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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Eating Healthy on a Budget

If you have been following this blog for any length of time you will know I often bring economics into consideration especially when it comes to home canning. The reason I do this is to show that home canning can be one way to save on food costs while putting wholesome, healthy foods on the table. In today's economy of cost of living coupled with increasing unemployment it doesn't take long for the conversation to turn to the rising cost of food. Those recently unemployed or on fixed incomes are especially hit hard with rising food costs. I found this good video on YouTube for eating healthy on a budget. Please take a few minutes to view the video for some very useful tips that are all sure fire ways of reducing your food costs. A point form synopsis of the video and my comments follow the video.

Eat Healthy on a Budget Tips
  1. buy raw ingredients and cook at home instead of eating out
  2. use coupons
  3. frequent farmer's markets
  4. don't buy conveniently packaged processed foods
  5. buy in bulk
  6. eat foods that are in season
  7. plan your menu then form a grocery list from your menu
  8. buy whole foods
I have practiced all of these methods with the exception of menu planning except for special occasions and entertaining. Menu planning does not work for me for day to day cooking because I have a very well stocked large, walk-in pantry pantry with 2 full freezers. I cook from my pantry so there really is no need for a menu. I keep a running grocery list of items I need as I get low on them then shop only when needed. It works for us. Coupons also do not work well for us because here in Ontario the coupons tend to be for expensive non-food items we don't use anyway and the stores never double or triple coupons. However, at one time my husband was the coupon king when we shopped for groceries more in the US. He once managed to get $200 worth of groceries for $15 which was his top record. Now even when shopping in the US we very seldom bother with coupons but that is not to imply that coupons don't save money when used properly. I would suggest joining a coupon exchange group to get the coupons you will use. There are also online sources where you can get coupons sent to you for products you use.

Many folk think that cooking is time consuming and inconvenient. Cooking does not need to be either! Personally I think driving to a fast food restaurant and standing in line for inferior quality food is more time consuming and inconvenient as well as being environmentally unfriendly. In the length of time it takes to go through a drive through you can easily put a nutritious, healthy meal on the table at a fraction of the cost and while it is cooking have a bit of time to unwind. Don't forget that you can have a wonderful meal without cooking at all or minimal cooking like frying bacon. Think outside of the box and you will find many great sandwich and salad meals that require no or minimal cooking. When you use these meal ideas you realize not only a savings on the cost of the food but also on the preparation costs and let's face it even though it's not often considered the electricity or gas used to prepare a meal is part of the overall cost of the meal. Pre-cut vegetables when you bring them home from the grocery store for quick starts during the week. Keep packages of pre-cooked seasoned or unseasoned ground beef and chicken strips in the freezer for those days you don't have time to do a lot of cooking. For more quick start meal ideas check this blog's archives. Make your own convenience foods and can or freeze them for more savings.

I mentioned before the average food travels 1,500 miles from farm to table. During that time and the time you use the food it is losing nutritional value. I cannot stress enough that one of the best ways to reduce food costs is to have a home garden. Supplement with produce from your local farmer's market or farm stands if at all possible. At the very least keep a window sill garden of fresh herbs and a couple of pots of leaf lettuce, spinach or Swiss chard. Sprouting your own beans is a very easy way to add more nutrition to salads and sandwiches.

Something not mentioned in the video was shopping the sales but it was mentioned to only buy what is on your grocery list. I disagree with buying only what is on your list because some grocery stores have unadvertised in store specials and reduced for quick sale specials. I shop the sales but only for those things I know we will use then I buy enough to last until that item goes on sale again. For example, dry pasta is currently on sale and I know it goes on sale this time of the year every year but it also goes on sale in the spring. So figuring on 2 pasta meals per week at 2 meals per package I need 52 packages for the year. I bought half that amount that will get me to the next good sale on pasta. At one time making stops at multiple stores to cherry pick the sales was another food dollar saving strategy. However, with the current price of gas unless the grocery stores are located within close distance to each other preferably on a route you normally take (eg. on the way home from work) it is no longer cost effective to do this.

If you follow the tips on the video along with some of the tips I've mentioned you can pare a significant amount of money from your food bill while eating healthier foods!

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