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12 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

It’s a misconception that eating healthily has to be expensive. In fact, it’s very manageable to have three all-organic healthy and nourishing meals (plus snacks!) each day no matter what your grocery and food budget may be -- I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept and testing out new ways to eat well for cheap. There are ways!

If you don’t know where to start, follow these tips for eating well on a budget:

1. Cook As Many of Your Meals as You Can

This is at once the simplest and the most difficult tip: commit to cooking your meals rather than eating out. Not only does eating out add up quick, but it tends to be less healthy than what you would cook at home. Depending on your habits, you could save roughly $180 - 250 each month by not eating out. How’s that for savings?

2. Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

Once you’re committed to cooking at home more, try planning your meals for the week ahead of time. Make use of versatile ingredients that you can use in multiple different dishes throughout the week, and stick to simple meals that don’t require too many ingredients. Doing this helps with a few things:

  • You can buy bulk, which saves you on the total cost of items.
  • You’ll have less chance of unused ingredients going bad in your fridge and, as a result, you’ll waste less.

  • You’ll put more thought into what you’re eating and how much you’re spending, which will help you keep to you stick to your good eating and spending habits.

3. Eat What's in Season

This might seem like a no-brainer, but in-season foods are always cheaper than out of season foods, which were likely imported from elsewhere in the world.

So, to save money, focus on foods that are in-season. Learn to love cabbage and citruses in the winter, and go crazy with squashes and root plants in the fall. For a full list of in-season produce and recipe suggestions try Wise Breads’s post on seasonal produce. The Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture also has a very good, comprehensive chart.

Above all, avoid pricey pre-packaged foods. These foods will not only be pricier but also most likely contain ingredients that are not health-enhancing. Remember to read the ingredient list if you are purchasing packaged foods.

4. Take Advantage of Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and Imperfect-Looking Vegetables

Some of the best places to find cheap and delicious in-season produce is at your local farmer’s market. Try going at the end of the day and asking for deals to save even more. If you don’t have a farmer's market close to you, try an online farmer’s market such as GrubMarket - they deliver straight to your door!

If you have a CSA in your area, you can also save money while getting ultra-fresh produce (sometimes things you’ve never even seen before!) by ordering from them.

Similar to a CSA is a new produce delivery service, Imperfect Produce, which delivers totally edible -- but “too ugly for supermarket” -- fruits and veggies for super cheap. For example, you could order a 7 - 9 pound box, which will last at least a week, of produce for roughly $12. Awesome!

5. Look for Sales and Take Advantage of Them

For the non-produce staples (and, okay, even some produce) keep an eye out for sales and take advantage of them. Be open to adjusting your weekly meal plan to accommodate a good deal you found at the supermarket or stocking up on dry goods when they go on sale.

Hint: in some supermarkets, if you buy one item that’s on a “2 for $3” sale, you’ll still be able to get it half off. Don’t buy both if you don’t need them.

6. Shop at Ethnic Markets

Want a cheap box of coconuts? Go to Chinatown or your nearest ethnic grocery store. Even for some more common items like rice noodles, or a bag of apples, ethnic grocery stores often still have good quality items for cheaper. Keep in mind that organic is ideal.

7. Focus on Plant Foods and Make Fewer Meat-Centric Dishes

I advocate a high plant-focused way of eating in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, but it's also a way to save money if you know how to balance your non-meat meals appropriately.

For those of you who don't want to omit meat entirely (and you don't necessarily need to - your body knows best!), try eating fewer meat-centric dishes. Rather than serving up a steak with a side of broccoli, make meat a compliment, rather than the focus. Cook a quinoa dish with a bit of ground turkey, or a veggie stir fry with some slices of lamb.

8. Start a Garden

Whether you’ve got a yard or a windowsill, starting a garden is the ultimate way to lower your food spending. After all, it’s free (well, almost -- you might still have to make a small upfront investment in seeds, pots, and soil).

Certain things, like arugula or bok choy, are super easy to grow for first timers, whereas others, like tomatoes, require a bit more care and attention. No matter what you grow, gardens are a great way to get a constant supply of nourishing food. Not to mention, there’s no fresher food than what you’re growing outside your front door.

9. Learn to Love Your Freezer

This tip goes back to that whole idea that by letting food go bad, you’re wasting money. Which is why any health-nut on a budget should really learn to love their freezer. There’s two big ways this can help:

First, you can freeze leftovers if you know you won’t be eating them in the next couple of days. Personally, if something’s been in my fridge for 2 days, I’ll either eat it or freeze it to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Just make sure to mark when you put them in.

