Q: Hi, Erika. I’m writing to you today because I am really inspired by your writings on clean eating and am eager to get started, but it’s really challenging to get started with such a small budget like mine. In fact, when I think about it, I’m very scared. All these individual pieces seem so expensive for such small things!
Can you help me figure out what I’m missing? I can’t be destined to eat this food that’s making me unhealthy forever just because I’m broke, right? Thank you so much for reading!
No, of course not. I know it might feel that way sometimes, but it isn’t. I promise.
When we’re so used to cheaply buying items that, with a little water or milk, ultimately expand into huge items, it seems like paying a dollar for a couple of tomatoes is way too much.
It takes a lot of effort to reprogram yourself, for lack of a better phrase, to remember that when you’re buying those cheap items, you’re paying for a little bit of produce and a lot of filler… filler which, in the overwhelming majority of cases, is little more than sugar and four… most of which is what makes people sick.
So, it helps to remind yourself that you were always paying a lot for a little bit of produce. You were just also paying for things that made you “unhealthy,” too.
This also means that you have to consider that, with fresh produce, that you will throw away far fewer things than you think… and you won’t always buy things that are pre-managed for you. Boneless meats are an unnecessary expense, annnnnd you don’t even get to keep the bones that were cut from your purchase. If you buy your meat with the bones and skin on, you can cut these things off yourself with a little know-how and use the bones and skin to make broths for super inexpensive soups to nourish you and fill you up without spending a ton of cash. You just boil them, throwing in the stems from your leafy greens and a few stems of celery and a couple of carrots and a half an onion and maybe a couple bags of frozen veggies and a couple cut potatoes with some salt and oregano and thyme, and look at that. I just accidentally dropped a recipe on you for a big batch of a quick, easy, and savory soup. That’s several days worth of food.
Keep a giant quart-sized ziplock bag in your freezer where you can throw ends and remnants of veggies in, and you can set them aside to boil in broth for flavoring. (A quick tip, while I’m dropping them, is to use actual regular bland water as little as possible. If you can boil some herbs or veggies in water and use that instead, you should.) Flavor is just as important as affordability—who’s gonna suffer through a meal they don’t like, when they could just as easily go back to what they knew before? You can make that broth, put it in reusable containers, and stick them in the freezer. Pull them out when you need to make a giant batch of something else.
There’s another thing, here. Batch cooking is your best friend. I went to Marshall’s and got a giant stock pot for $25 and frequently use that to make giant batches of things that are filling, satisfying, and time-saving. I make big batches of rice, portion them into reusable bags and containers and put them in the freezer (never the fridge.) I make batches of beans and use part of them in dinner, and part in a big container to put in the fridge. I put chicken, tomatoes, salt, peppers, and onions in the pot with some of that broth and some oregano and cilantro, and let it cook down for a few hours, and guess what I’ve got? A delicious pot of chicken and peppers I can put in a salad.
One more thing? Don’t be afraid to cut back on the meat. If that sounds crazy to you, know that you can go days without meat to save money and then cop yourself a nice, juicy, whatever you’re into. That chicken recipe I mentioned up there with the peppers and the broth? Guess what? You can do the exact same thing with chickpeas, and it’s also delicious. Remember, if the goal is saving money, the path to doing so requires sacrifice.
I have a guide to saving money while eating clean that I strongly encourage you to check out, but I just wanted to highlight the many ways that people hack their way through healthy eating in an inexpensive manner. Just remember, the ultimate goal is changing the way you eat for good, and finding the path to doing so is a lifelong investment you’ll benefit from forever. As I love to say, your body will thank you for it!