Alright, ladies and gents, this is the last installment of my eating well on a budget series. In the last two articles, I've given tips and tricks for circumventing the "extra expense" and "extra time" elements that go into making eating well an intimidating prospect. Now I'd like to throw out some miscellaneous (excuse the pun...) food for thought: ways to get past your culinary prejudices and to make your good eatin' efforts even more effective.
Even if you don't like [insert veggie here], try preparing it a few different ways before you write it off.
Think of all the ways you can prep potatoes - each one tastes differently, has a different texture, and, well, most veggies are just as versatile. You're doing your body a disservice if you decide you don't like, let's say, broccoli just because you tried a piece of raw broccoli with ranch from a veggie plate five years ago and hated it. Which leads me to my next point:
Learn how to cook veggies properly.
After all, if you've only had cooked zucchini from a buffet line, you probably think all cooked zucchini is mushy, overly buttery, and pretty nasty. Not so. Steamed to an al dente texture, zucchini and summer squash with a little butter, salt, and pepper are something akin to heaven on a plate.
Those frozen steamer bags work like gangbusters!
If you're craving a fruit or veggie that's out of season, don't be afraid of the frozen food aisle. I've never tried the bags that include sauce, mostly because I'm terribly picky, but if you're just looking to steam your favorite foods, frozen steamer bags can definitely be the way to go. I love to use them whenever possible because they save time (just nuke 'em!), money (way cheaper than buy unseasonable produce), and effort (I don't have to worry about over- or under-cooking anything).
To eat healthier at lunch, brown bag it.
Healthy eating on a shoestring budget doesn't have to stop with dinner. Bringing a lunch is by far a cheaper and healthier option than buying out each day. Think about it: Panera (which I dearly love) is about $10 for a "you-pick-two" combo that may or may not be greasy or fatty. By comparison, a brown bag lunch that consists of a turkey sandwich, pretzels, seedless grapes, and a 100-calorie pack of cookies only costs about $2.50 or $3 at most.
Learn how to effectively read nutrition labels.
Even if you're doing everything else right as far as budget and prep go, you're not going to nail the "eating right" part unless you learn how to read a nutrition label. Calories aren't the only things to take into account - look for low fat and carb numbers, moderate to low sodium numbers, and high fiber numbers, among others. Also, serving size is essential; for instance, a cereal's nutrition stats may look great for a ¼ cup serving, but make it a more realistic serving size and you're looking at a nutritional black hole. For more info on label-reading, look here.
always have an open mind, let yourself have a culinary creative streak, and
most of all, have FUN with your food!
After all, I really think that if more people enjoyed eating well as much as my family and I do, America would have a much different silhouette.