With escalating costs of food, it may seem like eating healthy is a challenge. Even eating out comes with added taxes and is more expensive than before. However, eating healthy has its benefits, we need to learn how to navigate around these increasing costs while still getting healthy calories.
These suggestions can help:
1. Plan your meals ahead so you are not left wondering what you need to cook after you come home. It also helps you stay organized while shopping, this way you only buy what you need for the following week. Make sure you finish left-over food and take stock of the vegetables you already have available. Plan your grocery list accordingly and pick up only what you need. This helps you making unnecessary and unhealthy purchases, which can help you save money. It also prevents food wastage.
2. Although home-made meals involve time to cook and prep, in the long run, you end up saving and eating healthier. When you eat out, you do not have control over the way food is cooked and the ingredients being added (salt, oil and sugar). Healthy food, saves you costs in the long run as it keeps you away from problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. This in turn reduces medical costs.
3. Do not hesitate to use leftovers in innovative ways. Left over chapathis and sabji from dinner can be made in to rolls for the next day’s lunch. Salad vegetables can be added to curd for a healthy raita. Cooking extra portions of rice, daal or sabji can help you save time and eat healthy.
4. Buy whole foods such as lentils and pulses. These can be made in a myriad number of ways and are good sources of protein and fiber. They also have a long shelf life, so when they are on sale you can stock up! Whole grains like wheat flour, jowar, ragi etc. can be used in both breakfast and lunch dishes. Eggs are another kitchen staple that are cost effective, easy to cook and provide healthy nutrients like protein, Vitamin B12 and D. Oats are heart healthy and can be used to make porridges or upma. They are heart healthy as they contain soluble fiber called Beta- glucans, this helps lower bad cholesterol.
5. Fruits in season, are relatively lower in cost. Other fruits are available throughout the year. While some fruits are cheaper than others, keep shuffling between various kinds, so you get a balance of nutrients.
6. You can buy and store hardy vegetables like onions, potato, sweet potato, carrots etc. These tend not to get spoilt soon.
7. Try going to a bigger whole-sale vegetable market. Vegetables and fruits are always cheaper and fresher in such markets.
8. Dairy products like milk and curd can be used along with meals for protein and calcium. Curd can also be prepared at home to save on costs.
9. In a supermarket look for generic brands, these tend to cost lesser than premium branded items. The grains, daals and pulses kept in bins (sold lose, not packed under any brand) sometimes come cheaper than packaged varieties.
10. During festivals or at other times during the year, stores offer discounts. This is a good time to stock up on dry food items and staples that have a longer shelf life. When well stored, they can be used over a period of a few months.
11. Try alternate sources of protein. Limit on non-vegetarian protein and try proteins like daals, lentils, soy bean, paneer, curd etc. These are relatively cheaper and contain a good amount of protein, fiber and nutrients, minus unhealthy fats. Protein is a good option to stretch meals since it helps in keeping one feeling full. If you do opt for non-vegetarian sources like chicken, it works cheaper if you buy a whole chicken and get it cut, rather than buying individual pieces of specific cuts.
12. If you have a large family, it is cost effective to buy groceries in bulk. This works well for grains and dry pulses and legumes.
13. Avoid junk foods. Although easily available, junk foods are not actually cheap. For the price of a packet of chips or namkeen you can even buy a kg or two of fresh fruits or vegetables. In the long run, these healthy choices will strengthen and nourish your body, so you reap positive results in the future.
14. Schedule grocery trips and plan ahead. Some retail stores offer good discounts and have competitive pricing. Look out for newspaper advertisements and flyers that advertise sales or weekend discounts. Ask around if there is a scheduled day for a farmer’s market in your area. On this day, farmers bring their produce to sell. If you go towards closing time, you may get vegetables and fruits at a cheaper price, since they will be anxious to sell the last of their produce.
15. If you have place for a small garden, try and grow vegetables and herbs like mint. This ensures a fresh, organic and constant supply of vegetables as and when you need them.
You do not need to burn a hole in your pocket to eat healthy and nutritious food. All it takes is some time, planning and preparation to ensure that you buy healthy foods at reasonable prices. Junk foods and snacks offer no nutritive value and can lead to health problems. Even if healthy eating is expensive now, you will save in the long run in terms of medical costs and drugs. Put in that perspective, it is important we make a conscious effort to eat healthy, even if you are on a tight budget.
With inputs from: