Grocery Day! (healthy shopping and healthy cooking)

If you’re like me, you desperately want to eat healthy AND save some money.

I once watched TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” and noticed one woman’s cartfuls of Yakisoba noodles. She saved SO much money, spending less than a meal for two on meals for hundreds; and I am an avid coupon-cutter (only I usually only save $30 to $60 per shopping trip, and that includes store coupons and sales) so I am in support of her coupon expertise. However, more than one cartfull of Yakisoba noodles… Really? Even one box is too much for me.

She didn’t buy anything healthy, at least, not that I could see. Some of her canned goods might have been vegetables, but what about fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat?

When I go grocery shopping, I spend more than I want every time, but not so much that Husband and I cannot afford it; and I use coupons and store sales to save as much money as I can. I also walk out of the store with pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and milk for myself (almond milk) and for Husband (Vitamin D from a cow). Yes. I also buy pasta and rice and lunchmeat, but not boatloads of it and we generally cook our own food more often that prepare a pre-prepared something or other you put in the microwave.

If you live like that, that’s fine, but it’s not the way I want to live; and it’s not necessarily the focus of this blog.

Livestrong.com sent me a newsletter on Eating Healthy on a Budget, and yes, I gobbled it up.

Like “Extreme Coupon-ers,” it is very easy to turn to processed foods because they’re quick, easy and inexpensive (Yakisoba noodles). The article says that, in order to eat healthy and save money, buy fruits and vegetables when they’re in season to save money.

Buy strawberries in the spring (and get the frozen variety when the price goes up).

Buy corn, tomatoes and melons in the summer, although I usually rely on frozen corn, canned tomatoes and… fresh melons! :)

Buy pumpkin, squash and apples in the fall, and save citrus and grapes for the winter. I don’t often buy pumpkins and purchase apples (no matter the season) weekly. Granny Smith. Husband loves them.

Buy frozen fruit and vegetables during their off-seasons (great advice), but it also said to avoid canned foods because they’re usually loaded with preservatives. I try to buy “no salt added” and “organic” whenever possible (especially if they’re on sale).

Next, the article said to buy in bulk. I don’t have a pantry (and I’m not putting noodles on my couch or bunk bed like Extreme Couponing participants). However, buying whole grain and high fiber foods, such as brown rice, millet and oats, is more economical because you get more food for your money. Store dried beans and grains in air-tight containers, and they can last for months.

Also, eat at home. Cooking meals, like Husband and I love to do, made from fresh, healthy ingredients saves you from loads of saturated fat (fast food) and empty calories (bar food). It also costs way less! You may spend the same amount of money on the meal for two at Olive Garden as you do on the meal you plan to make for two at home, but the meal at home can serve six, have leftovers and make lunch the next day. See the difference?

And cook extra! Yeah, the food is only for Husband and I, but I have four salmon fillets, which I purchased at $1.10 each; and I’ll make all four instead of just two in order to feed him for lunch that night and me the next day. You can buy larger, more economically priced amounts of ingredients for one meal rather than purchasing the ingredients for two.

And don’t worry about buying cookbooks. Check out any of these fantastic recipe websites for free: Epicurious, Better Recipes and Cooking Light.

Buy the whole chicken! Ever notice how a pack of three chicken breasts costs the same or more than a whole bloody chicken? I have. Husband and I have dabbled in the preparation of the whole chicken or the whole duck  (awesome), but it is time-consuming and irritating. If you do buy a whole chicken, don’t let it go to waste! Use bones to make stocks and broths.

Drink water. It is practically free. Yes, you have to pay the water bill, but you also shower, wash your dishes and clothes and clean on the same tab. Use it up! Plus, just by drinking water instead of juice or soft drinks, you are saving hundreds of calories per day.

And plan out your meals. I do this weekly and usually mess it up somehow. However, like practice, planning makes perfect… meals. First, you can figure out what you have so you waste less and purchase less. Second, sticking to the list, which Husband is super bad at, keeps you from making impulse buys. And, if you know what you’re making for dinner, you’re less likely to stop by a McDonald’s on your way home from work.

Now that you’ve shopped off your tush getting that healthy food, let’s make some that you and your family (even kids) will enjoy.

Prepare soups in a slow cooker before you leave for work in the morning (Yes. You might have to get up earlier.) so they’ll be prepared when your family is ready for dinner.

Make your own broth from leftover veggie trimmings. Just because you don’t eat the weird part of the celery doesn’t mean it cannot create something edible. Plus, you will be able to avoid sodium-filled store-bought broth and save a little money.

HOW TO: Store the cuttings in the freezer in an airtight bag, and simmer them in water for two hours when needed.

Make healthy dipping oil using extra-virgin olive oil, herbs and spices, and this one is actually easy and fun!

Serve whole-grain breads (a little more pricey but well worth the effort) instead of white bread made with refined flour. At all costs, avoid “enriched” and “refined” foods.

Serve lean meats and beans instead of red meats. Lean meats, such as turkey and chicken, are heart-healthy options. Organic is always better, but it is often difficult to justify spending so much money for a piece of organic chicken that can buy two pieces of store-brand.

Add herbs and spices such as basil, red pepper, cinnamon, thyme rosemary and garlic to stir fry dishes, casseroles and other entrees. This will help reduce the need for table salt, which can add unnecessary sodium to your family’s diet.

In order to be healthy, you may have to make some sacrifices budget-wise. Promise yourself you’ll cut coupons every week, make a list and stick to it and try to cook what you buy instead of “arranging it in a bowl and watch(ing) it rot.” –Eddie Izzard.

(If you didn’t know… It’s grocery day. I hope to spend less than $150 for the next two weeks, except for emergencies. Wish me luck!)

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