Eating well has a price. Eating cheaper, less healthy foods may result in significant medical costs and consequences down the road. However, following The Daniel Plan can increase your short-term spending by choosing fresh, organic foods and free-range poultry and wild fish and other nuts, legumes, herbs and spices. So we’ve asked both Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Daniel Amen, and volunteer “Smart Shoppers” to give us these cost-effective tips to eating well.
From Dr. Mark Hyman
Track your spending for a week. How much is being spent on low priority items or high-priced choices? Stop spending on sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Search out cheaper — bulk — sources of fresh, whole foods in your neighborhood.
Think about joining your local food co-op. Co-ops are community-based organizations that support local farmers and businesses and allow you to order foods and products in bulk at just slightly over the wholesale price.
Develop repertoire of a few cheap, easy-to-prepare meals such as these:
Almond Butter on Wholegrain Rye Bread with Fruit Spread
Take a slice of rye bread, add a bit of almond butter, and top it with sliced fruit for a delicious snack. You can even dip bananas or apple slices right in the tub of almond butter — which is cheaper to buy in bulk at a food co-op.
Hummus with Celery Sticks or Carrots
In just five minutes, you can take chickpeas (canned or cooked yourself in advance), sesame paste, lemon juice, water, garlic, cumin powder, salt, and pepper, mix them in a food processor and have fresh hummus on your table. It lasts a week in the fridge and is a great source of protein, fiber, essential oils, calcium, minerals, and vitamins. Want to save even more time? You can also buy hummus already made.
Sardines in Lemon Juice
These fish are cheap and an excellent source of protein and the best source of omega-3 fats. Just open a can and squirt them with lemon juice. I keep a can in my office at all times in case of emergency — and sometimes give them to my patients instead of drug samples! Yes, I know what you are thinking “sardines, gross!”, but just give it a try, you might be surprised.
My Favorite 5-minute Dinner
I keep a large container of cooked brown rice — which you can make in advance or at night while you are watching TV – in the fridge. I also keep greens — like collards, kale, or spinach — in the fridge. And I always have canned sardines or salmon in my cupboard. These foods mix together to make a great 5-minute dinner for those nights when I’m just too tired — or too lazy – to make anything else!
Here’s the recipe:
- Heat about 1/2 to 1 cup of the pre-cooked brown rice in a pan with a little olive oil. If I’m really, really lazy, I heat it up in the microwave. Put the rice in a bowl.
- To the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some crushed garlic, which you can buy by the jar. Heat for 1 minute, until the pan is warm but not smoking.
- Add the spinach or chopped greens, which just need a quick rinse beforehand. Add salt and pepper and stir. Cook just until the greens begin to wilt; about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Put the greens in a big bowl on top of the rice, and top with a can of sardines or salmon.
- Season with hot sauce — and enjoy!
From Dr. Daniel Amen
Go for Grains (Oatmeal or pearled barley) At about $3 for a big canister that provides 30 servings, a single bowl of oatmeal is a bargain at about 10 cents. Pearl barley runs about 89 cents to $1.50 for a bag with 18 servings. Pearl barley is one of the healthiest foods most people aren’t familiar with.
Buy Vitamin-Rich Vegetables Frozen and Save Stock up on frozen vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and carrots. Yes, the freezing process does remove some of the vitamin content, but frozen vegetables are still a great source of brain-boosting, anti-aging, disease-fighting nutrients.
Boost Antioxidants With Apples, Oranges, and Bananas Eating fruit is one of the keys to good brain and body health. Apples, oranges, and bananas are full of vitamins and antioxidants that promote heart health, reduce the risk for cancer, and boost brain performance.
Pump Up Protein With Affordable Eggs Eggs, which can be as low as $1 a dozen, are a great source of protein. If you have high cholesterol, toss the yolks and just eat the egg whites. At less than 10 cents a piece, eggs are an affordable option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Fill Up on High-Fiber, Low-Cost Beans Loaded with fiber and high in protein, beans should be a staple in any household that is on a lean budget. To be extra economical, choose uncooked black beans, red beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, white beans, or any other variety rather than canned beans. For example, a 1-pound bag of black beans costs less than $2, and gives you 12 servings for less than 16 cents each.
Stock Up on Canned Tuna Eating fish like tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve heart health, reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, reduce depression, and lower blood pressure. You can get a three-pack of tuna for about $2.50, which means for about 83 cents a can.
Drink to Your Brain Health With Water Water is one of the best things for your brain and body health. With a $15-$20 water filter that fits on your kitchen faucet, you can drink from the tap and get healthy, filtered water that will keep your brain and body hydrated for optimal performance. For a more flavorful beverage, fill up a jug with filtered water, add a few orange slices, and keep it in the refrigerator for easy access.
Spice Up Your Meals With just a few spices in your cupboard, you can enhance the flavor of any dish without using a lot of unhealthy butter, cream, or salt. You can find spices for a few dollars each — they’re even cheaper if you can buy them loose where you scoop the spices into bags rather than buying them in a bottle.
