Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Start off by knowing when and where to buy the cheapest produce without sacrificing quality!
Hello, lovelies! This has been a series in the making for me, and I’ve finally gotten around to putting my thoughts together for it! As you all know, I’m a graduate student, which means my income is far from epic. I also try eating healthy as much as possible due to health issues, but sometimes it seems overwhelming, and as if there’s no way one can eat healthy meals and good food without spending a fortune. Right? Well, that myth is what I’m here to break.
Sure, it’s easier to buy ramen noodles at 15 cents a cup, but that’s really not good for your body. Fruits and veggies sound wonderful, but what if you don’t like the really cheap ones? And what about if you want meats? Or cheese?!? Is Julie going to want me to sacrifice my yummy food for diet food?!? Oh, heaven’s no! I myself love food of all types, and I’m not here to talk about a diet. Take a deep breath. Don’t start stressing out. I’m here to talk about healthy living, and that is all about nutrition and eating right for your body, not crazy diets!
Today, I want to go over what to buy, where you can find it for cheap, and some quick storage tips so you can eat healthy food on a budget, as well as buy local! To keep this post from getting too long, let’s just talk about fruits and veggies!
Bananas can be found throughout the year at most grocery stores. My favorite place to buy them is at a local farmer’s market. Some of them will move their older produce to a ‘clearance’ section to reduce waste, and I can get 10 or so bananas for $1. What a steal, especially with how often I eat them! Check your local markets for places like that.
If you don’t have access to that, bananas are luckily still pretty cheap anyway. Although these are one of my favorite healthy foods to eat, they typically don’t last as long. Bananas can last a week or so out on the counter. My favorite storage tip? Once you buy your fruit, especially quick spoiling fruit, wash, dry, prepare, and freeze at least half of it. That way, you do not waste fresh produce, and it can be used in smoothies, yogurts, or even baked goods later. Check my post here for freezing tips.
Via Medical Daily
Oh berries, how do I love thee? I keep a pretty nice stockpile of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries in my freezer all the time. This type of fruit is where my freezer tips really come in handy. Berries may last 4-5 days in the fridge, but last for several months in the freezer. You can find most berries year-round at chain grocery stores; however, berries are cheaper when in season over the summer. Especially strawberries and blackberries, which are my favorite healthy snacks!
Apples are great because of how long they keep. They can stay fresh on the counter for several weeks! Also, you know an apple a day keeps the doctor away! There are tons of varieties of this nutritious food, and some are very pricey per pound, so it can be a little daunting. The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of apple you like. More tart, more sweet, something in the middle.
This handy chart can help you pick the flavor of apple that’s right for you! Most apples are cheapest in late summer and fall, when they are in season. They don’t really freeze well, but luckily some varieties are cheap all year.
Via Restaurant Girl
Citrus can last on the counter for weeks. So, if you love oranges, you are in luck! Summer and fall are when these fruits are in season, so stock up then. That’s when they’ll be the cheapest everywhere. You can freeze these, or juice them. I usually juice them and make little ice cubes. Perfect for tossing into a smoothie, or adding to a recipe. I also sometimes keep some zest and freeze it too. Not only does this make the citrus easy to add to healthy dishes, but you can use it for cleaning too!
Pitted fruits can last a week or so in the fridge, and luckily most of them will freeze! Be sure to actually remove the pits before freezing them, or you’ll have some problems later trying to remove said pit from the frozen fruit. Summer is again one of the best times to buy these, since they are in season, but you can sometimes find them for a really good price throughout the year.
Mangoes have become one of my favorites, and I can get them for a good price even in the dead of winter. I’ll also toss in avocados here. They can be cheap all year, but a cool thing? You can freeze them. Game changer! Once frozen, they can be thawed and used in guacamole or other healthy snack ideas. They are also good in smoothies. Who knew?
Via Raw Food Life
Different greens can vary in cost depending on where you live, and if there is a call for local markets in your area. My sister in San Francisco can get greens for super cheap at one of the markets there (I’m not jealous or anything). My favorite greens to keep in stock at my place are things like spinach, arugula, and kale. I can put these in my morning smoothie. So, before the greens wilt too much, I rinse and dry them and then freeze them for smoothies.
Other greens I keep are hearts of romaine, which I can find for very cheap in bulk stores. I have learned that when preparing these, if you wash, dry, and tear the lettuce, it will keep longer than if you cut it. Then, store all greens in enclosed containers that allow some air flow around the leaves. I have these containers, but you can also use regular containers with crumpled paper towels or even plastic canvas at the bottom. If air can go all around the leaves, they will take longer to spoil, thus, keeping it fresher, longer.
Bonus healthy eating tip: Before serving, dunk the lettuce for a few minutes in ice water, or pack in a healthy lunch next to the ice pack. The shock of the cold will crisp up the leaves!
Via Modern Farmer
Root veggies are more healthy food choices that last a long time. You can find these for pretty cheap all year long. If you have access to a bulk store like Sam’s or Costco, use your membership for items like this. Toss an apple in with your potatoes to help them stay eyeless longer. Carrots can be kept in the fridge for a long time if you wash, cut, and enclose them in a baggie or container with a little bit of water. Do not dry them before packaging, or they’ll, well, dry out.
Sweet potatoes are my favorite to buy, and they can be very cheap. I tend to buy these local, because I know I’m getting the best price. Check out your local markets and grocery stores for the best prices. Beets and onions are the same. Plus, beets freeze super well, and add great flavor and color to smoothies!
There are a lot of other veggies, but I’ll just give a short snippet on those or it’ll take you 10 days to read this post! Tomatoes are another summer and fall veggie, as are peppers. Both do better on the counter. If they start getting squishy, make a tomato or pepper sauce out of them and preserve them. Cucumbers should be kept in the fridge, uncut. They’ll last longer that way. They are cheap year-round, but sometimes you find even better deals over the summer. Zucchini and squash? Same. Broccoli and cauliflower? Same thing, but you can also freeze them after blanching. For tips on fresh herbs, check out my post here.
Well, there you have it! A crash course on produce, when it's in season, and some storage tips! Next, I’ll tackle other staple items like meat, dairy, and grains. What did you think of this post on tips for healthy eating? Do you think it will help you eat healthy food on a budget? Are you interested in recipes? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this with your family and friends. Stay creative, my friends!
**Featured image via Hart's Local Grocers