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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

 

Blueberry Basil Smoothie

I've been on a simplistic approach to meals these days. Lots of smoothies and simple vegetable bowls (I will share a few more of these recipes soon). It works quite well with my busy schedule and being on my feet all day. I like the lightness of these meals so I can continue energized throughout the day. 

Being able to digest our food is so important, but it's hard to do so when we're rushed and adrenaline is going. When we don't digest our food properly, our bodies respond with bloatedness, gassiness, heartburn, and feeling overall uncomfortable. 

Feeling like this after every meal is not ideal for anyone. I personally went years feeling like crap after every time I ate thinking it was normal. When we're bloated and gassy, our bodies are stressed and expanding tons of energy to try to get back to a relaxed state. Proper digestion itself takes up a lot of energy, that's why when we eat large meals, we feel tired afterwards and it can be hard to think. Not super ideal for midday when there's still lots of energy to expand on other things. Eating wisely is key! 

There are things that could help digestion such as sitting down for a meal in a quiet place away from all electronic devices, breathing deeply before and during meals, eating lighter meals, drinking your meals (blended foods are predigested for us!), avoiding fluids with your solid meals (unless drinking your meal, of course), avoid foods that cause you bloatedness and indigestion (usually processed foods, refined sugars, processed and inorganic dairy, gluten (for some), and fast food), and chewing your food! We undermine chewing and it's key for proper digestion. 

Below is one of the quick smoothies I've been making for myself while the delicious berry season continues. Try it yourself. Feel free to add raw seeds, nuts, or your favorite organic plant-based protein powder for extra protein. 

What do you do to stay nourished in the midst of your busy schedule?

Ingredients

2 cups frozen wild blueberries

1/2 cup fresh blackberries (or berries of choice)

1 cup raw coconut water

andful fresh basil leaves (about 1 cup, or more to taste)

1 Tablespoon sunflower seed butter (Homemade recipe here)

1 teaspoon raw honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of sea salt

Procedure

  1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Top with extra blueberries or berries of choice. 

 

Captures of Sweet & Savory Chocolate Brunch

We had such a wonderful time at our Chocolate Brunch Club in June. Thank you to everyone that helped and got chocolate wasted with us. 

I was a bit afraid that chocolate everything would be overwhelming, but it was such a hit!

Excited for the next Brunch Club coming up in August. Stay tuned. 

Photography by Regina Felice

 

Citrus Cream Tarts

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Taking advantage of the wonderful citrus season to make all creations possible. These little tarts are simple and sweet. I know you'll enjoy them.

Ingredients

Crust

½ cup raw sunflower seeds

15 soft medjool dates

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Citrus Cream

1 cup coconut cream

1 Tablespoon coconut nectar

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Zest of ½ lemon

Zest of ½ orange

Juice of ½-1 lemon

Procedure

1. To make crust: Place all crust ingredients in a food processor and process until mixture holds together when pressed with fingers. Line a small pie pan or 3-individual size pie pans with parchment paper and press mixture into bottom and sides of pan. Place in the refrigerator while you make filling.

2. To make filling: Place all citrus cream ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. Pour cream over crust and place in freezer for about 30-45 minutes, until filling has set.

3. Once tart cream has set, garnish with desired toppings and slice to serve.

Beautiful pictures by Micaela Hoo.

Captures of February Brunch Club

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Brunch Club was a hit - we are GRATEFUL for the amazing help and everyone who came together to celebrate a Sunday. We had a wonderful time sharing about seasonal foods and enjoying a gluten-free, organic feast made with whole ingredients. We're already wishing we had some leftover coconut whipped cream! Hope to see you all again for March Brunch Club on the 14th. Happy Monday :)

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Brunch Club: Farewell Winter Harvest

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Change isn’t always easy, but all we can do is embrace it and CELEBRATE it. At Brunch Club we’ll be saying farewell to the winter harvest before welcoming the bright vegetables of spring. Come enjoy a three-course meal and learn about the importance of eating for the seasons. All ingredients are organic, local, vegetarian friendly, and free of gluten and refined sugars. You’ll take home new recipes and connect with some awesome people. Check out photos from January Brunch Club to see what you’re in for.

