Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Affordable Way to Eat Healthy

I know I have written posts about how to eat nutritiously without blowing your budget, but I feel its important to do so again.  Food prices in Canada have absolutely skyrocketed, and a lot of fresh produce out there now costs so much it requires you to remortgage your house! One cause is the falling value of the Canadian dollar, which just continues to drop.  Unfortunately for us, we import 80% of our fresh fruits and veggies. In addition, the cost of meat and other foods has risen too.

Now we are hardly living in poverty, but we do have to be careful with our money, and food is already one of this family's biggest expenses, not just because we do like to eat healthy (at least the grown-ups do), but also all four of us have pretty massive appetites, so we go through a frightening volume of food each week.

I already purchase strategically by season, to keep costs down.  I just won't even bother trying to buy fresh berries or apricots in the middle of winter.  But right now even things that would be perfectly reasonable to buy this time of year are outrageously expensive.  Um, $7 for a tiny cauliflower? No way!!  These white veggies are so expensive around here right now, that its even made the news!

What scares me is what this is doing to families here in Canada already dealing with food scarcity, and there is a lot more of them than you may think.  In November 2015, when food prices were not as steep as they are now two months later, Food Banks Canada reported there were 852,000 users of food banks in this country.  That number is only going to get higher!  The other problem is that the cheapest food is low nutrition like fast food and soda pop. There is a reason for the correlation between poverty and obesity!

So before you go pick up a family meal for $5 at KFC, here are a few tips for eating healthy in this current retail environment:

- Cut out the crazy priced stuff and focus on what is still reasonable.  No cauliflowers for a while in this house.  Instead, I'm loading up more on carrots, leafy greens, squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, eggplant and other veggies that have not jumped in price.  These all offer tons of nutrition.

- Buy frozen.  The frozen stuff has increased in price too, but not nearly as dramatically.  They are just as nutritious as fresh. 

- Buy canned tomatoes.  Fresh ones generally are of poor quality this time of year anyways.

- Eat vegetarian/vegan. Meat and fish are expensive.  Substitute eggs, beans/legumes/soy, nuts and seeds for your protein instead.  They are healthy and much more cost effective.

- Put in a big more time to food prep. To really save money, buy dried beans instead of canned, and cook up yourself.  Cut up fruits and veggies instead of buying pre-cut.

- Freeze. I can't believe how many of my friends and clients throw out fresh food on a regular basis.  Don't waste unnecessarily! If you don't think you will be able to use up what you have, freeze it!  Baked goods, meat, cheese, fruits and veggies can all be frozen for future use.

- Buy in bulk. Even perishables are worth the savings if you can freeze them for future use.  Just divide things into individual portions first, label and freeze.  Similarly, stock up.  If any of your staple products are on sale, get lots.

- Price match. Using coupons is a great idea, but if you are like me, you cut them out and then always forget to bring them with you.  So there is also price matching! Most chain grocery stores will match a competitor's sale price if you show them the ad or flyer.

- Know your prices.  Get a sense of which stores have the best prices on which items.  Again, the time involved in this research is worth it, it can save you a lot! 

- Cut out the daily extras.  Seriously, Starbucks coffee isn't even good (in my opinion!). Invest in good coffee and a coffee maker and you can save yourself a whole lot of dough!

- Go homemade.  Making your own food at home is much healthier anyways, but it can save you a bundle.  Take something like granola, which can cost at least $5 for a tiny amount.  You can make a huge batch at home and it is much more cost effective.

- Go for whole grains.  Products made with flour like bread and pasta are more expensive than the whole grains themselves.  They are healthier too.  Buy things like oats and rice in bulk as they will last a long time.  Trendier grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc. are more expensive, so research where you can get them for the best deal.

- Drink tap water.  If you absolutely can't stand plain water, add lemon or cucumber slices, or a few drops of flavoured sweetener.  You will still spend a lot less than if you are buying pop, juice, or other beverages.

- Grow your own.  Of course, for many folks, including us, this isn't possible because you lack the outdoor space.  But they do have indoor herb and vegetable cultivator systems now, however, they can be pricey to buy and probably use a lot of electricity.  Nevertheless, they probably still can save you money over the long-term.

There you really is possible to eat well on a budget, but like all aspects of healthy living, it takes planning and effort.  Believe me, its worth it.

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