Time for another edition of Trainer Tough Love, since it’s been a little while. Both a conversation with a coworker and a recent tweet inspired today’s post.
In both my personal experience and in working with clients, I would say lack of knowledge and cost are the two most common perceived barriers to eating healthier foods. Knowledge will happen gradually, over the course of these articles (I hope!), but let’s break down cost. I have a pretty blunt opinion on this and half is the title of this article:
Eating healthy isn’t difficult or expensive, your idea of it is.
Do the prep work yourself.
While buying healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, it does take a little more planning up front than simply wandering through the grocery store. Many of the “healthier” options require more prep upfront because they aren’t prepackaged and processed as easily or as cost effectively. As a result, when you do buy them prepackaged, there is a high cost associated with it.
A good example is beans; I’m going to use chickpeas for this example since they’re some of my favorites. 5-15oz. cans of chickpeas (2.5 pounds) is about $5.00. In comparison, one pound of dried chickpeas yields about 2.5 pounds of edible beans and costs roughly $2.50. That’s HALF the cost for the same amount of beans.
Of course, the trade-off is the prep work. Dry beans take quite a bit of time to cook. However, they can be done about 2-3 hours on high in the crockpot. No supervision required! They can also be frozen after you cook them, so you don’t have to eat beans for every meal before they go bad. To me, it’s almost a no brainer, despite the added prep time.
In addition to single item sales, make sure you look at a variety of grocery stores! Many stores have their weekly flyers available online. By simply going to a different store for a handful of things, you may be able to save a few bucks. This is especially true for produce in the winter months, if you live in a colder state. By grabbing it right before it’s not able to be sold, you’re helping the store clear their shelves and saving money in the process!
Also, something I’ve recently started noticing when the stores get the restock of certain items, meats especially. If you can catch it at the right time, you’ll save $3-5 on a pack of chicken breasts simply because they cannot be sold after the following day. If you buy it, portion it into single or double servings, and freeze it, you’ll be able to pull it out a little bit at a time without worrying about whether or not it will go bad before you have a chance to eat it.
In the warmer months, depending on where you live, there’s likely at least one farmer’s market. By purchasing local foods, you’re not only supporting local farmers but you’re cutting out the middle man and saving yourself some cash in the process. Especially for fruits and veggies, I find it hard to beat both the quality and price at the local farmer’s market!
It’s not only for fruits and veggies. Many times, there are fresh eggs, meats, cheeses, etc. These items may be more expensive than you’d find at a grocery store, but the quality is much higher. They’re often more nutrient dense, processed with less or no hormones, and taste better. If you can build it into your budget, it’s worth the splurge.
Stay away from trends.
This is the trap of healthy eating. Protein bars and shakes. Kale chips. Lower calorie ice cream. The designated “natural” isles at the grocery store are lined with foods toting high price tags. I think this is where some of the discrepancy arises. While these are fun to try and throw in every once in a while, to incorporate them into your everyday meals can add up. Save the trendy, fun foods for special occasions or for a quick grab-and-go if you’re traveling.
Watch your waste.
One of the most annoying things about eating more veggies is how quick they go bad! I feel like every day I open my fridge, I need to make a giant salad just to use up the spinach. Over the years, two tricks I’ve learned are to buy some veggies frozen or repurpose and reuse fresh ones.
Frozen veggies, even though they may not have the same texture, are just as nutritious! If you’re looking to limit yourself to one grocery trip per week, add in some frozen veggies for those meals at the end of the week when the fresh ones are gone or risk being rotten. Frozen veggies can also be purchased in bulk to save some pennies.
I’ve also started freezing fresh veggies before they go bad, if I’m not going to have a chance to finish them. Spinach can be blended with water and frozen in ice cube trays for smoothies and shakes. Peppers can be cut and frozen for stir-fry or to sauté in egg dishes.
Overall, healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. And it’s not expensive to do. But there is a trade off in the amount of preparation required. At first, it seems like a lot of work, but as you get in the habit, planning meals and prepping foods becomes (almost) as easy as grabbing something off the shelf!