Sunday, March 1, 2009

10 Ways to Eat Healthy in an Economic Crisis

Have you found yourself using the economic crisis as an excuse for eating food that's not good for you?

Good news: You don't need to sacrifice your health and culinary happiness to save money. Here are some suggestions for keeping up your healthy lifestyle under economic pressure.

1. Cook! Do you know that when you buy a meal at a restaurant, you usually pay more than three times what you would pay at the grocery store? Restaurants have to charge more to cover costs like food preparation and service. Why not be your own chef and waiter this week? Be sure to lavish praise on the brilliant chef and tip yourself too! Save up your "tip money" to buy something that was outside of your strict downsized budget.

2. Eat your veggies. Substituting vegetable protein for meat protein is a super-cool way to achieve many admirable goals with one delicious swing. You'll likely increase your nutrition intake, lose any unwanted pounds, save your bucks and help save the environment! Eating meat from grain-fed animals raises the prices of grains to levels that many people who depend on grains for their survival cannot afford. Raising animals for eating also creates pollution, both from the animals themselves and from raising the grain that they are fed. Finally, vegetables are generally much cheaper than meat and packed full of complex carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

3. Make your own favorites. Have an expensive snack or specialty item that you can't live without? Try making it yourself! If you do, it will probably be healthier and cheaper. I make my own muesli, kefir and gluten-free breads. They are more delicious and much cheaper than the store-bought items available.

4. Be thrifty! Do the environment a favor by recycling consumer products and save money by purchasing your cooking tools and appliances at thrift stores. I regularly visit thrift stores in Bloomington for bread machines, juicers, mixers, bakeware, pots, pans, you name it! I even found an antique nutmeg grinder the other day. I know about five thrift stores in Bloomington: The Salvation Army, Goodwill (two locations, east and west), Opportunity House and Backstreet Missions. Please let me know if there are any that I missed!

5. Share expenses. If you live alone and cooking for yourself doesn't seem like an efficient use of your time or money, consider sharing some meals with co-workers or friends who have similar tastebuds. You can take turns cooking whole meals for the group or make it a pot-luck and each bring just one dish. Sharing cooking duties will save you time, money and make meals and cooking a more enjoyable experience.

6. Eat what's in season. Buying what's in season in the grocery store or at the local farmer's market will help cut down on your food costs. An added perk is that if you eat what's in season, you will have more variety in your diet. Do you love nature? Follow a hike in the woods on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with a fresh herb salad topped with sauteed wild mushrooms and wild garlic! Investigate what local treasures are growing right beneath your feet and in your yard -- you may find that you love some of those unappreciated culinary beauties.

7. Shop locally. Buying locally grown foods are a wonderful way to save money, improve your community and help the environment. By buying local, you can find exquisitely fresh, organically raised food handed to you buy a smiling and familiar face, all the while saving money by not buying food that has been transported thousands of miles and sprayed with pesticides.

8. Watch sales. Become a bargain hunter and always shop with price in mind. Instead of entering the grocery store armed with a list, plan your meals based on what's on sale. This takes a little planning and some ingenuity, but it makes for meals that are more spontaneous and fun. It will also increase the variety in your diet, and therefore your nutrient intake.

9. CSA's If you have a few people at home to feed, then becoming a member of a CSA, Consumer-Supported Agriculture, may help you to save money and enjoy delicious local produce during your local growing season. CSA's are small farms that sustain themselves by local "members" who pay a monthly or yearly fee for regular deliveries of produce during the growing season. Most CSA's are organic and some will deliver right to your door!

10. Grow Your Own. Are you nuts about organic greens and herbs but not about the prices? It only takes 6 square feet of garden space to grow as much basil, arugula, gourmet lettuce, parsley, dill, chives, mint and cilantro as you can eat from May through October or later. Here's a tip to keep things simple: Buy bunches of those little seed packets of Mesclun salad mix or some other mix of gourmet lettuces. Sow them directly into the ground instead of starting them in little cups as the instructions suggest, and a few weeks later, harvest already-mixed salad by the handfuls!

Hopefully, you are now convinced that you can continue eating healthy without breaking your budget. If you would like some advice on how to find any of these resources in your area, please contact us at

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