6 Healthy Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen
Whether or not you believe that we are headed for a real recession, you may be feeling the financial repercussions of a summer well spent. From camps for the kids to vacations for the whole family, the warm months are often a time when we spend more money than we do during the school year.
Tightening your budget doesn’t have to feel like deprivation, and you certainly don’t have to sacrifice conscious, healthful living to save money.
What follows are six ways that our family is going to stay healthy, stay sane, and stay financially responsible this autumn by our choices in the kitchen. (You’ll also find links for recipes for five affordable healthy meals and snacks below.)
1. Buy Produce In-Season
The late summer and early fall is actually my favorite time of year to purchase fresh, local produce. It is always less expensive and tastier than the produce that’s been shipped long distances. Even in Brooklyn, Maia belongs to a CSA which saves her money and allows her to eat with the seasons, which is more nutritious. Farmers markets are also a great place to save money–the one where I live is open three days a week! Of course, if you have the room, you might consider planting a garden. This year, we grew just parsley and basil in small, raised planters. Those lucky enough to live near gardening friends or neighbors will often enjoy the excess of the harvest; you will almost certainly get some zucchini and here is a cookie recipe we love to use some of it!
2. Limit Packaged Foods
First thing in the morning, many of us reach for boxed cereal, which is expensive and often includes added sugar. You could consider eating oats and other grains you can buy in bulk for breakfast. Overnight oats are one of my favorite breakfasts this time of year when there are lots of fresh fruits to add to them right before eating. You can take equal parts rolled oats and milk of choice (I like almond Malk) and mix with a teaspoon of chia seeds and a teaspoon or two of sweetener (honey or maple). You can mix this in a jar with (or without) add-ins—yogurt, nut butters, nuts, dried fruit— and then stick it in your fridge overnight for a healthy affordable meal that’s ready when you wake up.
My oldest grandson, Felix, has gotten very into making acai bowls for breakfast. These can have many health benefits if you make them with unsweetened frozen acai. He tops his bowl with this granola, but you can also make your own.
We think that snacks always come in a package, but with a little effort you can make snacks in advance, too–my favorites include kale chips, muffins, energy bars, and hummus. (Here are ten other ideas for affordable, healthful meals and snacks.)
3. Cook Affordable Healthy Meals at Home
I am the main cook in my home, and I love eating other people’s cooking–especially in restaurants because it involves no clean up! However, if you want to eat eat healthy, restaurants can be expensive. Cooking at home can be more fun if you involve your children in the cooking and talk to them about how hard others work to provide food to all of us. Maia loves this cookbook for the tiniest chefs!
4. Make Your Own Seltzer
Cases of Spindrift are convenient and tasty, but it’s hard to feel good about buying them (and I should know, since I often fall into the habit.) Some amount of seltzer is always wasted (especially when you have kids!), and the cans are added to the overburdened recycling system.
You can make your own seltzer with filtered water and a SodaStream (this one comes with glass carafes). If you can invest in a home water filter, you will save money in the long run. My favorite is flavoring homemade seltzer with mint, watermelon, cucumber slices, and fresh lime. Pour it into a high quality water bottle and it really is better than a can of bougie seltzer!
5. Host Pot Lucks
If you’ve never actually been to a pot luck, you are in for a treat! Raising my kids in the 80’s in Vermont, we didn’t have many restaurant options and winters were long. Pot lucks were how we invariably spent our weekends, and they are so much easier and less expensive than hosting a dinner party! Everyone brings a dish to share, and the most organized pot luck hosts will actually assign guests a dish or a category (appetizer, salad, dessert, wine, etc.). Even without guidance, pot lucks always seem to work out and you end up with a nice variety of healthful food. (If you attend a pot luck, these are awesome for transporting dressings or sauces, and this is what goes over every one of our salads!).
6. Eat More Vegetarian/Vegan Food
The most expensive foods on any healthful grocery list are animal foods. Organic meat and dairy just cost more (although we think it’s worth it to splurge for them!). You don’t have to convert to veganism to enjoy the health, environmental, and budget benefits of a more plant-based diet. All you have to do is cook more vegan meals! Beans and grains can be very affordable to buy in bulk. If you add in nuts, seeds, and plant-based fats you won’t even miss the meat or dairy. Cutting even a small amount of dairy and meat will save money on your food bill and your diet will almost certainly be healthier! (I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but every time I make this tofu recipe I think perhaps I could be!).
I’d love to know how you guys are saving money in your kitchen while also being kind to yourself and to the planet. Please comment below!
To your health,
Suzanne, Certified Holistic Health Coach
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