Seeing the words cheap and healthy together makes me think of beans and rice… maybe with a side dish of potatoes. Russet potatoes of course – the kind you can buy a 10 lb. bag of for half the price of the other kinds of potatoes. When my husband and I got married, we had $25/week for groceries to stock our little kitchenette. Up until that point I had been a pretty passionate “whole foodie,” and I was afraid that we’d be seeing a lot of beans and rice and potatoes for awhile.
Not that there’s anything wrong with those foods. Beans are actually super healthy, and did you know that potatoes can be a great diet food? I just don’t like potatoes. Rice is okay. I’m happy to eat them, but I didn’t want them to be my staple.
With that terrifying image of cheap healthy food teasing me, I rolled up my sleeves and decided that somehow we would manage to eat as many healthy, whole foods as possible and eat within our means. Period.
Because when something becomes becomes a priority, you do it.
Living within our means – no matter how small it was at the time – was a high priority to my husband and me. It still is. Eating whole, healthy, unprocessed foods is also very important (more to me than my husband, but he’s a great sport!). So we made it work. The key to eating cheap and healthy is to make it priority.
I’m not suggesting that you have to invest hours a day in learning how to make beans and rice taste good. Instead, you can implement gradual changes that will help your health and your grocery budget. One way is to plan your meals beforehand by making a menu plan. Crystal, from Money Saving Mom, has an excellent tutorial on planning a menu. You can make some meals from scratch instead of buying their convenience-food counterpart. (Let’s face it, homemade lasagna almost always tastes better than frozen!) You can stock up on your staple foods when they are on sale, then use the money you save to buy healthier items that don’t usually go on sale.
Real life example: By stocking up on our staple items while they’re on sale, we normally don’t spend more than $.99/lb for all produce, $2/lb for all meat, $2/box of cereal and $.50 for all canned goods, pasta, etc. Because we save so much that way, I can use the extra to buy healthier expensive products (usually on sale as well, but it’s harder to get a great deal with these babies!) like extra virgin olive oil, wheat germ, flax seeds, nut milk, etc.
Because eating cheap and healthy is a priority, we have learned how to make it work for us. It looks different for everyone, and it doesn’t have to look like beans, rice and potatoes every night. Instead, it can look like making a menu plan so you won’t be tempted to grab some take out. It can look like making some food from scratch and buying your staples while they’re on sale. It can look exactly the way you decide. Because when something becomes a high priority, you do it.
What about you? What kind of priorities do you have about eating cheaper or healthier? Or what kind of priorities would you like to have?