Eating healthy does not mean that you have to blow your budget, spend hours scouring grocery shelves for the perfect ingredient, or invest all of your free time (which, let’s be honest, everyone seems to have increasingly less of these days) in meal prep. Keeping the following tips in mind will allow you to enjoy a healthier diet with less stress.
DYOP (Do Your Own Prep)
Although this might initially sound daunting, prepping basic ingredients ahead of time can help you keep up with meal planning throughout the week. This can be as quick as cutting up carrots to keep in a jar in the fridge so that you can grab a handful for your lunch bag throughout the week, instead of buying them packaged. Likewise, set aside time every few weeks to make your own condiments like your favourite spice mix or a simple salad dressing (read: oil and vinegar – yes, it’s that easy!). This will make it easier to prepare your favourite foods more often and therefore avoid the temptation of eating out. If you have kids, having them help with preparing meals is a great way to foster healthy eating habits, whether it means having your younger child help you measure ingredients or encouraging your teenager to give a hand with creating a budget for meals.
This goes hand in hand with DYOP. One of the simplest ways to improve your diet is by planning your meals around a handful of versatile vegetables and grains that you can cook up in advance in multiple portions and then round out with various proteins, vegetables, and sauces, spices, or seasonings to keep your taste buds on their toes. Cooking up at least one main ingredient in advance that can be the base of several recipes will save you prep time for more than one dinner. A similar idea is especially applicable to breakfast. Instead of feeling compelled to choose between the two extremes of extravagant “slow food” that borders on brunch or a coffee-and-donut type routine, try experimenting with a few straightforward, large-batch recipes that can get you through several breakfasts without feeling like you’re sacrificing nutrients for convenience. Think make-ahead breakfast burritos or a large dish of baked oatmeal that you can serve with various toppings according to whatever suits your fancy.
Make the Most of Every Dollar
This one might seem redundant, but what we’re really referring to here is getting the most nutritional value out of every dollar. In other words, a product that might seem like a good deal may not in fact have much to offer in terms of nutrition. To make sure you respect your budget, it’s important to pay attention to nutritional labels – not just to price tags. This will actually help you save money through the “less is more” principle: sure the $5 box of sugary breakfast cereal might seem cheaper than a $6 box of oatmeal of similar size, but keep in mind that you’ll go through the box of cereal a lot faster than the oatmeal. You’ll only use about 1/3 cup of oatmeal per serving, whereas it will take a much larger portion of (much less nutritious) cereal to make you feel as full.
Most importantly, don’t underestimate the importance of creativity in the kitchen. Don’t break your budget by following every recipe down to the last grain of Maldon salt or quarter-teaspoon of some high-end brand of soy sauce. Instead, splurge on a select few of these pricier ingredients and swap out the rest for items already in your cupboards or generic brands.