Living Well on a Budget
by Kiki Athanas
August 12, 2019
As someone who spends wayyy too much at Whole Foods (wait - is that possible? The matcha was on sale though...) - I can't say I'm surprised when people associate healthy living and especially "healthy food" as more expensive than "usual". I mean, eating organic, farm fresh, and still super tasty and interestingly enjoyable is just going to be on the exspenny side - FACT.
Or, maybe, not always. At least that's what my friend Sarah Grossman, co-founder of Living Kitchen Wellness, likes to claim - and she's doing a pretty decent job of it, especially since launching her newest cookbook with co-author Tamara Green: The Living Kitchen.
The following is a guest post by Sarah herself, proving that we don't need to crack out the gold card in order to have holistically stellar meals on the daily.
When it comes to grocery shopping, it’s not always easy to stick to a budget when you also want to make sure you’re eating to support your health. There always seems to be a new popular superfood out there, claiming it’ll finally give you the energy you’re lacking, or make your digestion better or help you get that glowing skin. These health foods can be enticing and overwhelming, but when it comes to eating a healthy diet and balancing cost, there is one thing that I always recommend to my clients: stick to the basics of a healthy diet and keep it as simple as possible. You can still eat really well and stick to a budget without those superfoods. You don’t need to buy all that fancy stuff to be healthy.
Here are My Top 3 Strategies to Reduce Expenses Without Sacrificing Quality:
1. Buy in Bulk
You’ve probably heard this one before, but that’s because it’s true. Shopping at a bulk store is one of the best ways to reduce your overall cost (plus reduce all that waste from buying packaged foods). Things like dried beans (think: chickpeas, lentils, black beans) and grains (such as quinoa, rice, oats, flours) are all really affordable to buy in bulk.
When it comes to nuts and seeds, they can be really expensive when buying them in packages, especially nuts. But the best part about buying them in bulk is that you can measure out exactly how much (or how little) you want. That way you can be mindful of only spending a certain amount of money on nuts. Or, to keep it even more budget friendly, stick to seeds instead of nuts. Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are significantly less than nuts and still provide you with a wonderful source of healthy fat and protein.
2. Choose your produce wisely
I often buy produce based on what’s on sale and cheaper on the day I’m shopping. The cost of produce changes all the time, so pay attention and look for the sales. If you’re open to being creative, pick out the veggies with the best price points to use in your meal prep. For example, if you were planning on getting cauliflower but it costs $7 a head, skip it and perhaps go for a bunch of broccoli if it’s cheaper that day. I often find that produce is cheaper when it’s in season, such as fresh berries in the summer are usually cheaper (and easier to find) than in the winter time.
Buying frozen veggies or fruit can be a good option too, especially if the fresh version of something is out of season or really expensive. Frozen produce still contains the vitamins and minerals found in fresh produce.
Make sure you pay attention to the way produce is priced. Sometimes it’s by the pound (or kilogram) and sometimes it’s per head or bunch or package. Look for the best deal. For example, a 2 lb bag of carrots might be priced at a cheaper price-point than the loose carrots.
3. Give Canned Fish a Try
If you eat fish, then this tip is for you. I love making salmon patties or salads with canned fish because it’s one of the best ways to get lots of protein without having to pay the higher cost of buying filets of fresh fish. I always choose cans of wild-caught salmon or wild-caught tuna. It’s much less expensive than buying the fresh versions of those wild caught fish, but you’ll still get a clean, high quality source of protein.
Things We Need to Splurge On
There are 2 things that I always recommend to all of my clients when it comes to grocery shopping, quality and the most expensive items (the organics).
- In an ideal world we would all be able to afford organic produce- it’s higher in nutrients than conventional produce AND free of toxic pesticides. But, I know in reality, buying organic is not always possible.
- Follow the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list. This is a guide created by the Environmental Working Group to help consumers understand which produce they can save money on and buy conventional (because they have the least amount of pesticide residue) and which produce they should spend their dollars on getting organic (because their conventional versions have the highest levels of pesticides). For all the details, visit: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
- That being said, I still recommend buying conventional produce over no produce, if that’s all your budget allows for. Wash and scrub that conventional produce really well with water and always peel off the skin of anything that you can when it’s conventional.
Organic Animal Products
- If you’re an omnivore, you’ll want to allocate more money for purchasing poultry and meat than produce. Those items are always more expensive, especially when buying high quality animal products. And, you want to spend your money here. That’s because toxins, like chemicals and hormones are fat soluble and they are going to accumulate more in animal products than in plant foods (because plant foods don’t contain fat).
- If you can’t afford organic animal products, choose hormone and antibiotic free versions. Try to buy from small, local butchers and ask them where they get their meat and poultry. You’ll usually find better quality and humanely raised meats from independent butchers if larger grocery stores don’t always have those options.
And now for an easy, affordable recipe from The Living Kitchen cookbook:
Quinoa Tabouli with Tahini Lemon Zest Dressing
½ cup dried quinoa
1 cup water
2 cups flat leaf parsley, loosely packed and finely chopped
½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, finely diced
1 cup cucumber, finely diced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
Tahini Lemon Zest Dressing
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp sea salt
water to thin out, if needed
Combine the quinoa and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss all the vegetables in a large bowl.
Once the quinoa is cooked it should be fluffy and all the water will be absorbed. Take it off the heat and let it cool. You can put it in the fridge for 5 minutes to cool it down quickly.
Toss the quinoa together with the vegetables, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
Add 2-4 Tbsp of Tahini Lemon Zest Dressing on top of each serving, or more if you prefer.
These leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days.
Directions for Tahini Lemon Zest Dressing:
Whisk ingredients together until blended.
If the dressing is too thick, you can add a few spoonfuls of water until you reach your desired consistency.
Keep it an airtight container or jar in the fridge for 5 days.
Excerpted from The Living Kitchen by Tamara Green & Sarah Grossman. Copyright © 2019 Tamara Green & Sarah Grossman. Photography by Daniel Alexander. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Information about the cookbook and links to purchase: https://livingkitchenwellness.com/the-cookbook/