I also suggested using some good quality lard. Karen said she cut pork out of her diet, so I suggested getting some beef fat (tallow) from the Columbia Farmers Market and rendering it herself. Rendering your own beef fat is cheap, easy and has great health benefits. Here is a great video about how to do this.

Here are some more tips that I did not get to when speaking to Karin:

  1. Meal Plan Meal planning can save you extra trips to the store, help you avoid impulse buys while there, and keep you from being hungry with no idea of what you are going to eat. Always check out what you already have and try to meal plan around that, especially if it is something that will perish quickly. The less you waste, the more you save. Which leads me to me next tip….
  2. Clean Out Your Refrigerator Often The more you clean out your refrigerator, the less leftovers you are likely to waste. Eating for health can get pretty expensive, so don’t waste any of those nutrient dense foods. I often make what I call “Refrigerator Soup” to help us eat up our leftovers (especially in the winter months).  I got the idea from this amazing book http://www.amazon.com/Long-Way-Little-Companion-Deliciously/dp/0979439124
  3. Buy in Season Vegetables and Fruits Buying things like exotic fruits for example, (I live in Missouri) can add up very quickly. Stick to what is in season and local if you are trying to eat healthy on a slim income.
  4. Utilize Bones and Fat As I mentioned above, you can get high quality animal fat from your local farmers market. You can also get bones. Both animal fat and bones are cheap, so they are a must for anyone trying to eat healthy on a limited income. Animal fat will help to keep you feeling full longer. Use the bones to make bone broth for amazing health benefits and taste. Save your vegetable scraps for added nutrient and flavor. Check out this simple explation of how to make it: https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/71388992/32/
  5. Make Things Yourself Obviously making your food instead of eating out will save money. Making things such as baked apple chips, condiments, larabars, salad dressings, and beef jerky can also save  you tons of money. This is also an great option, because you know exactly what is in your food and how it was prepared.
  6. Keep It Simple You do not have to make a 5 star meal every day. Here is an example of a cheap, yet affordable meal. Example:Can of Wild Caught Salmon Sauteed with Diced Onions, Mushrooms, Peas and Peppers or Hamburgers (No Bun) Topped with Avocado, Baked Sweet Potato Fries, & Roasted Brussel Sprouts
  7. Starchy Vegetables As the title of my blog implies, I do not feed my family grains. Doing so eliminates the filler foods that help stretch your dollar a little farther. Including plenty of starchy vegetables such as sweet and white potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and yucca root for example will help fill you up for less when you don’t have grains as an option.
  8. Participate in a CSA program CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”. At the beginning of the farm season you can purchases shares of the crops. Each week (or whatever is designated) you will be given a box of extremely fresh fruits and vegetables at a price lower than you would get them from the store. Read more and find a local farm to sign up for a CSA here: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
  9. Grow/Raise Your Own Food One sure way to save some money is by planting and growing your own produces & herbs. If you don’t have a yard or the space for a garden you can use pots and window boxes. Here are 10 tips for gardening without a garden: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/gardening-without-a-garden-10-ideas-for-your-patio-or-balcony-renters-solutions-167221 In Columbia, you are allowed to have up to 6 chickens (only hens, no roosters) as long as they are locked up at night, so you could have fresh eggs straight from your yard.
  10. Eggs Farm fresh eggs are an excellent food source. If you buy them directly from the farmer or at the market you will save more (if you don’t raise them yourself). You can make several meals per dozen, so even if you pay $5/dozen at the store, it is still a cheap protein source. Remember to keep your cartons and take them back to be used again.
  11. Buy a Whole or Half Cow/Pig/Lamb Buying a whole or half animal is a great way to save on the price per pound. For someone like Karin, who is on a low fixed income such as disability, this is probably not an option as you must have a lump sum of money to pay for all of this meat ahead of time. However, if you get a decent tax refund, you can use this to fill up your freezer. Lucky for us, that is when our beef guy takes his cows in to be butchered, so it works out perfectly.
  12. Organ Meat I will be perfectly honest in telling you it is taking me some time to get use to liver. Along with being extremely healthy organ meat are also cheap, even for high quality. Try this recipe (my son loves it!) http://hillarystarbright.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/going-paleo-this-is-the-best-liver-recipe-ever/
  13. Go Fishing/Hunting Food sources from the wild are typically an extremely healthy option. My dad brought me some morel mushrooms this year and every time I ate some I felt AMAZING for several hours! Animals in the wild are leaner because they are more active. This is obviously a cheap food source also. If you don’t personally hunt/fish, you may be able to find someone who enjoys it to sell you some at a discounted rate compared to the store/market.

These are just some of the ways you can afford to eat healthy on a limited low income. I hope they have helped you.

What ideas would you add to this list to help others like Karin who want to eat healthier on a low income?

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