Selfcare Sunday: Eating Healthy On A Budget
On this Selfcare Sunday I really wanted to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart… eating healthy on a budget AND… food!
When I posted on Instagram a few weeks ago now, I got a number of questions about eating healthy on a budget – especially for young families, single parents and university students on a budget, not to mention those of you who are cooking for one (my favourite way to cook tbh).
I have to tell you, this is crazy important to me. For those of you who don’t know, my background is in nutrition and dietetics, with a specific focus on food insecurity and policy development. Yeah. That’s a handful of big words – but what it comes down to is the fact that I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated about “food deserts”, where our food comes from, how it can be accessible to those of us who need it most. This means understanding how and why we all choose to eat the foods we eat.
So, this Selfcare Sunday is dedicated to what I like to call, the 4$ meals (aka eating healthy on a budget).
I got this idea from a New York Times article a number of years ago on Leanne Brown. She is a rockstar Canadian now living in Brooklyn who wrote a cookbook called “Good and Cheap” while she was finishing up her studies. She believes “that everyone should eat great food every day. Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill.”
Sounds kind of what I say if you’ve ever been in my office, isn’t it?
When I’m talking about eating well (and you know I’m talking about eating healthy on a budget), I don’t mean spending a ton of money on weird ingredients (as my mama lovingly says) – eating well means buying food in bulk when you can, knowing that it won’t be wasted, and knowing how to stretch food into 4 meals. And yes, it really does mean learning to cook.
Yes, I know that there are far more areas we need to have this discussion in. The Social Determinants of Health recognize that our medical system spends the largest proportion of health care dollars on just one of the determinants. Good health isn’t just access to good health care; good health is understanding transportation, understanding financial freedom, understanding genetics, gender and family status.
But here in Nova Scotia, we have more access than you might think. Farmer’s markets around almost every corner, and they tend to be cheaper than the stores. Canned foods that have more nutrient density than fresh during the winter. And making the right choices when buying foods. This is eating healthy on a budget.
You might be saying “Geeze, Dr. Ash – you’re saying a lot, but you’re not giving me a ton of at-home-problem-solving skills”. Truth. So here are some quick ones you should try your darnedest to follow.
Buy dark leafy greens like Kale and Bok Choy instead of Lettuce or Spinach. The first 2 can last for 2-3 weeks in your fridge and are more nutrient dense than the latter 2.
Buy dried beans and legumes and let them soak for 24 hours before cooking with them. Then boil them for 30 minutes before adding them to chills, soups, stews (to ward off the farts).
Buy in season and local, then preserve and can. Stock up on onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, beets, etc at this time of year and store them in a cool dark place. They’ll last for months if stored correctly.
Invest in individual herbs and spices instead of mixes – try buying one new one every 2-3 weeks.
Stop buying soda and juice. They’re not nutrient dense enough, they’re not worth the nutrient intake and they blow your budget. If you want to flavour your water freeze cucumbers, mint leaves and berries when in season and use them throughout the year.
Ask your local naturopathic doctor (hi!!) or medical professional versed in cooking on a budget for help on what to buy, when to buy and where to buy. Ask Ask Ask.
Make the recipes from Leanne’s book. The PDF of it is free, and available for download here. And you should totally download it – it’s saved on my desktop (it’s one of 3 things on my desktop) — that’s how much I use it myself.
<3 Dr. Ash