There’s also an optional yoga practice before brunch (10am). Francesca Gobeille will be starting us off with a gentle, all-levels yoga practice to ease in the day. Visit Francesca's website to learn more about her teaching practice.

Hope this menu makes you ‘MMMMMmmmmmm’ as much as us!

FIRST COURSE

Green Winter Smoothie

A balanced blend of seasonal fruits and vegetables with an added superfood bonus of spirulina, seeds, and raw honey.

Kombucha by House Kombucha

Lavender lemonade House Kombucha.

Grindstone Bakery Gluten-Free Bread with Homemade Almond Butter

Served with sides of fresh bananas and ground cinnamon.

SECOND COURSE

Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Scramble (Vegan Option Available)

Organic eggs and vegetables cooked in coconut oil and seasoned with warming spices. Topped with herbs and served with avocado.

Grapefruit pancakes with coconut whipped cream

Coconut flour pancakes with fresh grapefruit zest and cinnamon. Topped with coconut whipped cream, pure maple syrup, and sliced kumquats.

THIRD COURSE

Apple pie breakfast bars

Raw dates, apples, coconut, almonds, cinnamon and sea salt.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?! Get your tickets on Feastly. See you on 2/22 .

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Cozy Winter Vegetable Sauté

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I just can't get enough butternut squash and sweet potatoes this winter season. Who's with me? I like preparing meals that pack a punch of flavor and don't take hours to make. It's surprisingly easy to do so when using seasonal vegetables, herbs, and spices.

This can be made as an entree, side dish, or snack. You can enjoy with a side of hummus and crackers as a filling meal like I did (pictured below), or with anything else you please.

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2-inch piece ginger, minced

3 green onions, sliced

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 1/2 cups oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 bunch baby bok choy, ends removed

1 Tablespoon coconut aminos - Coconut Secret

Pinch of sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Pinch of dried chili flakes, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve

AsianWinterVegetableSautee

Procedure

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Add garlic, ginger, and green onion and sauté for a few minutes.
  2. Add diced butternut squash, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
  3. Add mushrooms, baby bok choy, coconut aminos, and spices.  Cover to cook until greens have wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  4. Serve and garnish with chopped herbs and lemon wedges.

Serves 4-6

 

Enjoy and share if you try this dish. What's your favorite quick and flavorful meal?

x,

Giovanna

Miso-Glazed Eggplant with Cauliflower 'Rice'

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Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, but one that I don't cook often for some reason. This recipe here took my taste buds to a whole other level of goodness. It's a great main or side dish for any dinner occasion. Treat yourself to this miso-glazed eggplant, you won't regret it.

Not only is it delicious, but eggplant has some pretty great health benefits:

  • High in fiber and potassium
  • Promotes hear health
  • Supports brain health

 

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons white or yellow miso (organic and non-GMO)

2 green onions, sliced

1 Tablespoon unrefined sesame oil

1 Tablespoon grade B maple syrup

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

1 large eggplant, sliced to 1/2 inch thickness

 

Cauliflower 'Rice'

1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of sea salt

 

Miso eggplant

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients, except eggplant, to make a sauce.
  3. Place eggplant on a baking dish and drizzle sauce over it. Use a spatula or spoon to coat eggplant well. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cooked and tender.
  4. Cauliflower rice: place chopped cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until chopped into a rice consistency. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice and sea salt to taste. You may also cook it on the stove for a bit with coconut oil to warm it up and make it tender.
  5. When eggplant is done, serve over cauliflower rice and garnish with fresh herbs and seeds. Enjoy!

 

What's your favorite way to eat eggplant?