Can't afford to be healthy? Nonsense!

Did you know that little $3 cup of gourmet coffee is costing you more than the whopping 370 calories and 48 carbs for the "tall" (small) size? If you only drink one three times a week, that's $432 a year, and do we need to discuss the carbs? I have heard so many people say they can't afford to eat healthy. You can afford to eat healthy when you cut out some of the little expenses that you don't even realize are affecting your budget.

But for some people, they've already cut out luxuries like coffee out and meals out. How can they make cut out even more "fluff" to make the room financially for healthy eating? Here are a few ideas:


1)  Drink only water. Juices, sodas and the like are expensive and can really kill your grocery budget. If you prefer bottled water, get an inexpensive water filtration system from a big box store—no, not "perfect" but it will certainly take most of the stuff out of the tap water you don't want to drink. Prefer some flavor? Buy el cheapo Kool-aid packets and use Splenda instead of sugar. I re-use water bottles, freezing a little in the bottom overnight, then adding the rest before I rush out the door. Voila1 Flavored water for pennies. Need to go even cheaper? I use the same artificial flavors I keep around for baking. Vanilla is delicious as a flavoring for water.

2)  Eat beans and rice. Dried beans and brown rice, prepared from scratch is CHEAP. Don't have time? Cook it up on the weekend or your days off when you do have time, freeze it and use it at least 1 or more times a week for a healthy meal. Brown rice and beans can stretch a meal to double the size. I make and serve it separately, since I can't have it with a LapBand, but the guys happily eat all I give them. I make a lot of rice at once and freeze it flat in gallon-sized ziplock bags. That equals just about what the guys can consume for a meal. It stacks well in the freezer, ready for use.

3)  Plan your meals. 'Nuf said on that one! You HAVE to plan. Be flexible enough if there is a sale or unexpected great purchase at the grocery store to take advantage of it, but a general plan is imperative. Go ahead. I dare you. Save your receipts from your non-planned shopping as you do now for one week. (Yes, all of them, even the midnight runs.) Plan your meals and make a specific grocery list based on what you need only for one month. Save those receipts. Compare the difference.

4)  Make soups. You can make some crazy soups out of leftovers! Once I had some taco meat leftover and a bag of frozen vegetables and that was about it in my fridge! I added chopped onion and chicken broth, crushed tortilla chips over the top and called it Tortilla Soup. The kids loved it! I still make Pot Liquor Stew (saved "juice" from vegetable sides, stored in one container in the freezer, layer upon layer, adding in bones and leftovers from beef roasts and steaks) as a free meal at least once a month.

5)  Try new spices. They can spice up even the most bland stuff. I find them inexpensively at the big box stores, in the produce dept. and in the ethnic section of my grocery store as well. I have also bought them for pocket change at the health food store; you scoop your own!


6) Grow your food. No, you don't have to spend a fortune or even break into a sweat! Save seeds from what you already buy, like green peppers, tomatoes, and melons. Share seeds with friends in a seed exchange. Instead of a formal garden of rows and rows, tuck your seeds in pots or established beds. One zuchinni plant will more than feed a family, and a few pepper plants will do nicely tucked among the roses. I trained my pumpkin to grow on my chain link fence, and I'm saving pantyhose to provide a sling for the pumpkins when they start. (It's only May!) I did this one year and had three lovely pumpkins in their ever-expanding hammocks to harvest that fall. Believe me, it works! Nice part was, I didn't have a flat spot from where the pumpkins I bought from the store had sat on the ground. You can start this at any season of the year, too. Here in Florida, it's time to plant the fall harvest vegetables like pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, and (my favorite for the delicious ugly duckling award) Hubbard squash. This winter, I'll grow herbs indoors in pots as well as my eventual spring garden of lettuces and set them out next spring to enjoy all this wonderful sunshine. Container gardening can be done by anyone with a balcony or patio, even apartment dwellers. I hear rooftop gardens are springing up even in New York City.

Lena Austin



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