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Healthy Cooking on a Budget: Helpful Tips and Hints

It’s a beautiful Fall Sunday morning. The sun is out, children are laughing across the street at your local park, and people are out walking their dogs. You sit up in your bed and stare out the window at people going about their Sunday. Their presence reminds you that you too should be at ease today. As you lay back down in bed to collect your thoughts about the weekend, your phone goes off. It is an alarm you had set the night before reminding you to go grocery shopping in the morning. As you drag yourself out of bed and throw on your sweatpants, you come to the awful realization that food shopping is one of the best and worst experiences of being an adult. As a food enthusiast, you love food shopping. The sight of fresh, in-season produce excites you, and you begin to think of endless dish possibilities. Yet, when you reach for your debit card at the checkout, you remember that more than half of your paycheck has already been spent on rent and the six overpriced drinks you bought at the bar last night. Suddenly, you find yourself sacrificing the beautiful asparagus, wild caught salmon filet, and assortment of berries you have in your cart. The healthy meals and snacks you had planned for the week have been reduced to a pasta dish and Nutella sandwiches.

If you have ever had this experience, it can be quite frustrating and may discourage you from making healthy choices at meal time. However, eating healthily does not have to break your bank. These money saving tips can help you to eat well on a budget.

  1. Prices: Pay attention to prices. It sounds simple enough, but many people do not realize how much items cost until they get to the cash register. Try to buy fresh produce that is on sale and in season. Often, grocery stores will charge more for things that are not harvested in abundance that month. For example, blueberries and raspberries are not in season during the winter months and one small box may cost up to nine dollars. Knowing what to buy: In addition to paying attention to prices, it is also important to know what to buy. Root vegetables and starches are some of the cheapest fresh produce at the market. That means carrots, turnips, potatoes, yams, parsnips, onions, beets, and leeks are some of the least expensive items. These vegetables and starches are colorful and nutritious, and can be bought in bulk to make large quantities of food. These foods are also perfect for roasting and serve as great flavor carriers for soups and stews.

  2. The frozen aisle: The freezer aisle can be an area of contention for many health food consumers. We often think that a leisurely stroll to the frozen food section will only lead to unhealthy “Super-Size Me” type foods like fish sticks, fries, chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, and ice cream. However, if you are willing to sort through all of the unhealthy items, you will stumble upon frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are great because there is a variety, they are cheap, and they maintain their nutritional value. You can buy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas, asparagus, peppers, cauliflower, string beans, kidney beans, pearl onions, and carrots for half the price of fresh produce. Large supermarkets often have sales like two-for-one deals, so buy the vegetables in bulk to last.

  3. Use the cheapest cuts: For the carnivorous consumer, meat protein is the most expensive item on the bill. Knowing which kinds of meat to buy and their specific cuts is probably one of the most significant ways to cut down on spending. Different meats are more expensive than others. The more uncommon the animal in our everyday diet, the more expensive the price tag. Thus, buying meats such as chicken, pork, beef, and turkey will save money and provide good sources of protein. However, it is not enough just to know which kinds of meat are the least expensive. It is also important to know which cuts will give you the maximum quantity and flavor for the lowest price. When buying chicken, the thighs and drumsticks are less expensive than the breast. There is less meat on these bony cuts, but meat from this area is darker and more flavorful. Beef cuts such as chuck, flank, strip, and rump roast are packaged in large quantities for a low price. These cuts are often from joint areas of the cow and the meat can easily become tough if not given the proper amount of time to cook and become tender. Lastly, pork chops and tenderloin are one of the cheapest cuts of the pig that can be found in almost any supermarket. I love pork because the meat is sweet and flavorful on its own, yet, when combined with other ingredients, it absorbs other flavors beautifully.

These are not the only ways to eat well on a budget. I encourage readers to use the internet and other resources to acquire more tips on how to save money at the grocery store. If you personally have any money-saving tips, PLEASE comment in the comments section underneath this post--it is important to share knowledge with one another and make each other’s lives easier and healthier! Stay tuned next week for another article on the TriForce website :).

Lauren Vella

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