Second, if you’ve got a garden, weren’t able to eat all the food you got in your CSA or last week’s grocery store run, you can preserve a lot of fruits and veggies by either canning, pickling, or -- yes -- freezing them.

One of my favorite things to do is to take greens (arugula, parsley, etc.) and turn them into a pesto. Stick them in an ice cube tray and freeze them. That way, you’ll have a stash of homemade pesto you can easily pop on pasta for the rest of the year.

10. Embrace the Health Value of Super Basic Foods

You don’t have to be splurging on obscure and expensive health foods to be healthy. Some of the commonly available foods (brown rice, apples, broccoli, bananas, spinach) are incredibly healthy for you (when organic).

I think that expensive, trendy health foods like chia seeds or acai are part of the reason people assume eating well needs to cost money. Yes, I may be into these more trendy ‘superfoods', but in reality, some of the best stuff for you is downright common and unexotic — you can find amazingly cheap organic produce for less than $1 at the farmer’s market.

To add to that, these more expensive 'superfoods' can go a long way. You only need small amounts to reap the health benefits of these foods, so you won’t need to be purchasing them all that often.

11. Make Your Own Drinks

Buying beverages can get pricey quick -- not to mention, you might not have any control of the amount of sugar and other ingredients in them or whether or not they’re organic.

Personally, I prefer getting around this problem by making my own drinks. Especially since frozen organic berries are cheaper than fresh ones, buying a few big bags of organic frozen berries is an easy way to get my berry fix without breaking the bank. Simply toss some in a blender with water (or milk), lemon juice and a bit of honey (optional) and voila!

12. Get Creative with Your Recipes

This might be the best tip I can give you - There are no rules in the kitchen! Did you know you could make chocolate with mushrooms? Well, you can. And if mushrooms can be a core ingredient for one of your favorite dessert foods, then you should absolutely get creative with leeks, turnips, boysenberries, or whatever else is most affordable at the moment in your supermarket/farmers market.

My Pantry Food Brands of Choice

 Photo by  Fluxi On Tour

Photo by Fluxi On Tour

I often get asked about what my favorite food products are and what brands I buy. I hardly ever purchase packaged foods other than condiments. My meals usually consist of produce that's in season. 

I get all my staples such as grains, nuts, and seeds from bulk, and I prefer getting my produce at the farmers market. 

I always recommend shopping organic and supporting local businesses. The products I use vary depending on what new local and quality products I discover at times, but here is a list of brands I currently purchase:

Sea Salt - Celtic Sea Salt 

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - Dr.Bronner's

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Napa Valley Naturals

Apple Cider Vinegar - Bragg's Organic Raw Unfiltered

Balsamic Vinegar - Napa Valley Naturals

Red Wine Vinegar - Napa Valley Naturals

Ground Spices - Spicely & Simply Organic

Sauerkraut - Farmhouse Culture

Nut & Seed Butters - Artisana (or make your own!)

Ghee - Purity Farms

Canned Coconut Milk (Organic & BPA free) - Native Forest

Coconut Water - Harmless Harvest

 

The Easiest Green Drink

APL_Yoga&SmoothiesFEb28_DFY3

Some days there seems to be no time to even blend something for breakfast and take it on the go. On those days, I like to make something that only takes less than a minute, yet is filled with vitamins and minerals. Vitamineral Green is a powdered blend of green superfoods to enhance detox, support the immune system, balance blood sugar, rejuvenation, aid organ function, and support longevity. I simply mix this magical supplement with a few magical ingredients in a jar of spring water to get a healthy start. BCFebPhoto16

Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 Tablespoon of Vitamineral Green
Splash of lemon juice
2-3 drops of Vanilla Stevia
 
Get going on a good, green note! 

Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Have you ever read the ingredient list of your store-bought tomato sauce? You'd be surprised to find that it's most likely loaded with added sugar, preservatives, and excess sodium. I got in the habit of reading labels years ago. It's amazing to find what is in products that are even labeled "all-natural," "organic," "sugar-free," etc. Point is, why spend money on these products that are not good for our health when they're so easy and more flavorful to make at home? Preparing your own sauces, dressings, and dips is fun and provides lots of health benefits.

