Monday, August 8, 2011

Healthy Eating on a Budget

1.  Simplify your menu
2.  Get a Sam’s Club or CostCo membership
3.  Buy in Bulk
4.  Find every local grocery store and sign up for their bonus card 
5.  Buy spices...and LOTS OF 'EM!
Yes, I know…it’s not cheap to eat healthy!  As a graduate student, I only had so much money left after paying bills to spend on food.  So I’d like to share some of the tools I used to keep my refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets full of healthy foods, vitamins, and supplements.

1.  Simplify your menu
When you’re on a budget, you don’t have the luxury of diversifying your menu…sorry!  If you want to eat healthy, it’s just a necessary evil.  Some of the cheaper foods include (listed from cheapest to not as cheap): 
Protein: pre-frozen chicken breasts, pre-frozen tilapia, fresh bone-in chicken breasts, eggs
Carbohydrates: Quaker Quick oats (unflavored)
Vegetables: Frozen veggies, fresh veggies

Now, if at all possible, I would avoid frozen protein and vegetable sources, due to the lack of nutrients compared to fresh meats and vegetables.  But hey, it’s better than nothing.  But if you want your foods fresh, the following strategies will definitely help!

2.  Get a Sam’s Club or CostCo membership
Don’t be deterred by the membership fee!  These wonderful establishments will save you money in the long run.  In many cases, their prices will be cheaper than local grocery stores.  So you are able to “splurge” on fresh vegetables, meats and fruits.  This also leads to my next tip…

3.  Buy in bulk 
At Sam’s Club or CostCo, you usually don’t have a choice because most of their products are sold in bulk.  Take advantage of this!  As a grad student, I’d get the same thing from Sam’s Club: chicken breasts, Quick oats, eggs, and broccoli…in HUGE quantities!  This also applies to buying protein powder (if this applies to you).  I used to order 10 pound bags of protein powder.  It’s a large upfront cost, but it is much cheaper than buying little shakes and 1 pound tubs of protein powder.  Buying in bulk will also save gas money by decreasing the amount of trips to the grocery store.

4.  Find every local grocery store and sign up for their bonus card  
Why? Because at least every week, you should be able to find ONE store having a sale on something you need.  Fruits? Chicken breasts? Eggs? Veggies?  You’ll find it.  How?  Because all of their sale advertisements will be mailed to you!  Don’t throw them out!  For example, whenever I needed chicken breasts, I could always catch a $0.99/pound sale.  And I’d literally buy ALL of the chicken breasts.  I’m not joking!  I wouldn’t have to buy chicken for another month.

5.  Buy spices…and LOTS OF EM! 
This is the cheapest way to keep your taste buds (somewhat) alive.  Since your menu is so simple, you need to try every possible variation for flavoring your food.  If you saw my cabinet, you might think I’m Emeril.  Nope…I just had to find a million ways to flavor my chicken breasts.  Also try different marinades (not high in sodium and without high fructose corn syrup or excess sugar).

Implementing these tools kept me fit while in graduate school, so give them a try!


Ozell said...

Well done sir and thanks for the info. I commented on facebook biut i'll ask here as well if you have any seasoning or spices that have worked well for you.

TheRealestOne said...

Great tips Dozie!

Also, buying at the Farmer's market is a lot cheaper for produce (if there is one in your city) and a lot of the growers tend to be local, organic, and pesticide free.

Also ... since produce goes bad so fast you can buy these green containers that extend the life (keep fresh) your meat, fruit and veggies WELL past the expiration date. I accidentally left some meat in one of these over Christmas break, came back and it was still fresh.

Timi Fadiran said...

In regards to the spices, do you have to be careful about nutrition facts of the spices? I depend on spices alot (especially since I'm not that great at cooking -_-) but I noticed a lot of my spices are very high in sodium.

Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

Yea, you should always look at the ingredients to check how much sodium is in them. Luckily there are spices with no sodium (like Mrs. Dash) or low sodium.

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