Eat Healthfully, Save Money and Save the World! – By Sarah LeMieux of Fit Fare – With so many choices, and so much conflicting advice about food saturating our culture these days, it can be tough to figure out how to eat right. Not to mention, the rising cost of food leaves most of us cringing at the cash register.
Throw in the state of the world today, the politics of food and eating (not to mention actual politics), and it’s enough to make you want to hide under the bed rather than face the supermarket on a Saturday. Here are ten simple tips to help you solve it all – you can eat healthfully, save money, and save the world at the same time!
1. Keep it simple. Buy food instead of “product:” A bag of actual rice instead of New Orleans-style pilaf mix; steel-cut oatmeal in a cannister instead of individual maple n’ brown sugar packets. Pre-seasoned food products are loaded with salt, additives and colors, besides being more expensive. Why pay extra for that?
2. Eat what’s in season. When you buy strawberries in February (unless you live in the lucky lands where they grow year-round), you’re essentially paying extra for the fuel they put in the plane the berries have to take to get to you. Save yourself money and keep the extra emissions out of the air by eating them in the summer. Eating what’s in season also encourages you to try fruits and vegetables that may be new to you, which will help get more variety in your diet – something experts agree is key to maintaining good overall health.
3. Buy food as close to its natural state as you can – that way, you aren’t paying for the processing. Instead of buying bagged, pre-washed salad blends, buy a head of lettuce. You’ll get twice the lettuce for half the money, and more nutrition too – fresh foods start losing nutritional value as soon as they’re picked, and it only gets worse as time goes on.
4. Buy local if you have the option. Farmers’ markets are a great source of delicious, inexpensive produce in spring, summer and fall. You’re keeping emissions out of the air, getting more nutritious food, and supporting your local economy. Also, pesticides that aren’t legal for use in the United States are legal in many other countries that export produce to the United States. By buying local (or at least domestic) produce, you’re lowering your risk of exposure to pesticides deemed unsafe by the USDA. You can’t beat that!
5. Out of season, or in areas of the country where farming isn’t widespread, frozen fruits and veggies are a great money-saver. Picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen immediately, they retain lots of good nutrients. Plus, frozen stuff is dirt cheap compared to fresh – frozen organic vegetables are often less expensive than fresh conventional produce.
6. Try having a meat free dinner at least once a week. Not only will lowering your consumption of animal protein lower your risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and certain cancers, it’ll also lower your grocery bill. Think about it: chicken breast is around $3.89 a pound at my supermarket, whereas baking potatoes are under a dollar a pound. Growing vegetables and legumes also has less of an impact on the environment than animal agriculture. Black bean burritos, anyone?
7. A potted kitchen herb garden is a lovely way to brighten up your cooking space and save some cash. Buying fresh herbs at the supermarket can really add up, but they give wonderful flavor and phytonutrients to your meals. A small potted herb garden is a great solution, plus, having live plants in your home freshens your air.
8. Watch out for snack foods – many people eat healthfully otherwise, but fool themselves into thinking that snack foods “don’t count.” Not so – packaged chips, snacks and cookies are full of additives, salt, and hydrogenated oils. Try some roasted nuts or dried fruits. They’re less expensive, and much better for you.
9. Make your own coffee or tea. That way you can make sure you’re not getting loads of sugar and additives from flavored syrups, or saturated fat from whole-milk foam. Who can afford $3.61 a day for a grande 2% mocha anyway? That’s $1317.65 a year!
10. Do some of your own baking. Commercially produced pastry, cookies, cakes and breads often conceal trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and other bad guys, besides which, let’s face it, white flour is not the greatest thing for you anyway. If you do just a little baking at home, you can substitute half whole wheat flour, use non-hydrogenated shortening or canola oil. You’ll be saving money – flour costs next to nothing – and the world, by eating cookies that you made yourself instead of cookies that came from a factory and traveled thousands of miles to get to your supermarket. And you’ll give yourself the simple pleasure of a wonderful-smelling kitchen.