Category Archives: budget


beans-TIG

Groceries – What Can I Get For A Dollar

As more and more people learn to chose whole foods, real food, to feed their family the market share for processed foods is dropping.  Groceries are a necessary part of living, we all need to eat. But there are no guarantees about how well we eat. Given that their mission is not to sell food but to make a profit, many food manufacturers are looking to reverse the decline in profits.  Their primary tactic is to go after lower socio-economic consumers.  Unfortunately these are the ones who have the tightest budgets for food and who may not stop to consider nutritional value per dollar spent.

The cost of groceries

To tempt consumers to by their highly processed foods producers use the following tactics:

  • available at lower cost grocery stores
  • available at discount stores (such as The Dollar Store)
  • offer multiple purchase coupons
  • offer smaller packages at what appears to be a low price
  • offer single serving size options
  • create discount menu pricing (at fast food locations)

Unfortunately those options not only offer incentive to purchase junky foods, they are also more expensive when you price out the actual cost per weight or volume.  Sadly it’s a recipe for a health disaster.  

Yes, that burger may only be a dollar, same with those fries.  But it’s nutritionally deficient food which is high in calories, fats, and chemicals.  It may fill you up but it won’t nourish you. That cereal package may seem like a deal but there’s no real nutrition in the package and it often comes with a lot of sugar. Your belly may be full but your body is depleted.

Eating healthy for less

It is possible to eat healthy for less, it simply means making different choices.  A recent trip to the grocery store* highlighted a few foods which are healthy and available for $1 or less per serving.

appleApples: Nature’s perfect 100 calorie snack pack, the average apple contains about 100 calories. They are a good source of fiber, including pectin (a type of fiber that may be good for reducing cholesterol). Apples also provide vitamin C and healthy phytonutrients which can help moderate blood sugar. At $1.15 per pound with three medium apples in a pound it comes to just under three apples for a dollar.  This was the price for organic apples which represent the best choice as there are no pesticides on them.  Obviously conventional apples are less expensive but come with a chemical coating.

beans-TIGBeans: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, are all good nutritional choices for fiber, folate, iron, and protein. Their high levels of fiber make them an excellent choice for helping to reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugar. $0.79 per pound for lentils means 12 servings per pound, all for less than a buck.

broccoliBroccoli: Contains calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber. Low in calories it’s delicious raw, steamed, or stir-fried. One bunch will set you back $0.99 for around three 1⁄2 C. servings.

Collard Greens: This dark, leafy green and others such as kale, spinach, or mustard greens are loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium.  This week at my grocery store organic collards were $0.99 per bunch with one bunch providing 2-3 servings cooked. It’s delicious when cooked with onions and fresh herbs.

eggs-TIGEggs: A great source of protein, lutein, and zeaxanthin (good for eye health) as well as selenium, B2, B5 and B12 eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. They are versatile, easy to prepare and can be served for any meal. At $2.39 per dozen for large, cage free, grain fed eggs that’s 5 eggs, and five servings, for $1.00.

Oats (old fashioned rolled): high in fiber and a good source of manganese, selenium, vitamin B1, magnesium; a 1⁄2 C. serving even provides 6 g. of protein, they are also scientifically proven to reduce cholesterol (whole oats are best). $0.15 per ounce means that whole oats come out to 6 1⁄2 ounces for $1.00 or a little over 4 servings.  note: for those who need to eat gluten free the cost for oats would be different.

Sweet Potatoes: An excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C and provide a sweet potato-TIGmoderate amount of fiber. A 5” long sweet potato weighs about 4.5 ounces, for $0.89 that’s a little more than one serving (3.5 ounces per serving) for less than a buck.

Admittedly it takes a little more effort to eat for less when you include time for shopping and cooking.  But if you’re willing to focus on health and spend the time, it is possible to get a lot of nutrition for just a dollar.

 

*These prices reflect a trip to my grocery store in my local area in Texas.   Prices may differ depending on location.

Five Healthy Foods That Won’t Blow Your Budget

Many people will agree that finding food that is nutritious, great-tasting and affordable can be difficult. In fact, most of us think that it can be possible to obtain at least the first two of those goals, yet difficult to combine all three. Nevertheless, you should not think this goal hopeless; it is possible to find healthy, delicious recipes suitable to your budget. All you have to do is to be mindful when choosing what you eat. If your budget will allow, choosing organic meat and dairy will help to improve the nutritional profile of your meals.  Below are some healthy foods that won’t break the bank.

