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Do you have a 'latte factor' that needs to be re-examined? The 'latte factor' is the mindless habit of spending money on everyday things like a gourmet coffee or eating out. Before you know it, that daily coffee can cost you $1,800 per year without adding much nutritional value to your diet. The good news is you can shop in a diet- and budget-friendly manner by simply changing your habits.
Many people on fixed budgets are reluctant to spend more on groceries and a general perception is that health-food products are more expensive than mainstream items. But with a little shopping savvy, healthy eating does not have to cost more.
To eat nutritious and delicious foods that pave a path to wellness – and allow for extra pocket money – take these 10 steps:
1. Be wary of highly packaged goods
As a general rule: If a food product is highly packaged with a multitude of colours and images on it, and comes with a free prize (such as cereal with a "free" CD), you're paying for more than just the food. Save more by sticking to items that don't showcase a lot of fancy marketing.
2. Buy in-season fruit for morning shakes
Purchase blueberries, strawberries and peaches in the harvest months and freeze them for use throughout the year. Drinking a morning shake with fruit, protein powder, juice and flaxseed oil is a great nutritional way to start your day. You can also use in-season vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, leeks and red peppers in stews, soups and sauces.
Here's a look at how taking advantage of in-season produce can add up to sizeable savings:
Red peppers - $0.99/lb in season compared to $2-3.99/lb out of season
Tomatoes - $0.99/lb in season compared to $1-2.99/lb out of season
Celery stalk - $0.99 per stalk in season compared to $1.79 per stalk out of season
Blueberries - $2 per carton in season compared to $4 per carton out of season
3. Go bulk
Bulk food sections at the grocery story offer wonderful goodies at significantly lower prices. From spices and coffee to whole-grain flours and trail mix, the selection can be as big as the savings. Also, buy in bulk at super stores that offer great savings. From freezing extra loaves of bread to purchasing large amounts of affordable meat, it's an effective way to bring down costs.
4. Pack it up
These days, it can be difficult to buy a lunch for less than $10. If you're buying workday lunches, on average you can spend $2,400 per year. Pack a homemade lunch that contains whole grains, essential fat and lean proteins for less than half the amount of a fast-food offering. For a balanced meal, bring a whole-grain wrap or pita with slices of avocado and turkey or chicken.
5. Go raw
In comparison to items such as meats and cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables are not expensive additions to your grocery bill. Raw produce is also filled with essential minerals, vitamins and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
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6. Water yourself down
Dehydration can be a cause of many symptoms such as fatigue, constipation and bloating. Instead of buying a bottle of water every day for $1-2 dollars, invest in home filtration such as a charcoal filter system or a home-delivery system. Fill up a bottle and take it with you rather than buying when you're out and about.
7. Buy day-old whole-grain bread
Purchasing whole-grain day-old bread is a wonderful way to save some pennies and it's available at most bakeries. How do you know if you're buying whole grain? Check the ingredient label. Avoid food items that are made with: whole wheat, enriched wheat flour or wheat flour. Instead, look for breads that are made with: 100 per cent whole wheat or whole grain.
8. Rice, rice, baby
Loaded with precious minerals, vitamins and fibre, brown or basmati rice is a nutritious and affordable addition to your diet. Avoid white rice as it can trigger weight gain and energy fluctuations.
9. Visit a local farmer to buy free-range chicken
One pound of organic chicken in the grocery store can range from $12 to $14. On the flipside, one pound of free-range chicken from your local farmer's market ranges anywhere from $4 to $6 per pound -- quite the savings!
10. Make a list and meal plan
Before going to the grocery store, make a list of what you intend to buy and plan specific meals for the week. By doing so, you're less likely to waste food and money.
In a nutshell, healthy eating can be worked into any budget. Simply follow the steps above and before long, you'll be shaving dollars off your grocery bill.
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Dr. Joey Shulman is a registered nutritional consulting practitioner (RNCP), and the author of Winning the Food Fight (Wiley, 2003) and The Natural Makeover Diet (to be released January 2006). She maintains a private practice in Toronto where she utilizes her clinical experience to help others. For more information, visit her website at www.drjoey.com.