Off White eats on the cheap

According to market research, two of the top 6 reasons American’s don’t eat healthy are cost and convenience.  I wonder if this is especially true among  those of us trying to cut refined sugars and carbs from our diets.   The cheapest and most convenient foods are refined-carb laden.

I’ve been on this Off-White quest for a few years now, and have a few ideas on how you can make off-white eating more affordable.  My ideas are somewhat unconventional because I think we’ve all heard the advice to eat seasonal produce and buy in bulk one too many times.  It’s true that these approaches help you eat well for less, but it’s not the only way.

Here are my tips for affordable and convenient approaches to  off-white eating

1. Factor in the notion that your  grocery budget is more than just food.  It’s the things you need to prepare, serve, store and clean up food.  Thus if you can save on a few of those other non-food items, you will have more money for better food.  Here’s what I do in that arena:

  • Use cloth napkins and wash cloths in the kitchen.  It’s more environmentally friendly and cheaper.  Wash them 1-2x/week whenever you do laundry.  You’ll save annually on paper products
  • Reuse your ziplock bags when  they contain dry goods like crackers or non ‘wet’ snacks.  Also, use the produce bags from the grocery store like a ziplock for things that don’t need to be fully sealed.  That sliced apple will fair just fine in the Safeway bag it was purchased in just as much as in a zipper-sealed bag
  • Buy cleaning products at the Dollar store.  My mom, a professional housekeeper of 30 yrs, swears by the Dollar store cleaning products for the basics like bleach, toilet scrubber, Windex and Ajax/Comet.  Don’t waste money on brand names for this stuff
  • Couopons!  Take 10 minutes/week to look at the coupons in the mail.  Set aside those for products you use.  Also, buy them when the store puts them on sale and set them aside.  I never, EVER buy toilet paper unless it’s on sale.  Seriously – it’s literally going to be flushed down the toilet, so I’d like as little of my $$ to go into that flush as possible
  • Invest in a portable lunch bag and a few good small food containers.  This way you can tote your lunch and reduce the temptation to buy it at work/school.  Also, small containers can hold hummus, peanut butter, salad dressing, yogurt, etc – things which, when purchased in larger quantities are cheaper per serving.

Eat more of these:

  • Oatmeal:  It’s about $.99/lb in bulk, which is about 8 servings (2 oz/serving).  Compare to the individualized serving packages, which are about $2.50-$3/box.  You just halved the price and got some good fiber, protein, wheat-free carbs, and a good vehicle to add fruit and boost your morning nutrition
  • Eggs:  They are a cheap source of protein, zinc, B-vitamins, Folate and they cook fast.  Hardboiling a few for a quick breakfast or snack.  Protein is an off-white eater’s best friend and eggs are a handy source.  Even expensive eggs are only about $.40-$.50 each
  • Beans:  Beans are so versatile: they can be the mainstay of a meal, such as a chili, or a protein/fiber dense addition to a salad, or the basis for a quick veggie taco, etc.  Canned beans can still be nutritious and can be very inexpensive if you buy on sale.
  • Tuna:  I used to hate tuna until I discovered how to make it my way: with spicy mustard, olives, and green onion.  YUM!  I love it on salads or on rye crackers such as Wasa.  I wish I could say that I buy the Coop canned tuna, but at $6/jar, I just go for the basic stuff, which is more like $1/can.  However, I take that extra money and spend it on really good fresh fish.  See….it’s about give and take.
  • Tea that you make at home or work.  Can anything be any easier to make yourself than tea?  Hardly.  It’s over $2/serving at Starbucks, which is ridiculous.  I bring a myriad of tea bags with me to work/school and then make my own when I feel like a cup.  If I spend $4/box I get 18 servings whereas that $4 only gets me 2 visits to a cafe.

Eat less of these (some of them will surprise you):

  • Granola.  It’s as expensive as it is calorie dense and often a misconception altogether.  Just cut it our or limit it’s use significantly
  • Acai-containing foods.  The exotic nature of Acai allures people but you are better off just buying things made with blueberries
  • Gluten-free bread (usually found in frozen section).  Unless you must be Gluten-free, I suggest you go wheat-free and you’ll get a better quality product at a more reasonable price.  Ezekiel bread, for instance, has more fiber and better flavor and is a bit cheaper.
  • Agave nectar and organic sugar.  I have changed my tune with agave.  It’s got too much fructose to be a healthy sweetener and it’s also extremely expensive.  Organic sugar is …..still sugar!!!  Go for turbinado, brown rice syrup, succanat.  They may be organic but they are also less refined.  However they are still sugar so don’t deceive yourself.

Okay bloggies, that sums it up this list.  What ways to you make off-white eating easy and convenient?  I’d love to get some new ideas.  Now that we spend only $80/week on food adn cleaning products I’m always open for a new suggestion!