1.    White chili – This is a healthy and delicious meal that will suit any tight budget. Made with white beans and spices, a small amount of lean ground meat goes a long way.  Make a delicious creamy base with yogurt and chicken broth.

2.    Omelet – To get the most nutrition from this eggs choose those from free-range chickens.  Made with loads of fresh, in-season vegetables, this can be a great way to get a delicious meal for not a lot of money.

3.    Pork tenderloin – Cooking tenderloin is very cost-effective, yet can be very healthy. You should not be intimidated about the price of tenderloin because it will surely fits in your budget and at the same time ensures to be a healthy food.

4.    Yogurt – Packed with healthy probiotics to support gut health, yogurt is also high in protein. Choose plain, whole mik organic yogurt to avoid added hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals.  A quick and delicious way to serve it is as a parfait with fresh fruit, nuts or granola.

5. Broccoli – Rich in phytonutrients and fiber this is a versatile vegetable to include in your diet.  It can be eaten raw, cooked, steamed, in soups, casseroles, side dishes and more.  While it does have a distinctive flavor, you can also use broccoli when juicing.

Eating healthy foods need not be expensive because you can find foods that are affordable and healthy. On the other hand, while looking for affordable foods you should make sure not to compromise on the quality of your foods. Indeed, eating healthy foods on budget means selecting the foods that are full of nutrients but are affordable. Low budget meals include grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. They are not only easy to prepare and affordable but also highly nutritious. Smart planning, creativity, and resourcefulness in shopping for foods and preparing foods can help you create delicious, healthy meals.

Felix Ankersen is a health and fitness enthusiast as well as an author for Rating Diet Plans. His research and writing focus mainly on diet plans.

photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

On My Mind Monday

newspaper | photo: mconnors

It’s Monday and these are the news articles that have caught my attention from around the web:

A look at the $175 in your compost – That’s how much many Americans throw our per month in food.  Most of it probably goes straight to the landfill not to a compost pile.  Wherever it goes, however, is a huge waste of food and resources.  We work hard at our house to make good use of leftovers, to plan what I call sequential eating, and menu planning.  This idea of not wasting food ties in with what Jonathan Bloom has been promoting for a while through his book, American Wasteland, and his Wasted Food blog.  Given the rising cost of food, it makes even more sense to think about what we’re eating and how much we’re buying.

Walnuts Are Drugs – Says FDA – seriously?  This is just ridiculous.  There are large numbers of scientific studies showing the health benefits of walnuts but apparently this is not good enough for the FDA.  It kind of makes me wonder how oats managed to get their approval for their ability to lower cholesterol (which they do.  There are studies to this effect and yet oat producers are not being told they cannot use those studies).  I have no problem with stopping unvalidated health claims, but where there is evidence that shows the healthful benefits why is the FDA stopping them?  Of course this is the same agency that told the cherry industry that they couldn’t promote the healthful benefits of cherries, even with USDA funded studies that showed exactly what the producers were claiming.  Obviously there is a huge conflict of interest between food and drugs.

Fruits and Veggies Challenge – ever since reading last week about the sad fact that the USDA is not going to use the clever videos promoting fruit and vegetables they received in response to their contest, I have been working my way through watching the videos.  They’re all good, one I like a lot is the Fruit Veggie Swag video.  I find it ridiculous that the USDA has received some wonderful replies that clearly promote eating more fruits and veggies and they won’t use them.  I would much rather watch these than an over-hyped unhealthy fast food ad.

Just Label It – This link takes you to a video by Robert Kenner, the filmmaker who made Food Inc.  I am a huge proponent of food labeling for all sorts of reasons.  I am very much pro-label for GMO and believe we all have a right to know what’s in our food.  The website also allows you to tell FDA Commissioner Hamburg how you feel about this issue.

disclosure: cmp.ly5

Food And Money

The USDA is predicting an increase in all foods for 2011; depending on the item it is expected to range from 2% for things like sugars and cereals to as high as 5.5% for dairy products.  If you are interested you can see the chart here.  Part of the increase is due to the higher costs for corn and soybeans.  Remember, it’s a cycle, what we eat needs to eat.  I actually anticipate that the costs for meat will be much higher than currently predicted due to more people deciding to purchase meat and dairy that is organic to avoid the GMO contamination of corn and soy.  These are two of the most heavily GMO crops but our government doesn’t identify that so the only way to avoid it is to purchase organic.