There are many types of tomato sauces out there. This is my go-to base recipe. It's so simple, yet full of flavor. You can add different herbs and spices to make it your desired flavor (i.e. roasted garlic, chiles, etc.). Use sauce on vegetables, grains, chicken, or fish.

 

IMG_7702Ingredients

8 Roma tomatoes

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon red chili flakes (less or more to taste, I like mine spicy)

1/4 red onion (optional, gives it more spice)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

small handful of fresh basil

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Place tomatoes on a glass baking dish or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender and skin has cracked.
  3. Let tomatoes cool for a bit and once manageable, take skin off and discard.
  4. Place tomatoes and remaining ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust if needed.

Makes ~2 cups

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make Almond Milk [Video]

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Almond milk is a delicious and healthy alternative to cow's milk. It's fresh, light, and dairy-fee, which supports those with lactose intolerant or dairy sensitivity. Making your own at home is both fun and more nutritious because it doesn't contain additives, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives that the store-bought almond milk does.

Almond milk is low in calories, and high in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Making it at home is very simple and often money saving. In 10 minutes, you will have fresh almond milk to add to your oats, smoothies, sauces, or simply drink as is.

Plain almond milk has a great rich flavor, but you can use a natural sweetener to give it additional sweetness and flavor. I love mine plain.

 

You will need

Blender

Nut milk bag or cheese cloth

Large bowl or pitcher

 

Ingredients

1 cup raw almonds (soaked overnight in filtered water and drained)

5 cups filtered water

Flavoring options

1/2-1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

2 pitted dates

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of sea salt

 

Procedure 

  1. Soak almonds overnight in filtered water. Soaking overnight makes them more digestible and increases nutritional value. If you forget to soak them overnight or don't have much time, soaking them for at least an hour is good enough.
  2. Drain almonds and rinse well.
  3. Add almonds and water to blender and blend until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Place nut milk bag or cheesecloth in bowl and pour mixture through it. Gently squeeze to strain until all liquid is extracted from solids. Enjoy!
Homemade almond milk

Coconut Buckwheat Pancakes

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IMG_6990 I've been experimenting with pancakes lately. It's my new weekend thing. Of course they are always gluten and dairy free, so I like to get creative with different ingredients and flavors. They're not always a success, but this one I had to share. Simple ingredients and simply delicious.

Ingredients

Serves 1 

1/2 large banana

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1 egg

2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (for cooking)

Procedure

  1. Blend all ingredients together
  2. Heat coconut oil on pan over medium heat
  3. Pour batter into pan and cook for a few minutes on each side (covered).
  4. Stack and top with toppings of your choice. I topped mine with organic raw honey and raw cacao nibs.

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What is Clean Eating?

What is clean eating

You've probably already seen or heard the term 'clean eating' or 'eating clean.' But what does it mean? What is so great about it? I'd like to clarify what it means for those of you who are wondering and what it's benefits are. Clean eating is not a specific diet, it's a lifestyle choice.

First of all, there are many different definitions of clean eating, depending on what meal regimen one follows and recommends (paleo, raw, vegan, vegetarian, etc). For example, a vegan might say that a clean eating regimen is one that omits all animal products, someone that only eats a raw food diet might say that clean eating is an all raw-food diet, and so forth. I don't believe that one is better than the other, it is just a matter of finding what works for you.

My definition of  'clean eating' is to eliminate all refined and processed foods from your diet. Foods like white sugar, white rice, bleached flour, white flour, and enriched flour all are foods that have been refined in some way. When refined, their nutrients are removed resulting in ingredients that only provide empty calories (calories with no nutritional value) with a blood sugar spike.

A clean eating regimen consists of whole, unrefined foods in their most natural state. These foods are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Pasture-raised eggs and poultry
  • Grass-fed meats
  • Full-fat dairy products

Be sure to read labels when buying things in a package. Just because the box says "whole grain" or " natural" doesn't mean they really are. Read ingredients closely and choose grains that don't have additives. You'd be surprised what's in that box of "whole grain" cereal you love so much, not a whole lot of nutrition. Chicken that is labeled "all natural" is interesting to me. Shouldn't chicken be natural? Sadly it's almost always not the case; instead they are fed antibiotics and hormones. Labels are misleading and most of the time not true.

Talk to the butcher at the grocery store, ask questions, and read the ingredient list. Try buying products that have 5 or less ingredients. And make sure they are ingredients that you can pronounce and that are unrefined. Visit my post on reading labels for more information.

