It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, which I hope to change soon. In the meantime, I want to share with you something that’s been on my mind a lot lately – balance.
Namely financial balance. At the moment Doug is still looking for work, and we’re doing alright on just my salary, but it’s taking some effort and is forcing me to confront some of my spending habits. Particularly the habits that have to do with food.
My two priorities for food often contradict one another: eat whole, chemical free foods, and stay within a budget. The trouble is that pasture-raised hormone-free meats cost 2-3x as much as the chemical-laden sickly stuff. The same goes for gluten-free whole food pasta, “natural” nut butter, non-dairy milk, etc. The two main types of food blogs I frequent seem incongruous, using either luxurious whole foods or bare bones budget basics. But how does one combine these ideals into foods that keep us both happy *and* healthy?
I’m still working on the solution to this question, but there are a few things I’ve figured out along the way:
- Avoid prepared/processed foods. They are always more expensive and often more chemical-laden than their unprocessed alternatives. This means more quinoa, less quinoa pasta, more carrots, fewer crackers, and more homemade vinaigrette, less prepared dressing.
- Stretch out expensive foods. Get more bang for your buck by using expensive meats etc. as flavor enhancers instead of the main event. We bought a pound of pastured, hormone-free ground bison this weekend (for $9, woah) and sauteed it with mushrooms (which were on sale) and onions to give it some bulk. We then used it as filling in 2 large veggie-ful lasagnas, further stretching that precious (delicious) meat!
- Eat more beans. Dried beans are super cheap and healthy. On the weekend I cook up a batch of chickpeas and black beans then freeze them for easy use throughout the week. When they’re ready and available we tend to eat more of these little powerhouses.
- Avoid temptation. This should be my mantra. If you have a soft spot for fancy cheeses (guilty!), don’t set foot in the cheese monger. If you’re anything like me, avoid markets like Whole Foods unless you’re prepared to splurge. And whatever you do, don’t browse the fancy chocolates…
- Sales, sales, sales. I’ve gotten good at planning our meals based on what’s on sale (or which coupons I’ve got). I’ve saved an average of $25 per shopping trip by taking advantage of discounts, which always feels like victory to me! I’ve even started emailing companies who make foods I like, and have gotten loads of coupons in return.
- Pack a lunch. Homemade is always cheaper and generally healthier. Not living in NY has been helpful from this angle – there aren’t nearly as many tempting restaurants in our new neighbourhood (at least not that we’ve found yet). I’ve been on a salad kick for work lunches, with a big bin of greens, prepped veggies, a batch of homemade dressing, and sprouted lentils, roasted chickpeas or canned tuna for a ready-to-go protein punch.
- Eat what you’ve got. It’s so tempting to buy “just a couple more” items when I run to the store for the missing ingredient in a recipe. More often than not, if I just take a minute to be creative, I can find a substitute in our own kitchen. If not, a different recipe will probably do.
Trying to keep with number 7, my goal for next week is not to do any grocery shopping. We have tons of food in our cupboards and freezer and could probably survive a month without shopping, but for now I’ll try a week. When I implored Doug to help me stay on track, he gave me a wary look and called me “a bit of a steamroller. But a cute steamroller!” When it comes to food, I can’t say he’s wrong! But here’s to hoping I can keep that steamroller moving in the right direction.
Do you have any tips or tricks for eating well on a budget? I’d love to hear them!