Eating healthy on a budget can seem like a daunting task. We will cover a few basic theories to help you cut out all the artificial food out of your diet without breaking the bank.
First and foremost we have to make an initial investment on pantry items. The idea is to cross utilize as many ingredients as possible to maximize courses and nutrition. Lets start with the basic building block of most courses grains and starches. In the pasta isle at most supermarkets there is a plethora of cheap grains that are filling and extremely healthy. I like to keep on hand whole grain pasta, barley, quinoa, yakisoba noodles, rice noodles and brown rice. Next I like to start thinking about various starch and protein rich legumes such as lentils, black beans, red beans, and pinto beans. With just this first tier we can already create a couple different variations of dishes including lentils and rice, and rice and beans, but lets not forget to pick up Chicken or vegetable stock to inject flavor into our grains.
Speaking of flavor lets talk about good flavoring agents and spices needed on hand. Starting with kosher salt; a staple for all cooking needs. The crystals allow you to accurately feel how much salt you are adding to a dish and is a lot less concentrated salt flavor than granulated salt. Next I like to mix it up and try to bounce between different ethnic cuisines to create different pallets of flavor so lets talk about mexican flavors. I like to have chili powder, cuman, and a couple different hot sauces. Combine these three ingredients and you have taco seasoning. For italian dishes I like to have basil, oregano, nutmeg, and cloves on hand for different tomato and cream sauces. For asian food I like to have a good bottle of soy Sauce, oyster sauce, hoisine, and rice vinegar. Different variations of this makes the perfect stir fry sauce. Now all we need is protein and veggies and we are ready to cook a variety of homemade from scratch food!
I am not a big fan of mass-produced hormone enhanced proteins, but I can't necessarily afford everything in organic so I try to make the best of what I can. You can purchase organic tofu for 1.20 to 2.00 a pound. Hows that for cheap protein? Next I like to pick up tempah, which is more soybean protein product that is super healthy and cheap. For meat I like to go to a butcher or meat market and I buy free range grass-fed proteins enough for one meal a week to stay within reasonable budget, and not have to eat unhealthy supermarket meat.
The most important part of this meal plan is the veggies, and fruit. Lets face it America eats more meat the anyone else in the world, and we look the other way when it comes to veggies. In reality we should strive to eat 50-75% veggies for the essential amino acids that they provide. What is a direct result of omitting these out of our diet? Cancer. Amino acids are responsible for basic cell upkeep. So stock up on your greens, the greener the better! spinach, mustard greens, and brocoli are all good choices. Tomatoes are also super healthy and can be used for a variety of italian style and mexican style dishes. Also be sure to pick up garlic and onions because literally every dish you create must start with these ingredients. For fruits try to aim for one piece a day I like to grab a few of each fruit.
And finally with a fully stocked dairy section you can finish your pantry shopping! Some essentials are heavy whipping cream for cream based sauce (dairy fat is good for your heart have at it!), soy milk (has double the vitamins of milk including b vitamins and omega 3), yogurt, cheddar cheese, mozzarella, and cottage cheese.
Now that you have a fully stocked pantry the fun begins. It is easy to interchange different ingredients to create dishes that are healthy and have a real depth for flavor. With this simple list we can create, tacos, fettichini alfredo, spagetti, stir fry, and more for pennies! Thats it for now folks! Remeber to get creative and add your veggies!