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Recession Proofing A Healthy Diet

With most people becoming more concerned over their financial situation, they’re looking for ways to cut back on their budget to decrease spending costs significantly.  Unfortunately, this often means one of the first things to go is sessions with a personal trainer, gym memberships, or the healthy diet that seems to be running up your budget.

While eating healthy is often cheaper than if you’re always ordering fast food or restaurant meals, it typically does tend to be slightly more expensive than if you opt for some of the less healthy alternatives at your local supermarket, such as TV dinners.

This doesn’t have to be the case. If you start making smarter selections as you walk the aisles of your grocery store you can still eat healthy and stick to your budget.  Here are some of the things to consider.

Raid The Bulk Bins
Possibly the best place to start with your limited budget grocery shopping is the bulk bins.  Bulk bins tend to be gold mines for creating a healthy cost-conscious diet because they contain a mix of ingredients that you can eat raw or add to meals to boost nutrition.

First, be sure to pick up some nuts.  Peanuts are typically your cheapest option here, but if you have a little more money to spend you can also get some almonds as well.  Nuts are one of the best foods for someone who is trying to gain muscle because they are calorie dense, easy to pack and transport, and fast to eat.  This makes them ideal to have as a quick snack on the drive home from work or between classes when you’re in a rush.

Next on the bulk bin list is raw oats.  Oats are great for eating hot or cold in the morning for breakfast, adding to your protein shakes for extra carbs, baking into muffins or protein bars, or using as a replacement for bread crumbs in lean ground beef burgers or meatloaf.  Oats are also incredibly cheap, so really be sure you try and incorporate them in as many meals as possible.  Just opt for the regular variety, not one that has been sweetened in any way or turned into granola.

Dried fruit is another good choice if you happen to be on a muscle building diet.  It’s another very calorie-dense snack that can easily be packed and transported wherever you go.  You can choose to eat this plain by itself or if you prefer, combine it with pretzels (also from the bulk bins), nuts, and Shreddies for a simple trail mix that packs a healthier punch than almost all energy bars.

Flaked coconut is the final thing to grab as it’s another easy way to boost your calorie and fat content.  Many individuals overlook coconut as part of a healthy diet, but eaten in moderation it definitely can be included.  It is a little higher in sugar content but does supply both fat and dietary fiber, so a small amount added for flavour is ideal.

The great thing about the bulk bins is that with all of these foods you can also limit how much you buy, only getting exactly what you need.

Don’t Forget About Frozen Foods
Many people entirely forget to consider frozen foods as an option for adding to their daily menu.  Frozen foods, particularly fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than their non-frozen counterparts, making this an easy way to slash your budget but maintain nutrition.

Frozen fruits work really well added to protein shakes since they give it more of a milkshake-like consistency. Frozen fruits can also be added to muffins, tossed in your oatmeal partway through cooking, or thawed and eaten normally. 

Frozen vegetables are also extremely handy to have on hand as they can be tossed into other convenience-types of foods for an extra boost of nutrition.  For example, taking that TV dinner meal mentioned above, if you toss in some frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, along with some chopped chicken breast, you now have a balanced meal that’s much healthier for you.

Canned Can Be Healthy Too

Canned fruits and vegetables can prove to be a good option, provided you choose wisely.  Especially with canned fruits you will always want to make sure that they are canned in ‘light syrup’ or water. If you get the ones in heavy syrup, you’re going to be taking in many more calories and sugar than you intended, so this will put a negative dent in your diet.

With canned vegetables, the main thing to watch is sodium content, as some of them can run pretty high – and if this is something you’re watching it will likely be something you want to avoid.

Canned soups are another good option as they are typically fairly low in calories if selected correctly.  Watch the sodium content and always choose non-cream varieties – unless it specifically states it is low fat. Tossing your frozen vegetables into the soup halfway through cooking is a very good way to further boost the nutritional content, while keeping calories down.  This is a fantastic technique for soups that lack vegetables in the first place such as chicken noodle or tomato. 

Then you have the ‘canned meal’ types of dishes that resemble more of a stew or pasta dish (Ravioli, for example).  These choices are OK, but keep an eye on the total calorie count.  If you’re aiming for fat loss, they may offer a few too many carbohydrates than what would ideally fit into your diet.  Try and choose one that has at least 10 grams of protein for every 150 calories in the dish so you get a good balance of nutrients.

As total calories are the biggest thing to watch when formulating any meal in your diet, pay close attention to portion control on any canned food dish you choose.  Some of them can easily total 400 or more calories if you eat the whole can.

If you find one you really just love and want to have it however it is higher in calories, consider dividing the can in half over two meals and adding extra bulk to the meal with fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables so you actually feel as though you’ve had a decent sized portion.

Freeze Your Protein

Protein is typically the most expensive macronutrient when trying to create a healthy diet, so the best option there is to shop the sales and freeze any food that you can’t use within the week.  Chicken breasts, steaks, and fish all freeze very well and when thawed properly, will still taste great after being cooked.  If you want extra convenience, another option is to cook the protein first, and then freeze after.  This way, all you need to do is take it out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge the night before, and the next day your meal planning is made easy.

You can also freeze entire meals if you like (stir-fry’s, stews, soups, etc), but they typically aren’t going to last as long and if you have vegetables in the dish, they may not taste the same after thawing.  It’s still a good option though for those of you who are always on the run and having time to cook is the biggest factor that stands in the way of you sticking with your diet.

Incorporate Skim Milk Powder Into Your Diet

If getting enough protein proves to be a challenge for you and buying protein powder isn’t an option due to cost, an alternative you can use is skim milk powder.  This is typically cheaper to purchase and will contain about 9 grams of protein and 90 calories for every 3 tablespoons. It does also contain a higher percentage of carbohydrates, so it’s not quite the same as protein powder, but if it means the difference between you reaching your protein needs or not, this is a smart move. Just cut back on your carbohydrate intake in one or two other meals to compensate for the additional carbohydrates found in the milk powder.

Skim milk powder can be added to your blended fruit shakes, mixed with regular milk, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese, or incorporated into many baked goods to boost your protein intake.

Don’t let the fact that your funds might be a little tight stop you from eating a diet that’s going to get you to your goals.  As you learn the different foods that are cheaper but nutritionally sound, it becomes easy to know exactly which products to purchase during your trip to the grocery store.

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