Strolling around the supermarket, you are doing really well. Reading food labels, forgoing the loads of processed junk you ordinarily pile into your trolley. Even the butcher in the meat section noticed you glowing as you asked him for the fresh organic salmon.
After you are finished hitting every section of the supermarket with a proud strut and a healthy attitude, you make your way to the checkout line. As you put your food on the conveyor belt and watch the cashier swipe your nutritious choices, you feel an overwhelming sense of pride.
Nothing is going to get in the way of you and your health. That is, until the cash register flashes the total on the illuminated screen, and suddenly, you’re not feeling so hot and healthy anymore, and neither is your wallet.
Deciding to take charge of your health is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. It is also the greatest endowment you can bequeath on your wallet. Tens of billions of pounds are spent each year on poor diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, bowel disorders, and Alzheimer's disease.
So-called cheap, convenient, processed foods are not only the real thieves breaking your bank account, but they are also the culprits keeping you from living your life to its fullest potential.
Not only does eating healthy save you money in the long run, but it’s also much better on your wallet than junk food. When it comes to satisfying your belly and your budget, all you have to do is remember the four “R’s”:
1. Read: When you are at the supermarket, remember to check the nutrition information on food labels. Read the fine print and educate yourself on what you are putting in your body.
2. Replace: Swap processed foods that come in boxes and cans for fresh, natural foods.
3. Reduce: Watch your portion sizes. Getting a grasp on portion sizes is the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. It will also leave you extra food, which means less money spent on another meal. You don’t have to buy those biscuits or crisps just because they are “buy-one-get-one-free”. Consider the saving to your health that you will make without them.
4. Reconsider: Whether you’re going to a sit-down dinner or driving through a fast-food restaurant, remember to be aware. Order one meal and split it. Don’t automatically keep the side that comes with your meal. Ask the waiter for other side options, choose the healthier alternatives and then take a doggy bag home with the leftovers.
Looks can be deceiving and advertisers are experts in selling their products. That is why the best way to spend loads of money on food is to walk in the supermarket without a game plan. Certified nutritionist and author of the best-selling cookbook Saving Dinner Leanne Ely dishes out some strategies on how to purchase healthy foods at a low cost.
1. Plan ahead: “If you don’t have a plan and a menu for the week, you will find much of the food you bought rotting in the refrigerator. Don’t just go to the supermarket and say, 'I am going to buy healthy food.' You have to go to the shop and say, 'OK, tonight, I am making lemon chicken; tomorrow night I am making pork stir-fry;' and plan out the rest of your week.
“If you follow your meal plan and shopping list, you buy what you need only. This will also allow you to plan around what’s on sale in the supermarket.”
2. Buy in season: “My biggest suggestion would be to buy food that’s in season and buy food that’s on sale. Look for produce stands along the roadside. Where I live, you see people with pickup trucks selling homegrown potatoes and tomatoes and all kinds of good stuff. It’s much less expensive than in the supermarkets, and it's much fresher too!”
3. Watch for sales and specials: “You can always follow the ads in the paper. There’s a section called the loss leader, meaning that they're willing to lose money on that particular cut of meat to get you into their shop, and if you go early in the morning, you will see the markdowns. There’s nothing wrong with the meat; it's either going to expire that day or the next day or they have too much of it and they need to get rid of it.”
4. Buy in bulk: “It makes sense if it makes sense for your family. You have to be really careful when buying in bulk. It needs to be relative to your family's needs. If food is going to go to waste, then it doesn’t make sense to buy it. No matter how much of a bargain it is, it doesn’t make sense. If you find a really good price on something that you use often, then buying in bulk will help save you money. Take advantage of using your freezer. Even for things you don’t often think about freezing, like cheese. You don’t really think of putting that in the freezer, but grated cheese freezes quite well.”
5. Love your leftovers: “I am a big lover of leftovers because you can take one meal and turn it into three. One of my favourite recipes, for example, is called Rubber Chicken: The first night, you roast a chicken or you can do this with a cooked chicken from the supermarket. You eat like you would eat Sunday dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots and lots more fresh veggies.
The next day, you use some chilled cooked chicken for a healthy sandwich in wholegrain bread with salad. The final straw for that poor little chicken is taking the remaining carcass and boiling it to make chicken stock. Then you make that into soup. This is an example of how you can stretch one meal into three. You can do that if you’re judicious with what you’re buying.”
6. Be prepared: “A big food tip is always to be prepared, especially with kids. When my kids were younger, every time I left the house, I took my cool bag with me, and in my cool bag I would have pieces of cheese cut up, apples cut up with peanut butter to dip it in or I would sprinkle cinnamon all over them. Even string cheeses are good for snacking; I would buy them when they were on sale buy one, get one free.”
7. Snack on this: “A healthy snack that’s a good, cheap one for kids and adults is good, old-fashioned popcorn. Not the microwave popcorn or the one that’s already popped, but the stuff out of a hot-air popper put into a little bag. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like popcorn, and it’s very inexpensive. Baby carrots aren’t bad on the budget, and they are very easy and healthy. Yogurt is another great option. If you’re really watching your budget, you can buy the bigger yogurt carton and put it into small containers yourself."
8. Stock up on seasoning: "When it comes to herbs, they don’t last forever. Seasonings lose their lustre. The best place that I found to buy seasonings without having to over-buy is the health food store. You can go into their bulk bins and put what you need in the tiny little plastic bags that they give you. You can walk out the door with the freshest thyme you can buy for about 30 pence. It’s cheaper than even buying those £2.50 bottles of it at big supermarket stores, and it’s fresh, fresh, fresh.”