Updated: Sep 10, 2020
"I can't afford to eat healthy." The num
ber one term I hear from people when discussing the importance of natural and clean living. I get it. I cannot walk out of Whole Foods without spending at least $100, while only purchasing a handful of items. But, I have good news! I am going to share with you a few tips and tricks I picked up while trying to implement clean eating on a tight budget in my own household.
First, lets talk about where to buy your food. My number one tip is to NOT doing your big shopping hauls at Whole Foods, or any big health foods store in your area, if you're on a budget. I learned that the hard way. Stores like Walmart, Grocery Outlet, Winco, and Costco have really increased their variety in Organic food options. Every couple of months I will go to Costco for just about everything; Certified USDA Organic meat, Organic produce, Organic eggs, Organic grass-fed butter, and lots of organic snacks that we use for lunches. Then I head over to Walmart, Grocery Outlet, and my local farmers market for the odds and ends in between my Costco visits. This system saved us HUNDREDS of dollars every month and I wish I would have discovered it sooner.
Another tip to improve your nutrient density in the kitchen is to properly cook them. This seems basic and probably unnecessary to mention, but properly preparing your meals will greatly improve the quality and it comes at no extra cost.
Baking & Roasting
Benefits: Baking or roasting food in the oven is helpful for cooking larger quantities of food simultaneously. This method also creates a pleasing texture as the dry heat allows vegetables to retain their shape and meats to develop a crisp outside and moist inside. The dry heat method also ensures that more of the water-soluble vitamins are retained. The ability to set a specific temperature also means you can use the appropriate fats for the cooking instructions.
Drawbacks: This method of cooking takes a bit longer than some methods.
Braising & Stewing
Benefits: Braising preserves the cooking liquid with the food, ensuring that soluble nutrients are reserved. Braising is also excellent for making incredibly tough cuts of meat, which tend to be the most affordable, lusciously tender because it breaks down the collagen of connective tissue as it cooks.
Drawbacks: Braising is a long, slow process. Some heat-sensitive nutrients might be lost.
Benefits: Frying in the appropriate types of fat, at the appropriate temperatures, is one of the quickest methods of cooking, and it allows the food to retain many heat-sensitive nutrients. When frying in olive oil, antioxidant content of food dramatically increases.
Drawbacks: If not monitored appropriately, the oil used to deep-fry can easily get too hot, damaging the fatty acids and creating free radicals. It is critical to use the right oil to avoid trans fats as well, which is present in the majority of purchased fried foods. Food will also absorb more fat and be more calorie dense with this cooking method, especially if the temperature is too low.
Benefits: When done properly, steamed vegetables retain most of their nutrients, become more easily digestible, and still have a bright color and toothsome texture.
Drawbacks: It is easy to let foods steam a little too long, resulting in a mushy texture, loss of color, and diminish nutrients.
Boiling & Steaming
Benefits: Boiled foods can be easier to digest, and it is possible to prepare a large amount of food at once with this method.
Drawbacks: Many nutrients are lost into the water with this cooking method; however, if you salt the water generously your vegetables will retain more minerals.
My third and final tip is to use the correct cookware! There are multiple considerations to make before purchasing food (is it local, sustainable, free of toxins, nourishing for my body, in line with my goals, etc.), the quality of cookware and food storage containers is also critical.
When on a budget, just focus on these three simple steps to significantly reduce your exposure to toxins:
1) Buy one quality cast iron skillet and a good knife.
2) Minimize the dangers of storing food in plastic by allowing the food to fully cool before storing and reheating food outside of the container.
3)Swap out foil for unbleached parchment paper when lining baking sheets or beeswax wrap when storing food.
Now, that you have all the tools to prepare delicious, nutrient dense meals, keep an eye out for my recipes and, Happy Cooking!