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Healthy Living on a Budget

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Groceries and Cooking Made Easy

So, like me, you've probably attempted to stay healthy and fit. I say attempted because most of us feel that we have failed in some way when it comes to healthy living. It's no secret that healthy food seems to be far more expensive than junk food. However, unless you're living off of bon-bons and pop tarts, nutritious foods can come at the same price as our favorite not-so-healthy foods. Staying fit is A LOT easier when eating healthy, I can promise you that. So, how do you stay healthy, not break the bank, and actually enjoy sitting down to eat dinner? It's not as bad as you think. Here's a few tips to get you started.

First thing I wish someone would have told me a long time ago about grocery shopping is: Stay on the outside edges of the grocery store. It is very difficult to buy junk food while staying away from the aisles. Let's just say once the oreo's are in front of you, you're much less likely to keep them on the shelf. Don't be ashamed, just don't set yourself up for failure.

Now I scored with a husband that is not picky at all. Besides his aversion to reuben sandwiches, I can pretty much throw anything on the table and he will lick the plate clean. I realize this is not the case for every individual or every family, but my recommendation for those picky eaters still remains the same. Find 4-5 meals you enjoy, then play around with a few of the ingredients. Switch out bell peppers for squash or sausage for chicken. Switching out one item can make all the difference in flavor, texture, and enjoyment.

The best part about this version of meal planning is you're not at the mercy of the endless recipe lists that call for bok choy or himalayan salt, ingredients average Joe or Jane does not have in his/her pantry. Also, if you're like me you struggle actually doing any meal planning in the first place. My meal plan is this: One day sausage, one day chicken, one day sausage, one day chicken. Yep, that simple. However, I stray, all the time. Some weeks I get crazy and serve sausage three days in a row. You chuckle at my lack of creativity, hey it works for us. That's the point it's up to you. I add different fruits as a side to our dinners to change things up too. Remember, switching out one or two items can make a huge difference. Now if you or a family member has allergies, that's okay. You decide what indgredients make up your meals. Now, here's the trick for finding affordable ingredients. 

Find a grocery store near you that rewards members with discounts. We use City Market, but in the past I have used Safeway and countless others. If while walking around the store you see sale signs that are all the same color, you can probably become a member. I have never been to a store that required more than my name, phone number, and address. I carry a tiny little card around on my keys that the cashier scans at the register, and my husband just types in our phone number. Our City Market has a gas station as well, so we get gas discounts for shopping. I've saved up to 40 cents/gallon by shopping once a week for my husband and myself. I have been surprised time and time again how often the item on my list is one of the items on sale. Yes, I do have to substitute cereal or a brand of cheese every once in awhile, but it's really no sacrifice considering the deal I get for doing so. Besides, you might be amazed to find out that the more you eat a particular food or brand of food, the more you crave it. Speaking of which...

When my husband and I first started dating, he didn't have any vegetables in his kitchen, zero. Let's just say, I was baffled. I mean I wasn't a huge fan of vegetables either, but I at least bought them and felt guilt enough to eat them, most of the time. Anyways, most of us don't come out of the womb loving green beans and spinach, but it is possible to develop a taste for these green veggies and many more. My husband's lack of vegetables inspired me. I went off on a limb and made stuffed bell peppers one evening and he loved them, we both did. It wasn't long until I realized that it wasn't that I was an awful cook, it was that I hadn't taken any risks. So, the adventure began. We started cooking with vegetables every night, and now we stare at our plates as if they were empty chasms if there are no vegetables on them.

You are a good cook, even if you feel incompetent in a kitchen right now. We spend about 38,003 hours eating over our lifetime, I'd say that makes figuring out how to make an enjoyable meal a priority. Who wants to spend 38,003 hours gagging? Not I. 

I have faith in you. Chopping up a few vegetables or putting some meat in a crock pot and pushing the on button are doable tasks. Give yourself some time, once you develop a routine, you're on your way. Don't be afraid to try and fail. Like Thomas Edison said, “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up". Sure, it sounds a little cheesy, but it's true! Give yourself as many chances as you need. 




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