I used to say that it was expensive to eat healthy. And, it can be. But, the truth be told it doesn’t have to be. First off, the quality food may be more expensive, but, if you are eating according to dietary recommendations, you’re eating less of the expensive stuff (meats) and more of the cheaper stuff (fruits and veggies). I have learned as food prices go up and my tastes get more refined that I can cook great, healthy meals that are extremely tasty and attractive for much less than $75 a week. Now, I’m one person. And, honestly, I waste some of it, so if I was real thrifty I could probably eat even cheaper. When I say $75 a week, I mean most meals are eaten at home or brought to work. I eat out 2-3 meals a week. I prefer to eat at home because the quality is so much better. Today I went to one of my favorite places for lunch to get veggies, and I don’t know what happened, but it just wasn’t very good. The potato-eggplant parmesan had way too much grease, and I couldn’t finish it. In fact, I barely got started. I have much more control over how my food is prepared if I eat at home.
I also don’t spend a lot of time cooking. I’m pretty busy, so I try to buy lots of fruits and veggies, some frozen fish, tofu, beans and rice and high quality oils and seasonings. One of my favorite weekday meals is a veggie omelet. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and eggs and veggies are very healthy. Occasionally, I’ll top it with half an avocado or some high quality cheddar that I purchased at Whole Foods. It’s killer! Tonight, I used some fresh asparagus that I bought at Whole Foods, 1/2 plantain, some white cheddar cheese and sauteed it all in avocado oil that I got at Red Stick Spice Company. I used two yard eggs that I bought from my sister-in-law. The whole meal probably cost me $3-4 at the most. I’ve gotten 3 meals out of the pound of asparagus, and 2 eggs per omelet makes 6 meals out of a dozen eggs. I paid $3 for them. The cheese was $4.50, and I’ll get 6 meals out of that. It’s delicious comfort food, and I wanted it after I ran tonight.
I’ve eaten omelets the last couple of nights because I didn’t have time to cook anything else, but tonight I also made 3-4 meals in advance by combining coarsely chopped carrots, beets, red onions and cubed tofu and throwing it into the oven at 400 degrees. I chopped off the top of two heads of garlic so I have some roasted garlic to throw in whatever else I cook during the week, or I can use it on crackers for a snack. I tossed it all in some really nice extra virgin olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar from Red Stick Spice. I topped it off with fresh ground sea salt, cracked black pepper and Red Stick Spice’s Greek Island Blend. I’ll roast it all for about an hour. The tofu will pick up the flavors of everything else, and I’ll have a one pot meal that will be good for lunch, dinner and even breakfast if I throw a fried egg over it. Cost of each of those meals….. maybe $3-5 each. Tofu is the cheapest quality source of protein that I can find (about $1.69 for 3 servings), and I love it when it is chewy.
I know that none of these meals include meat, and a lot of people couldn’t do without their meat. But, I remember growing up in my family’s household. We had chicken on Sundays. Occasionally, we might share a chicken-fried steak or something like that, but we mostly had vegetables. We often didn’t have meat, and, when we did, it wasn’t the large servings of meat that we are accustomed to eating today. We couldn’t afford it. My Dad had a sportswriter’s salary, and he had 4 mouths to feed. Momma often cooked a chicken-fried steak and accompanied it with homemade milk gravy and toast. Luckily my PawPaw had a huge garden, and we had loads and loads of fresh veggies to accompany every meal. I don’t think there was ever a summer meal that didn’t have a plate of sliced onions, cucumbers and tomatoes sitting in the middle of the table. I have always eaten more vegetables than I have meat. I don’t miss it at all. In fact, if I do buy a steak, I buy a very good cut of beef, and I can usually make 2-3 meals out of one cut. 3-4 ounces of meat is all I really need for a meal, and sometimes that’s too much for me. Any extra that I eat is just padding for my ass.
This is just food for thought on some ways to cut back on the high price of eating healthy. I do get sticker shock every time I go into Whole Foods, but I just limit myself to those items that I have to buy there. I buy most of my fruits and veggies at Southside Produce, and I can get a whole week’s worth – and grocery cart full – for $25-$30. Plus they sell some local brands of dairy, frozen fruit for smoothies, beans and kettle corn which I eat instead of chips. It’s almost a one-stop shop for me. I go to specialty stores for my oil and seasonings, and, of course, they last a really long time. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning’s smoothie with greek yogurt, blackberries, mango and coconut milk.