There are a number of ways that you can save money on your food bill in the upcoming year:

Plant a vegetable garden.  Using your space for edible gardening can be attractive and save you food dollar costs.  During both World Wars Victory Gardens were planted in every yard and public park all across the United States.  It’s a concept that I think many people are rediscovering.

 Even if you buy a tomato plant at the garden center and plant it in a pot you will still get far more produce than if you purchase your tomatoes at the grocery store.  And believe me, they’ll taste better.  We’ve just re-arranged our side yard and brought in a load of organic dirt, working on creating a better vegetable garden.  We’ve also put in herbs and a few fruits in the yard.  

Here are a couple of books that I think are great for backyard vegetable gardening

Mel Bartholomew is the authority on getting the most out of the smallest space. If you have any gardening space available, even just one square foot, you’d be amazed at what you can grow.


Rosalind Creasy shows you how to incorporate beauty and function in your garden by making your landscape edible.


If you live in an apartment or don’t have access to a plot of ground you can consider container gardening.  Even one  reasonable size container can grow a lot of tomatoes and basil or peas and mint or…read the book.


And there seems to be an increase in folks growing food on rooftops and terraces.


If you shop at warehouse stores frequently the prices are good but the quantities are huge.  Don’t buy more than you need, after all 50 pounds of potatoes is a lot, especially in a family like ours with just three people in the house.  Just because the price per pound is low, if you wind up throwing out rotten potatoes (or anything else) you’ve just lost money.  If you really want the item consider saving money by asking family, friends and/or neighbors if they want to share these items with you.  This way you’ll both save money and there will be less waste.

And speaking of waste…


According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, Americans, on average, throw away half of their food.  Half!  That’s a mind-boggling concept.  Knowing, really knowing exactly what is in your pantry is a great start, learning how to be mindful of it is the next step.  Jonathan has a lot of great information on his blog to help you avoid food waste.  Don’t want to read the book (although I highly recommend it)?  There’s an app for that — yup, a company called UniByte has created an app to help you better manage your food purchases so you will waste less.


If you do wind up with food waste, and some of it is inevitable such as potato peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and the like, consider composting.  This is also environmentally friendly in that the food scraps become usable dirt instead of going to the landfill where they cannot be used to grow more food.  

A little off the beaten path but for those who have access, inclination, and a sharp eye there is always the idea of foraging.  According to my friend Merriweather it is important to remember a couple of key points:

1.  Know what you are foraging.  Many edibles have an inedible counterpart that looks almost the same.  He points out that these inedibles wind up in either the “kill your kid dead” or “keep you on the toilet sick” category so it’s important to be very sure of your identifications.

2.  Forage responsibly using appropriate tools to cut and dig rather than ripping and shredding.  This allows the plants to continue to grow and is the best way to forage.

3.  Make sure you have permission. Here in Texas, and probably elsewhere, plant rustling is against the law.  Getting a huge fine for public trespassing or theft is not going to help your grocery bill any.

While Merriweather sadly does not yet have a published book there are some great foraging books out there:


     

     

     


And last, but certainly not least, another way to save money at the grocery store is to learn to make your own.  One of my favorites is making my own granola which definitely saves money over the store-bought versions.  You can make your own pudding, soups, muffins, snacks, spice mixes, beverages, pickles, jams and much much more.  Currently I am fermenting kimchi on my kitchen counter, starting another batch of kefir and have just finished making another batch of bean sprouts.  These require very little hands on time and save quite a few dollars while providing healthful foods for my family.  Making your own has a number of benefits:

1.  It will save you money
2.  You will avoid extra packaging and commercial waste
3.  You will avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals (which you don’t need in your diet anyway)
4.  Often when you make your own you make smaller batches so you are less likely to waste it

So here’s to a new year, a new grocery budget, and new possibilities for your health.