Thursday, July 10, 2008

Healthy Food on a Budget

It would be easy to calculate that I spend too much money on food. Most of us probably do. It's easy to get busy and social and buy food when you're out, and spend too much when it is convenient. Add to the equation the fact that I work kitty corner from Whole Paycheck, and my lunches and snacks can add up quickly.

I've learned how to navigate Whole Foods and not feel like I'm spending an arm and a leg there:

Granola from the bulk section mixed with plain yogurt
Cheese and meat from the deli, mayo, mustard on crackers - like Wasa
Brown Rice from the hot food bar ($1.99/lb) mixed with cans of soup

These all are pretty easy for preparation too. Which is convenient while I'm at work.

I don't cook as much at home as I would like. The biggest reason for this is storage. Our fridge and freezer are always packed. I have one little section of cabinets for "my stuff." I can't load up on the basics and always have something. Too often, I'll think about what I have to eat at home and all I can think of is a can of beans and a box of mac n cheese. Not a whole lot to work with.

When I move, I'll have a lot more storage for both dry foods and frozen foods. It should be much easier to have a good supply of simple, cheap, healthy foods on hand.

My *hope* is to also do more preparation of things ahead of time and storing them (either in the freezer or in the fridge) in smaller containers. I have done this with uber-healthy stonecut oatmeal in the past (added almonds, protein powder and cranberries). It was great to wake up and eat a small, healthy portion. And it was even ok to eat cold - it reminded me of rice pudding that way!

The other staple food would be soups and stews. My Mom did this when we were growing up and it was great to come home and always know there was some soup in the freezer that could serve as dinner.

Does anyone have additional ideas for cheap, easy and healthy foods that are easy to eat for single-servings? I'd rather stay away from just ramen and frozen processed foods (though I'm sure I'll load up on some Trader Joe's goodness of the frozen variety.)

Here are some sites I've found that may prove to be good resources as well:

http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2006/06/01/healthy-food-on-an-unhealthy-budget/
http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/40dollarmenu.htm
http://www.cookingbynumbers.com/
http://www.realfood4realpeople.com/oamc.html

As L-Train has mentioned, I'm also intrigued in doing a spin-off of the "Once-a-Month Cooking" concept with friends. Basically, everyone could prepare a dish ahead of time and then package it in single-serving containers and swap. That way you're getting a greater variety of foods. Leftovers become a treat and not overly mundane.

4 comments:

Grounded Girl said...

I would be way into doing the shared food thing. It would be like Designed Dinners but with friends and free. Recipes are never designed for one person and I get tired of a dish after having it twice. This would be the perfect solution!

Kristen J said...

I have really good intentions about cooking, too, but it's hard (and expensive) to cook for one person. I keep wanting to make something from the website below but have been to lazy as of yet. I think you'd like the descriptions and pictures, and maybe even the mac and "cheese" recipe (tho you can make it with real cheese and skip the veganism).

www.101cookbooks.com/archives/000685.html

sandra said...

some healthy things i frequently think about doing, but don't usually follow through on:

-baking bread (regular loaves along with banana or even muffins)
-making a batch of homemade chili, soup, or spaghetti sauce

one thing i do eat that is healthy, easy and yummy is plain or vanilla yogurt with fresh or canned fruit and muesli. i prefer muesli to granola bc it's easier to chew.

good luck eating healthier -- especially after your move!

Grounded Girl said...

My latest innovation: buy a package of chicken, cube it, freeze it in individual foil packet portions placed in a larger ziploc bag. I did the same thing with the rice pilaf and Spanish rice I made this week. Take them out in the morning, put them in the fridge, ta dah! Dinner!

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