Become a Savvy Shopper Knowing which foods are the best nutritional bargains is only half the battle to eating right on a strict budget. You also have to learn to be a smart shopper. You can save a bundle if you buy items that have a long shelf life — like canned tuna, beans, oatmeal, barley, and frozen vegetables — in bulk. Look for sales and specials, use coupons, and buy generic brands when possible. You can even shop online for many food items or look for coupons online from local stores to find the best deals.
From Volunteer “Smart Shopper” Chaundel Holladay
The Daniel Plan asked Pastor Tom’s wife, Chaundel Holladay for tips for cost-effective tips to eat healthy.
- Buy what’s in season
- Buy what’s on sale – stock up – even consider freezing, like berries: Build your menus around what’s on sale but also keep things on hand that you often use in recipes – like canned black beans, canned tomatoes, canned tuna. Write out healthy meal and snack menus and then watch for the items in that menu to go on sale.
- Learn where to buy what and when – compare prices on the things you use all the time.
For example, shopping your local grocery store:
- Most stores have weekly sale items. Look for what is on sale and build your menu around those items.
- Check your store’s weekly ads and take advantage of coupons and deals that overlap from one week to the next.
- Look for Bulk items – organic rolled oats, etc. – Stock up when they go on sale.
- Chicken breast/tenders – no antibiotics or hormones – Look for sales! Use fresh and buy a package for the freezer
- Buy whatever vegetables are on sale that week.
- Organic spinach
- Organic frozen blueberries
- Organic whole milk
- Cage free eggs
- Agave (natural sweetener)
Farmers’ Markets: http://www.localharvest.org – Farmers’ markets aren’t necessarily cheaper but offer fresh, quality produce.
Coupons: While there aren’t a lot of manufacturers coupons for fresh produce if you cut coupons to save on health and beauty items, paper products, cleaning supplies and other non-food items then you have more “grocery money” available for healthy foods.
Use them at a store that doubles coupons (up to 50 cents) or use on an “extra bucks” item at CVS or Rite Aid and sometimes they will be paying YOU to buy the item.
From Volunteer “Smart Shopper” Kim Moeller
The Daniel Plan received cost-effective tips to feed a family from volunteer Smart Shopper Kim Moeller.
- Replace diet or soda drinks, buy sparkling water. Add a lemon or lime to it. You can also buy flavored Stevia sweetener bottles. One of the flavors is root beer, and it’s delicious. You just add about 8-10 drops to the water, and the taste is similar to root beer soda.
- Invest in an “immersion blender.” This tool is a handheld blender the kids can use to make their own smoothies. Just add the fruit, almond milk, or protein powder and put the blender in a cup. It blends a single serving without having to get out the entire blender.
- Grill more chicken than you need on a Sunday evening. Eat the chicken for Sunday dinner and then use the extra chicken throughout the week for soup, salads or panini’s on whole wheat bread.
- Invest in a Panini maker and the kids can quickly make a healthy snack after school, with grilled veggies, grilled chicken and a little cheese.
- Save money on your produce or veggies by shopping early morning or late afternoon. Ask your produce manager when they discount the various items in the produce department. Often, I will see the veggie trays, salads, sometimes packages of strawberries marked at 75% off provided. I arrive around 9 a.m. at my local grocery store.
- Be a part of a co-op. I pay $20 a week and I receive a bag of fresh veggies and fruits. Sometimes, the bag also includes eggs, fresh lunchmeats, and fresh chicken breasts. Every time I go and pick up my food, I bring a reusable grocery bag. Read here to learn more about co-ops in your area.
Every co-op is a little different. I pick up my food, some deliver. One of my favorite perks of being a part of the co-op is the weekly email with a healthy recipe. Most of the ingredients are contained in that week’s bag. Whatever else I will need is listed separately in the email along with the complete list of co-op items for the week.
- Buy big tubs of greek yogurt (low sugar) at Costco. It’s a lot cheaper and a great snack when mixed with fruit for the kids.
- Finally, a quick recipe to save you money and time. The kids love it!
(I usually purchase all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s)
- 2 boxes of chicken broth
- 1 can of tomato paste
1 bag of fresh spinach
- 1 bag of turkey meatballs
- 1 bag of bowtie pasta uncooked (can use whole wheat pasta as well)
- Cayenne pepper
- Fresh parmesan cheese
Pour the chicken broth into the crock pot with one cup of water. Add a generous tablespoon of tomato paste, and 3-4 shakes of the cayenne pepper. Add the bag of frozen meatballs. Let simmer for 2-3 hours. About 20 minutes before serving, add the bag of uncooked pasta and the spinach to the crock pot. Do not over cook. Once the pasta is ready, serve in bowls with fresh parmesan cheese and whole wheat rolls or a gluten-free bread on the side.