Can you eat a healthy, whole foods, organic diet, even on a shoestring budget? As a frequent and thrifty shopper, I know it can be done — even if you're not a vegetarian. First, a few rules:
- Eat in. Restaurant meals are pricey and rarely use the highest quality ingredients. Learn to whip up a few cheap and easy meals — a great omelet, a highly spiced bean and vegetable stew — and you'll save yourself a bundle.
- Eat in season. It's almost always cheaper, and probably better for your body.
- Eat less meat. Meat's expensive on any budget, and most people eat too much of it. Shift your intake to vegetarian (cheaper) sources of protein, and use meat in small portions, as an addition to meals, rather than the main feature.
- Eat less in general. What would happen if you cut your daily caloric intake by 10 percent? In theory, you'd cut your food budget by 10 percent as well, and you'd probably fare better for it. (And some very compelling research suggests that restricting calorie intake can increase lifespan and reduce the incidence of age-related disease.)
On your next shopping trip, choose from this thrifty list of 16 screamin' deals — and see how much you save:
1. Cabbage. It's rich in cancer-preventive compounds. Broccoli has similar nutrition; it's a little pricier but versatile and worth it. Buy it in season, keep your eyes open for sales, and be sure to use the stems.
2. Carrots. Loaded with fiber and beta carotene, they're a screaming deal. Sweet potatoes contain the same array of nutrients but cost more; still, they're a great buy.
3. Kale. It's more expensive than other produce items, but it's a dense source of many nutrients, and a little goes a long way. Likewise with other greens, like chard, collards, spinach and turnip greens.
4. Bananas. Buy a bunch — the organic varieties are usually a hard-to-beat price.
5. Apples. In the fall they're one of the best deals in town.
6. Onions. They're rich in a number of disease-preventive antioxidants and add volumes of flavor. Garlic and ginger are other great flavor-boosters that cost pennies per serving.
7. Beans. Another ridiculous bargain. They
8. Nuts. They
9. Seeds. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are cheaper than nuts. And flax, with its high concentration of healthy fats and low price, is the best deal of all.
10. Brown rice. It
11. Peanut butter. It's not just for kids; peanut butter is as high in healthy monounsaturated fats as almonds. Make sure you're buying it from a high-quality store that keeps bins clean to prevent molds from forming. Otherwise, buy your nut butters in jars.
12. Ground beef. Grass-fed and organic varieties are best. You
13. Chicken fryers. Organic, of course. It
14. Olive oil. It
15. Yogurt. Unsweetened, of course. It
16. Eggs. As a protein source, they
Lisa Turner is a widely published food writer with five books on health and nutrition, and hundreds of magazine articles. In addition to writing books and magazine articles, Lisa combines 20 years of yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices to help her clients explore emotional issues behind their eating habits. Currently, she's a faculty instructor at Bauman College of Culinary Arts and Nutrition in Boulder, Colorado, and hard at work on her next book. Visit her websites at www.TheHealthyGourmet.net and InspiredEating.com.
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