Consuming the news these past weeks, I was served up a ration of New Year’s food columns that all revolve around saving money. The titles lazy-Susan through my newsfeed: “5 Ways to Stop Blowing your Budget on Food” or “How to Save Money on Groceries every Month.”
While I digest their content on saving coupons and planning meals around what’s in flyers, it leads me to ponder…Should we not instead be asking how to eat well in 2018 and stay within our means?
Is saving money the ultimate goal to eating?
Know your means and reconsider your menu.
If you’re on a budget, you shouldn’t expect King Salmon, caviar and truffle brie to be on your plate. Incorporating more plant-based foods into your meals will inherently lower your costs while extending your meals and providing healthy nutritious alternatives.
Discover dried garbanzos cooked gently in broth with root vegetables served up on a mound of wild rice. Cannellini beans savored in lemon broth, garlic and spinach beside mint-flavored couscous are so delicious.
It simply costs less to produce a bean or a grain than it does tenderloin or camembert.
I’m not suggesting you go vegan—unless you want to—but thinking about grains, beans and pulses as an addition to your meat, cheese and eggs will be lighter on the wallet and environment.
Buy local and in-season fare that appeals and delights.
The wizardry of modern logistics and flash cold-chains brings us a cornucopia of foods year round. Raspberries and asparagus in January aren’t a problem to find but may not always be the best value. The miles that the produce traveled add cost, and it may have been grown in underdeveloped regions with low wages and unfair labor practices.
When planning your meals, think about what your grandmother would have eaten in the place where you reside.
If it’s winter, then potatoes, squash and root vegetables could be paired up with a link of sausage. Throw in a pickled carrot, a sharp cheese and a crusty full-grain loaf, and you’ve got a seasonal meal.
When its spring, turn your appetite to leafy kales and bitter arugula, roast a spring chicken and yes gorge on asparagus and berries. Shuck a few sweet peas and melt them in butter. Whip up a soufflé with farm eggs and fresh cheese.
In the heat of summer, ripe watermelon splits while tomatoes and cucumbers are diced with basil and oil. Stuff your eggplant with brown rice laced with onion and garlic and smother it in aromatic herbs. Roast a shank of lamb with onions, garbanzos and tomatoes until it falls off the bone.
All your delectable meals will cost less if you design them with the ingredients that are naturally in season.
Avoid the center of the store. As a measure, don’t buy anything that’s been over-packaged or processed.
Go ahead and buy the whole organic chicken; don’t pay to have someone else cut it and wrap it into pieces shrouded in plastic.
That head of cauliflower or stalk of broccoli can be used down to their core. From sauté to stew, the entire heady brassica can be chopped, steamed and stir-fried into almost every dish.
Buy your nuts beans, grains and nuts in bulk.
Go ahead; you can mash your own avocadoes into guacamole. Simmer your own simple apple-sauce with water and cinnamon, honey and nutmeg. Smash your own red potatoes with sweet butter and chives.
You may say you don’t have enough time to cook less-processed foods. Along with a budget, you have a dearth of time.
Set aside a portion of one day on your weekend just to cook. Assemble all of your whole organic, local ingredients and make it a sacred time of preparation for the entire week. Invite your loved ones to get off their phones and participate.
Prep, wash, chop and store all the ingredients you will need for the next week’s meals. Wash your leafy parsley, mince those heads of garlic, chop and cry over sweet onions. Grate your cheese and cut your lardons of bacon.
These will all come in handily when constructing your meals during the week.
Bake a few whole chickens with a mélange of seasonal veggies. Eat it outright the first night with a glass of what tempts you. The next night, the tender meat can be easily rolled into tortilla; the following eve, a thick stew can be rendered from the carcass. Add the cooked veggies in each of these meals.
Gently put to steam a big pot of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots until they are just al dente. Keep them in reserve and enjoy them cold from the fridge, or fold into omelet or add to stews later in the week.
Soak your lentils and garbanzos in cool water the night before and gently bring them to a finish with celery, onions and garlic. A few dashes of cumin, coriander and turmeric will add a nuance of the exotic.
Reap the benefits of eating well.
If you take any of these into practice, not only will you save money, but you will be eating healthier, enjoying it more and certainly be getting better nutrition.
If you bring your family into the act of purchasing, preparing and ultimately dining, you will be building relationships and experiences that are priceless.
If you choose organic ingredients, you will avoid exposing your body and those of your loved ones to toxic chemicals and GMO’s. You will also be helping to build healthy farmers, fertile soils and cleaner waters so that future generations may eat better.
Eating well doesn’t mean busting your budget. In fact, it’s a path to a healthier more sustainable existence that is invaluable.