Benefits of a clean eating lifestyle:

  • Weight loss/fat loss
  • Increased energy
  • Better skin and hair
  • Better health
  • Increased mental focus
  • Better sleep
  • Better mood
  • Decreased cravings and sugar addiction

As you can see, eating clean is a great thing. It seems to have become more and more popular these days, when in reality, it has been around for a long time and just now people are starting to realize how important it is to make this lifestyle choice in order to be healthy and happy.

How to transition to a clean eating life:

  • Eat whole fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats,  and whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth)
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water each day
  • Eat 5-6 times a day to reduce cravings and keep blood sugar regulated - include protein in every meal
  • Avoid all processed and unrefined foods (sugar, candy, pastries, white flour, white rice, bread, cereals, packaged goods, etc.)
  • Avoid beverages that are packed with sugar (soda, juice, Gatorade, energy drinks, sweetened tea, coffee drinks)
  • Avoid trans fats

Clean eating is the lifestyle choice I made and what I preach every single day. I have never been happier and felt more comfortable in my skin. If you are just transitioning to a clean eating lifestyle, take it slow and make small changes every day. It takes time, but don't give up. Know that your body will love you for it and you won't regret the health benefits from it.

Trust the process.

Balsamic-Ginger Glazed Carrots and Chard

Balsamic-glazed-carrots

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Summer is one of my favorite seasons. I love going to the farmers market and being surrounded by all the wonderful colors of fruits and vegetables.

Have you seen those beautiful rainbow carrots yet? And the amazing varieties of cucumber? What about the juicy peaches and plums?

I can spend hours at the market just admiring (and tasting), but mostly, I go to get influenced to create new and delicious recipes. This week, I chose to make something different with carrots.

Carrots are available year round, but they have the most nutrients, freshness, and flavor when they are in season (fall and summer). They are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants (vitamin C and beta-carotene). They are anti-inflammatory, a good source of complex carbohydrates, and help cleanse the liver.

Ingredients

1-2 Tablespoons unrefined sesame oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)

1 bunch rainbow carrots, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces

4 large leaves red chard, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1-inch ginger root, minced

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

juice of 1/2 lemon

sea salt

Procedure

  1. Cut off the large end of carrots. Cut carrots in half long wise, then cut into 2-inch pieces with a diagonal cut.
  2. Heat sesame oil in a large pan. Add carrots and a generous pinch of sea salt and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice and cook for another 5 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Add chard and sauté for another few minutes until chard wilts. Serve.

Note: You can garnish with chopped herbs and/or seeds.

Grapefruit Pancakes

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I'm constantly on a mission to find nutritious alternatives to the most common foods that we love to eat. I spend hours on Instagram, Facebook, health and food blogs, reading recipe books, and writing/testing my own recipes.

I personally am not a huge fan of pancakes, but I am most definitely a fan of pancakes that are sweet, fluffy, made with unrefined ingredients, AND nourishing. These pancakes are high in protein, gluten-free, filling, and really easy to make. I was completely satisfied with them and I hope you will be too.

Ingredients

Makes 4 small or 2 large pancakes

3 Tablespoons coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 drops stevia (I don't love the taste of stevia, but you can add more if you'd like)

Zest of about 1/4 grapefruit (to taste)

1 Tablespoon greek yogurt

1/4 cup almond milk

3 organic egg whites

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (for cooking)

Procedure

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Combine wet ingredients, except coconut oil, in a separate bowl and whisk together. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and incorporate well. Batter should be thick. The thicker the batter, the fluffier your pancakes will be. Taste and adjust flavors to preference if needed.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a medium-large size pan. Make sure pan is very hot. Spoon batter onto pan, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes (until bottom is browned, but not burnt). Flip and cook for another minute. You can make pancakes as big as you want. I chose to make 4 small ones.
  4. Stack pancakes on plate and top with slices of grapefruit, sauce, and anything else you desire.

Grapefruit sauce:

1 Tablespoon kefir (can also use yogurt)

1 teaspoon grapefruit zest (to taste)

1/2-1 Tablespoon fresh juice from grapefruit (to taste)

1/2 teaspoon grade B maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon chia seeds (optional, for thickness)

pinch of cinnamon

-Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust. Pour over pancake stack.

Other recommended toppings:

  • chopped almonds
  • chopped walnuts
  • more cinnamon
  • shredded coconut

Recipe adapted from clarkpharm.blogspot.com