Mark has received a number of requests from you savvy readers asking for budget-friendly foods that are nutritious. Want to know how to eat healthy on a tight budget? Look no further. Start with these 5 tips for cheap eats, and stay tuned for more great grocery money savers next week, too!
1. Frozen vegetables ice the competition
We’ve pretty much beat this one into official dead llama status around here (if you’ve been hanging around here, you also know we’ve pretty much beat the dead llama phrase into dead llama status as well). Wait, where we we? Oh, yes! Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious and in fact are often more fresh than “fresh” produce. That whole “picked at the peak of flavor” marketing yarn is actually true for frozen veggies. Major grocery chains frequently offer large packs of frozen plants for just a few dollars; and scoop up those “5 bags for 4 bucks” deals, too. The most nutritious and cheap vegetables are usually broccoli, peas and spinach, but look for brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus spears, and stir fry blends, as well. (Note: make sure that the blends you’re buying don’t have added unhealthy sauces full of oils or corn syrup.)
2. See ya, snobs: go for salad packs
So packaged greens can be pricey. And you’re supporting the Man. And they come in plastic. In fact, packaged salads are scientifically proven to be evil. Still, in the long run, salad packs might actually be more economical for you. If you’re the type of person who routinely buys loose lettuce because it’s cheaper, only to see it wilt in the crisper because you don’t have time to deal with washing, drying, and chopping it, you’re wasting money and avoiding nutritious meals. If you are this person, bags are for you. Sure, some of the blends are expensive, but it’s not difficult to pick up romaine or spinach. They’re perpetually on sale at 2 bags for 4 bucks.
3. Better yet, find a farmer’s market
If you don’t mind washing your veggies, you’ll save a lot of money if you visit the farmer’s market once a week. Snoop around to find the best one with the lowest prices – you’ll be surprised at how cheap things like peppers, lemons and avocados can be when you don’t have to walk through air conditioned doors to get them!
3. Water: nectar of the healthy
The easiest way to reduce your grocery tab and simultaneously enjoy good health is to stop buying anything that isn’t water. Don’t pay for hydration! You’ll be fine without milk, really. Your kids don’t need juice. No one needs soda. Energy drinks, fizzy fillers, juice blends – all terrific ways to drain your bank account. These corn syrup chemical mixtures are the ultimate rip-off. They cost manufacturers just pennies to produce and, gallon for gallon, are more expensive than filling up your Suburban. Again.
4. No processed snacks and meals
Buying meats, fruits, and vegetables can initially seem very expensive. After all, a pack of salad only lasts for one meal, whereas a pack of mini bagel bites lasts for…wait, one meal! Processed foods come in packages, and those confounded things cost a lot of money to make (possibly more than the actual food contained within). They are also incredibly annoying to open. Not only are most processed snacks and meals completely unhealthy, they don’t go far and they’re a dollar-chomping rip. Fruit roll-ups, Pop Tarts, frozen pizzas, taquitos – this junk adds up. Worse, these foods are terrible for your health and leave you craving more junk instead of truly satisfying your body’s needs. On your next trip, make it a goal to have a box-free grocery cart.
While we’re on this topic, avoid breakfast cereals – aka worthless sugar flakes gummed up with additional sugar bits – like the plague that they are. No, seriously, they really are a plague. We just call it type 2 diabetes instead of something more exotic-sounding like diabola. Sure, the box says it has a dozen servings, but as any parent knows, no child shakes out a half-cup of cereal.
5. Grow your own flavor
You know what else is a total, utter, ridiculous rip off? Condiments and sauces. You’d think these things were full of waterproof lottery tickets and hydrogenated diamond syrup instead of soybean oil, corn sweeteners, and artificial flavors that taste kinda-sorta like something known as actual herbs and spices. Save yourself a lot of money by avoiding anything that comes in a tube or a jar. (Except toothpaste, obviously.) Even buying from the healthy “outer aisles” can still be expensive if you’ve got bottomless stomachs and hollow legs to fill. So avoid the fatten-belly-starve-budget flavorings. We often forget about the cost of all the stuff we add to our food to make it taste better. Well, that stuff is technically food (although that’s debatable), and it’s the most expensive of all food. To add flavor to all your meals, use onions and garlic instead – super cheap. And buy an at-home herb kit, pick up some cheap planters at the hardware store, and get to know rosemary, basil, oregano, sage and all the rest. This is not only cheap, but incredibly healthy for you. Then go to Costco and buy yourself some giant jugs of olive oil and vinegar.
Bonus: taking care of herbs is an excellent chore for you kids. Who now love Mark’s Daily Apple. You’re welcome, kids!