When our family was on a Special Diet, we were also experiencing a time of job insecurity and a lot of unknowns that caused a lot of stress on our family. Eating healthy does not need to be stressful. Let's face it, stress is bad for your health and can be the root cause of many health problems. Here are 10 tips that my family implemented to lower our stress and stretch our food budget.
1. Buy Organic (when you can afford to)- This one may surprise you coming from a health revolutionist such as myself. Quite simply, we couldn't afford organic everything, so I bought what I could and didn't stress about the rest. We bought our meat products organic or from a local farmer and I only bought fruits and veggies organic when I could afford it.
2. Meal Plan. I know you've heard this one before, right? Well, it works. If it's too stressful or time is an issue, spend a little time now and plan out your menu for the next 3 weeks. Then rotate it. 3 weeks of planning and then you are done. Organize a new menu when the seasons change to add variety.
3. Beans, beans, the musical fruit...you know the rest. Beans are an excellent way to eat less meat and save BIG. Soaking your own beans and cooking them can save you even more. I cook mine in bigger batches and freeze in 2 cup portions so that I can use them as needed.
4. Buy Popcorn (the old fashioned kind) instead of chips. Popcorn made on the stove is healthy, inexpensive, and easy. We use coconut oil and add sea salt and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. It's a great way to get your chip-lover in the house to have a healthier option.
5. Buy produce that is in-season. During the summer, we stock up on fruits and berries and freeze them for the coming months. This will also help you have some variety all year long.
6. Soups. Soups and more Soups. There is no doubt that soup was made to be stretched and you can feed an army with it. If your family is reluctant, start out with some soup recipes that may be a little more familiar to them. My kids love to eat "Meatball Soup" or "Taco Soup" because it is something familiar.
7. Make your own Pizza for Pizza night. Everyone needs to have a Pizza night every now and then. Making your own is not only healthier, but much less expensive and can be altered to accomodate almost any special diet.
8. Grow your own. This not only cuts cost, but also gives you control over pesticides and herbicides. Not only is it a great way to teach your kids where their food comes from, but it is proven that kids that grow their own fruits and vegetables EAT more fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to grow your own food from your deck, in the back yard, or even indoors these days.
9. No time for growing? Shop Farmer's Markets at the end of the day. An hour before closing time is just about the perfect time. This is when the sellers may be looking to unload as much as possible so you may even find that they give you a little extra.
10. Recycle your food and use your leftovers. Roasted chickens are my all time favorite for this. We roast a chicken at the beginning of the week and typically get at least 3 more meals from it by making bone broth, and then some kind of soup or casserole with the left over chicken and any leftover vegetables.