Healthy Eating on a Budget; YES, It Can Be Done!

I get asked frequently why it’s “so expensive” to eat healthy. Well, let’s think about that…do you buy ththe LEAST expensive car and expect luxury? Do you assume you will pay very little for your house and it will be a mansion? Why would it be any different with food? Yes, in general, high quality foods will cost more to grow or to feed, and this translates into higher prices at the cash register. But I truly believe, especially with animal protein, that “you are what you eat eats!” So I want my animals not to be given antibiotics or hormones and eat high quality foods!

At Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference in Napa this year, they added several workshops and plenary sessions to discuss how to feed a family on a budget. We all strive to:

  • Get the most out of our grocery dollar
  • Become more efficient in meal preparation
  • Reduce food waste
  • Maximize health
  • Enjoy (not dread!) family mealtime

So how do we get there? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your family’s weekly meals:

  • Key Strategy- Plan well, eat what you buy, don’t let leftovers go to waste!- Those 15-20 minutes of menu planning really are worth it! Planning your meals and writing ingredient lists will help avoid impulse buys.
  • Use Protein Judiciously! – high quality animal protein is expensive. The key with animal protein is PORTION CONTROL! I have said it before, Americans eat WAY too much animal protein! Rethink your dish and use animal protein as a component of the dish and not the centerpiece, so you can afford to buy the highest quality product! Check out these two plates:

Instead of this:                                                                                                   Why not this?
Steak Dinner - Stag Berlin

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And don’t forget about plant-based sources of protein! Beans, whole grains and tofu or tempeh are inexpensive and nutrient-dense sources of protein!

  • Produce- Buy seasonal! Buying seasonal produce at your local farmer’s market is the best way to ensure best prices and help your local farmers!  To keep produce fresh for as long as possible, especially berries, DO NOT WASH THEM when imagesyou get home from the store! I always talk about prepping food as soon as you get home, but raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries will spoil faster if washed first, so wash them just prior to eating!  Also keep in mind that frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and flash frozen at the peak of freshness, so if you’re looking for berries in the middle of the winter in the midwest, frozen is the way to go!
  • Key techniques for saving money: 
    • Batch cooking- Check out my blog on crockpot cooking HERE
    • Storing and freezing
    • Prepping in advance
    • Cook whenever you have time! This one holds especially true for me; I find myself preparing dinner after school drop off in the morning or getting breakfast ready for the next morning after dinner! And I cook a lot on the weekends!

Below is one of my favorite, easy, flavorful, inexpensive meals! I serve these yummy tacos with avocado slices and fresh fruit. Enjoy!

Tilapia Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

Cilantro slaw

1 head of white cabbage, shredded

1 red onion, julienne

1 red bell pepper, fine julienne

1/2 bunch cilantro, choppedfish_tacos_cabbage_radish_slaw-scaled1000

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

salt and black pepper to taste

Fish tacos

2 pounds tilapia fillets

2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or chili powder)

1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil

8 whole-wheat flour or corn tortillas

1. For the slaw, mix all ingredients, let sit for 15 minutes, drain excess liquid, and serve.

2. For the fish: Season fish with salt, pepper and chili powder. Saute fish in oil to form a nice crust.

3. Warm tortillas in a separate pan.

4. Flake fish with 2 forks to shred. Place in tortilla and top with slaw.

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