Pack your meals all day (this keeps you from grabbing something bad when you're starving!) or in other words, don't spend (waste) your money on meals out. They might seem cheap at $5 or $10 but it adds up over the year. My goodness! Do the math! $5 lunches every day of the work week is $1300 for the year! That's not considering many meals cost more than $5 and we're not even adding in dinners out! Even if you could find clean food at that price, you still don't know exactly how it's cooked, what's in it, how much oil they use, or what kind of produce or mystery meat they're feeding you.
Here are the base ingredients for my lunches for the week:
- 16 oz Ground Turkey (from Earthfare, hormone-free, antibiotic-free) -- $5.99 (This "expensive" price takes care of all of my protein for the week for my lunches. Try the other cheaper proteins we discussed last time.)
- Fresh Green Beans (which yield about 5 cups after I cook them) -- $5 (Want an even cheaper vegetable? Go for broccoli.)
- 2.5-5 Tbsp Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (So 1/2 to 1 T coconut oil per meal.) -- $0.75-$1.50 (The cost is approximated at 30 cents per Tbsp, which is pricier than anything I could find online.)
- 2.5-5 small Sweet Potatoes (About 1/2 cup to 1 cup per meal) -- $1.08-$2.15 (The cost is approximated at 43 cents per cup.)
So lunches all week costs - $12.82 - $14.64 per week! $2.56 - $2.93 per meal of fresh food! I chose the more expensive green food and the coconut oil was even organic! The best part is all of your meals are pre-portioned. So you eat what you make and have nothing more. How many times do you get a meal from a restaurant and you have to think, "Only eat half the fries."? This only results in feeling guilty for wasting food/money.
Why I never feel guilty about "wasting" crap food:
Let's make something clear. When I go out for my treat meals, I usually eat an Amber-sized portion and let my husband eat the rest. Seriously. It's that or I don't take it home. Or if indulgent or fake food is left at my house from a party, I toss it out if I can't give it away. I don't want to set myself up for caving later when I'm strong enough to toss it out now. Want to know how I justify being wasteful? Restaurants serve WAY too much food and I'd love to just pay for the amount I want, but that wont happen. So then I think, how much money do people sink into their weight-loss or getting fit efforts just to sabotage their investments because they wanted to make the most of their $$ at a buffet? So just think of that "waste" as investment for your health. Hopefully, you just wont find yourself in that situation as often. I don't go to buffets, period. When work decides to celebrate something at my least favorite restaurant, I eat a little something that I packed before going out, leave my money behind, order water, and watch as others eat poison. It's gotten easy. Well that ended up being a longer rant than intended. Back to the tip.
So cook and pack all of your meals at home. That way you know exactly what you are consuming, it's cheaper, and by making sure you have ready to go meals/snacks, you're less likely to grab something you don't want. You never have the opportunity to get too hungry.
There are a couple of ways healthy people make cooking all of their family meals easy. You can either:
- Cook all meals ahead of time. This way is for the person who doesn't have a burning need to get creative in the kitchen all of the time. Here's how you can do it.
- Cook in bulk each dinner for leftover lunches the next day. Many nights, I cook at least 2 meals worth of food for my husband and myself. This way, all I have to think about is making my second breakfast. (My shake is meal 1.)
If you don't have time to eat leftover meals, freeze them! So many people throw away money in tossing their home-cooked meals out! This source claims Americans waste $2,275 per year by throwing out 40% of what they buy. WHAT?!!! Food I buy and cook NEVER goes to waste at my house EVER! So don't let your healthy leftovers go to waste. They are life savers. The days I'm in a pinch, I don't feel like cooking, or I just got back from travel and have no time to cook, I pull out my home-made "Lean Cuisine" and I'm all set! I don't have to order out because nothing is available. Don't put yourself in that situation.
Another delicious thing I do with leftover dinners, is make breakfast out of it the next day! I either make it a hash scramble or frittata. Cook up all left overs in an oven proof pan to get some color on the food by heating it up on the stove, pour beaten eggs on top and maybe some cheese, and finish it off in the oven until cooked throuh. Or just scramble it up. I've tried this with leftover pot roast, leftover spaghetti squash and meatballs marinara, leftover stir fries, etc. Last week I added eggs to leftover steamed green beans, crockpot pork loin, and handfuls of spinach. Almost everything tastes good with eggs!
As with leftovers, when your vegetables start to wilt or you think they'll go bad, cook them all in a large stirfry, pre-portion with protein and freeze into individual lean cuisines. Again, don't let food go to waste! At my house, we're more likely to run out of green food before letting it go to waste. I try to eat green food with 4-5 of my 6 meals whether it's spinach in my shake or when it's a savory meal. A little lettuce with my burger doesn't do it for me. I make a salad with a side of my burger. Eat your greens!
Buy in bulk and freeze when any protein goes on sale. The other day, organic chicken was half off! I bought the 6lb limit I was allowed and I froze it. My husband and I always walk through the meat section to see what else went on sale. This is how I tend to feed him good cuts of steak. We freeze everything!
Another buy in bulk product might be starches. They don't go bad quickly and they tend to be cheaper from the bulk bins. Dried beans, bulk rice, oatmeal, and even root vegetables last a long time. Remember, starches are cheap but that doesn't mean you should eat more of them. Eat the correct portion sizes because too many carbs are where people get in trouble when it comes to gaining fat on their bodies.
Use those coupons and look out for the sales. I get daily coupons from my local Earthfare. I also receive a 10% military discount, and I end up with a ton of amazing food! Also, know your stores. I know Almond milk and Greek yogurt are cheaper at Kroger than at Earthfare. So I buy accordingly.
Shop at farmers markets if/when you can. Things sold at farmers markets can be much cheaper and obviously more nutritious as it was picked just before arriving to you! This is because you're eating in the season. I am so fortunate to live somewhere that provides us so many options. It wasn't always like this for me at all of my other homes, but keep an eye out for local farmers markets. They're becoming increasingly popular, thank God!
You don't have to buy all organic food. Organic food is best, but not always budget friendly. So stick to the list below. Try to buy certain "dirty" produce organic since they're more likely to be contaminated.
The Dirty Dozen:
12 Most Contaminated
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Grapes (Imported)
12 Least Contaminated
- Sweet Corn (Frozen)
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Kiwi Fruit
This is all I have for now. Hope it helps!