Four weeks ago, my husband lost his job. Being the most risk-averse person on earth, with two small children to feed and a mortgage to pay, I had something resembling a panic attack, and that weekend, an actual panic attack.
My mind was consumed with an ongoing stream of calculations....”If I buy the store-brand toilet paper at Target, maybe I can justify the Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks. Maybe I could just eat my toddler’s leftovers making my cost of food negligible. No, that’s crazy. Stop with the crazy, Emily.”
Fortunately, good sense prevailed and my husband and I decided that now more than ever, it was important to feed ourselves well. Feeding ourselves well meant giving our bodies the nutrients they need to feel energized, confident, and healthy so we had the fortitude to handle the stress of our new normal.
And what’s been the result? I’ve lost about 9 lbs, I feel great, and I’ve gotten numerous compliments on how energized I look!
While I long for my husband’s return to employment so I can indulge my latte addiction with gusto, here are the ways I’ve managed to eat great on an “unemployed” budget:
1) Go (mostly) plant-based – We decided to take seriously the guideline that 50% of our plate be fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce and legumes are much cheaper than meat and stretch a meal much further. They’re also full of fiber and water, leading to a feeling of fullness for less. I’ve made “burgers” and “meatballs” out of things like lentils, black beans, barley, and quinoa. I make pizzas or quesadillas with Farmer’s Market ingredients.
2) Exercise portion control – I don’t deprive myself, but I pay careful attention to my body’s signals now to avoid wasting food. My stomach has shrunk and it doesn’t take as much to feel full. It’s amazing how much my mindless overeating was costing us!
3) Banish binge-items – You know those snack foods you buy from the supermarket that seem to disappear within two days? Chances are these are draining your cash without being necessary or filling. For us these were white bagels – we’d buy two packages per week and they’d be gone within a few days. Now I’m mindful that everything I buy fulfill a specific purpose.
4) Grow your own – Okay, I confess that I haven’t done this one yet, despite the aspiration. But it’s one I share from several friends who are trying to eat well on tight budgets.
5) Hydrate – This has been hard, but I’ve tried to replace some of my coffee and OJ with water. It’s cheap or free, it makes my skin look beautiful, and it helps combat so many health issues I deal with – from tension headaches to kidney stones, and eating healthy, equals fewer doctor’s visits, leading to less spending.
What are your tips for eating great on a tight budget?