It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? It’s easy to purchase canned goods, boxed pasta meals, frozen burritos, and get quite a cart-full within budget. But what if you are wanting to be healthy, or have health concerns that require you to eat differently?
Food is what our bodies are made from – it is the fuel that keeps us alive. Every cell, every organ are made from the fuel we receive through food and water. So, not only do we maintain our health or turn around ‘close-calls,’ but “Food is Medicine.” The right foods work with your body to correct issues that are often the result of years of chemicals, additives and the wrong proportions of nutrients, some often missing.
So what are we to do when a low-grade box of macaroni and cheese is .59 and healthy food is so much more? Here’s a list of things to consider:

1. How are you using food? Let’s use Macaroni and Cheese as our example. Are you using it as a side dish for a meal, for a snack, or as a meal replacement? The same goes with any food. If you are using it as a side dish with a meal, you will be using it very sparingly. Maybe once a week (keep variety in your menu planning). Using food at this rate allows you to either make it from scratch (not expensive, and not much more time involved), or to purchase a healthier brand since you are not eating it every day. If you are using it as a snack, consider an alternative snack. For approximately .90, you can purchase 2 lbs of bananas or 2 apples. Replacing this snack, which contains way too much starch (carbohydrates/sugars), gluten, cellulose and artificial colorings and flavors – not to mention calories – with an apple or a banana or even a handful of nuts is a wonderful idea. If you are craving cheese, a square of real cheddar cheese or a small ‘cheese wheel’ snack will do the trick. If you are using the product as a meal replacement, it is seriously time to reconsider your eating habits and health!

2. How much time to cook do you have? If you don’t have time to cook after you get home from work, sometimes you can cook BEFORE work! Get out your crock pot and there are numerous healthy dishes that can be assembled in the crock pot and it will do it’s work while you do yours. Or, use a Foreman-type grill and throw a couple of chicken breasts that you have seasoned on to cook while you steam some veggies. If you have no issues using a microwave, you can put your veggies (after you wash them) in a bag, throw some seasonings in, shake it up, and steam for 4-5 minutes. Otherwise, steam on the stovetop. Do NOT cook in water, they loose the vitamins and enzymes you are wanting in your healthy eating! The Foreman-type grill cooks both sides at once, so cuts down on time. (Hint: Fold a big piece of aluminum foil in half, spray with olive oil, and use it to line your grill to cut down cleaning time). You can use lean, grass-fed ground beef patties, or other meats as well, or even large portabello mushroom caps. While both foods are ‘doing their thing,’ brew some herbal tea and serve over ice. You’ll have a complete meal in 10-15 minutes. Another option is to make a big cooking day one every two weeks, or once a month. Take a Sunday (or another day off) and make a big kitchen mess! Cook several kinds of beans which can be used during the month as single meals, side dishes or ingredients for other dishes; i.e., pinto beans can be made into refried beans, kidney beans can be made into red beans and rice or chili, and black beans can be used on salads or even to make black bean brownies, etc. Cook beef patties to be warmed up later, chicken breasts to be cut up and put with salads or many other meals, etc. The list is endless.

3. Buy in Bulk – Buy products in large packages where you can package them into smaller packages in appropriate portions. Not only are the products cheaper when bought in larger packages or in bulk, but by putting them in appropriate portion baggies or containers, you can thaw out or get out the number of portions appropriate for your meal, thus cutting down on the expense of eating food not necessary, and saving calories by not overeating.

4. Proper Portions - Controlling portion size is one very important way to save money and save calories, not to mention keep your nutrition in balance. One way, is to use label guidelines. If a package says it contains 2 serving, make it two serving. If you buy a package of something and it says 4 servings, and you eat the whole package in one sitting, you have not only wasted 3 more servings, but have probably blown your calorie intake for the day as well as gotten your daily nutrients all our of proportion. Eat one serving, and you have three more. This will feed three more people, or if you are single, will be usable for various meals or snacks for another week or so. If you are one who ‘snacks’ while preparing food, remember your ‘snacking’ is part of your serving. If you allow yourself 5 pieces of a certain food for your serving as part of your meal, but you eat two while preparing it, then only 3 go on your plate.

5. Proper shopping. Shop smart. It may take going to one or two suppliers, but eating healthy and saving money are worth it. Watch prices. You may have heard and read over and over to use virgin, unrefined coconut oil, but you go to a grocery store and find it is 12.99. You see refined processed coconut oil for 8.99, so do you buy it instead? No! (Do not buy coconut oil unless it is virgin, unrefined). You can find it for 4.99 and 5.99 at other stores. Or perhaps you go to a healthy grocer and discover macaroni and cheese is 2.39 for a healthy brand. Do you buy it? No! (Make it from scratch … buy the proper pasta for you … whether it is gluten free, whole wheat, etc., cook it up, grate some cheddar cheese and fold it in after draining the pasta along with some plain Greek yogurt, or almond milk. You can grate the cheese while the pasta is cooking, so it takes no longer than the box – and costs much less.). Perhaps you hardly ever drink milk so it always goes to waste and you have to throw it out … almond, soy, cashew and other milks are healthier choices and last much longer in your refrigerator. A smart shopper has 2 to 3 suppliers for food. Check the prices on the products you use most at all three stores, and you can develop your shopping list to save lots of money. Become familiar with the type of product each store stocks. Some value-priced stores, such as ALDI, specialize in healthy products for a much lower price, such as their grass-fed, antibiotic-free meats, organic produce, etc.

Work with your physician, chiropractor or nutritionist to develop a shopping list of foods that are healthy for YOU. Remember, eating ‘healthy’ is not a generic thing. Each person has concerns and health issues that require different eating; some foods make conditions worse, even though they are ‘generally’ considered healthy, while other foods may be required because of a medical condition, whereas other people should not eat that food. Choose and purchase foods that can be used to make a variety of dishes. Once you have your shopping list, there are numerous dishes you can make and recipes you can find to help you cook meals and treats at home, many of which can be stored or frozen to eat during the month.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP.

Mrs. Baker is a musician and recording artist, a mother of one, and resides in Muskogee, Oklahoma