Cheap Meals Equals Cheap Health?
The first place people start to cut a budget is often on foods. If you think saving money by forgoing healthy foods for ramen noodles is your only option, it is not. It is critical to understand, your health can be affected by a poor diet, and poor health can mean illness. Once sick, you can lose more money than you saved, with doctor visits and lost wages from having to be off work. The bottom line is that being cheap can be bad for your health.
Learn to Cook Cheap Meals
A better option is to learn how to cook cheap meals at home on a budget and find budget friendly meals when you dine out. The first step is look at how you eat. Junk food is called junk food because you are eating empty calories and these are not often inexpensive foods. Now is a great time to cut back on the snack cakes and colas. As a rule, if you read a label and find more chemical mixes than names you know, leave that food on the shelf. Buy ice cream that reads, milk, cream, sugar, and use a coupon rather than buying a cheaper product.
A great place to start is eatingwell.com. Cook cheaply, but cook fast, easy and healthy foods. Read the recipes and make a grocery list from the meals you wish to try. Print off coupons, check store sales and shop when you are not hungry, to make the most of your shopping trip.
Healthy staples to keep on hand are rice, frozen vegetables, dried beans, pastas, sauces and chicken stock. Make your own supply of chicken stock and freeze to keep on hand. Need to learn how; there are several good sites on the internet to get you started. Here’s a video with some nice tips for eating healthy for less:
More Tips for Making Cheap Meals
Buy meat on sale and freeze or cook and freeze to have on hand. If you find whole chicken at rock bottom prices, bake as many at one time as you have freezer storage room for. It cost no more to bake six at a time as it does to cook one. Making more than one meal from a cut of meat will help stretch the food budget. Baked ham can be served with vegetables on Sunday, ham and macaroni cheese dish made from the left over ham can be frozen or eat it later in the week. Cook the ham bone with dried white beans. Take ham sandwiches to lunch, the more you stretch a bargain meat you find on sale, the further your money goes.
Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of healthy eating. Buy what is in season, as imported produce is more expensive. Shop smaller ethnic markets, the prices are usually lower than the bigger chain stores for in season produce. Farmer markets, pick and pay locations are other options. Freeze what you can or dehydrate fruits for snacks. Shop the frozen food vegetable isle. Due to the fast freezing process of frozen vegetables and fruits, you may find frozen seems fresher when thawed. Again use coupons for name brands and stock up when they are on sale.
Finding Cheap Meals Outside the Home
Everyone needs a break from making their own French fries and burgers at home. When it is time to eat out, do it wisely. Choose lunch meals out over dinner in expensive restaurants. Prices are usually lower. If you need to take the kids for pizza, choose pizza places with combination meals that include drinks for a low fee. Use coupons and ask about the current specials. Take home leftovers; never leave any food behind.
Choose fast food places with bargain or dollar menus. Choose a sandwich and skip the fries or share a few fries between the family. Fries are high in fat and calories, so this is a win, win to cut back. Choose water over soft drinks. Skip the milkshakes and make them at home. Not only are you controlling price, but you are assured that the drink you make at home has only top quality products.
The more you practice cooking, the more you will see you can eat at home for a much lower cost than you can when you eat out. Because of the savings, you can have a better quality of food. When you do need to eat out, take a few minutes to plan where you are going and what you want before you get to the restaurant. Make a plan and stick to it.
Food is an important part of our life. With a little careful planning it does not have to be a budget breaker. Plan and shop with the attitude that you are doing something positive for your body and budget. You will enjoy the cooking more when you know you are doing what is best for you and your family.
This post was contributed by a guest blogger.