Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How to Eat Lean & Clean on a Budget

Okay, so I am painfully aware of the rumour that is going around that in order to eat lean, clean and healthy one has to have a lot of money for food.  I can tell you honestly, that this rumour is false.  I can feed a family of four for about $150 every 6 days - I just have to make wise choices and be aware of all those little "extras" that magically appear in the cart (just how does that happen?).

Hopefully, I can help you with some guidance.  Some tips you may already have heard and some may...well...be new.  But it's how I make it work for me and mine so maybe just something I share will help you.

1.  Shop the outside walls of the store.  Did you know that most everything that is found on the inside aisles is the stuff that is in boxes and cans meaning they contain tons of sodium and preservatives.  Meaning they are mostly processed, alot of GMO and basically, not a healthy alternative for you.

2.  If you do happen to venture into one of the inner aisles, be sure to read your nutritional labels.  Items that declare fat free are often more sugar then low fat or full fat.  Items that claim say "made with whole wheat" - maty actually only have a trace of it in there.  Items that declare to be heart healthy, aren't always.  Read.  Read.  Read.  

3.  Know what you are eating.  My general rule is if it has more then 5 ingredients I'm not eating it.  My other rule is if it has words in it that I can't pronounce, spell or has more then 15 letters, then I'm definately not eating it.  That last rule is probably the easiest one to follow.  Again though, if you don't shop the inner aisles,  you usually don't have to worry much about this.

4.  Fuel up for life.  Think of food as fuel.  A means to a necessary end (okay, I don't even know what that means, but my dad said it so....).  Change your way of looking and thinking of food.   Food is fuel. Nothing more, nothing less.  It is not your counselor, it is not your savior, and it makes a bad bed snuggler (crumbs, need I say more?). Isn't there a better choice to fuel your body then that fire hot cheetos?  Yes, I think there is.

5.  Coupons.  In store deals.  These are usually for the things we don't want to put in our cart - those things that are on the inside aisles - however, these can help you balance out your meals and help save some money.

6.  Figure out what your non-negotiables are.  What is the one or two things (food wise) that you just simply refuse to live life without?  For me, it's creamer in my coffee and mini-chocolate chips.  I have both every day.  I never feel that I'm being denied anything because I know I have the choice to have them or not to have them.  So what are yours and incorporate them into your every day life.

7.  Never, ever go to the store on any empty stomach.  Bad things will happen.  Trust me on this.

Okay, so those are the tips I have and here's how I make it actually happen:

First and foremost, plan your menu for 1 week.  My menus are simple are usually don't change.  It's posted at the end of this post.

A.  the freshest produce is usual Tuesday or Thursday.  Get to know your store produce man and find out when the deliveries are made.  The fresher you buy, the longer you have it for consumption.  This is key for produce - have you ever eaten old celery?  It's not good.  Again, trust me.

B.  buy only what you need for a few days at a time.  I know most people say you should only go to the store once a week in order to save money but let's be real, that just doesn't work for most of us.  I divide my week in half (4/3).  I shop for the beginning of the week on Sundays and then for the remainder of the week on wednesdays.  This keeps my produce fresh and I waste less money by having to throw stuff away.

C.  Buy only produce you know you and your family will eat.  If ya'll are not adventureous and have never eaten egg plant, don't experiment on a low budget week.  Not good planning.  Don't buy 2 bundles of carrots when you know that the three of you can only eat 1 bundle in the next 3 days.  You get the point.

D.  Go meatless one day a week.

E.  Leftovers are lunch the next day.

F.  Never eat out unless it's a treat.  Translate = take your lunch to work.  Sometimes, I spend a lot of time on the road so i pack a small cooler with all my snacks/meals in it.  It keeps me eating what I'm supposed to and spending no money.

G.  Look for alternative lean proteins.  Tuna in envelopes, bulk chicken breasts in the freezer section that you prepare ahead of time for meals, tofu, hummus, chickpeas, soy.

Okay, now I've also been asked for my eating plan and menu.  I focus on the 7 day shred.  I generally stay within the eating plan with the exception being date nights or a family event.  Some people may find it boring, but I find it easy and freeing.  You can find details on the 7 day shred here.  Basically you eat every 2 hours (who wouldn't love that) and you eat 4 oz of protein and 1 cup of veggies.  Just don't cook your veggies in a bowl of butter and then cry that you didn't lose weight.

Keep your eating clean.   If you don't know what that means, read this article here.  I've basically combined Paleo (here) to make a lifestyle that works for me and the fam.

So here's this week's menu:

Monday:  Meatless Monday (huge salad with dark leafy greens and every vegetable I can get).  We prefer Pear Basalmic Vinegar.  Kids prefer Light Ranch.

Tuesday:  Chicken Fajitas.  Red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers sauteed in Pam with garlic salt and Creaole seasoning with extra lean skinless,  chicken breast slices.  Kids use cheese and whole wheat tortilla wraps and refried beans.  Hub and I eat just the chicken and peppers.

Wednesday: Survivor Spaghetti Night - our family loves a good Survivor episode.  We started this tradition 12 years ago and for about 12 years, we've had spaghetti.  We use ground chicken breast with a homemade spaghetti sauce.  Kids get whole wheat pasta.  Adults just eat the sauce on top of a huge salad.  Sometimes, we eat it on spaghetti squash noodles.

Thursday:  Tilipia (which I buy in bulk), steamed green beans (a cheaper alternative is to buy them frozen instead of fresh) and sauteed squash (in Pam, with garlic salt).

Friday:  Homemade pizza with leftover spaghetti sauce, no cheese, tons of veggies on whole wheat tortillas or a "flat out" wheat do-hicky.

Next time I'll post a whole weeks worth of shopping list for the 7 day shred.  But hopefully this will help for now.  Notice, I never mention chips, cheetos, power bars, peanut butter, fruit.  I'll post a complete shopping list next time.  But for now....I'm getting hungry!
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