Tricks to Cook Healthy and On Budget

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Almost three years ago, I decided to make drastic changes to our diet. My reasons were simple: to eat healthier, in respect to our values and to save money.


Eat Healthier

What does it mean? More vegetables, less meat, less transformed carbohydrates and more natural products.

I not only wanted to eat less meat, but also to be able to buy organic, high-quality products. It was important to limit the amount of chemicals we had in our food.

The same would go for fruits and vegetables. My first goal was to buy local when possible. The second goal was to buy organic on a regular basis.

As for less transformed carbohydrates and more natural products, it meant to cook more at home. I barely buy transformed or ready-to-eat meals as now I make most of them: desserts, soups, cookies, muffins, etc. Here are some great examples of natural products that we now use: maple syrup or honey instead of sugar, organic peanut butter, homemade chocolate spread, organic eggs, fresh and local fish, etc.

Of course, there could be more, but buying organic is not cheap and sometimes you don’t really get what you pay for. That is why I try to make some balance and find alternatives when I cook.


In Respect to Our Values

It was important to me that the animals implied in the meat we eat are treated with respect. I want them to be able to move, see the natural light and to eat healthy. I was very happy to find a local producer that met these standards. It really shows in the taste!

Mr. My Husband and I also have environmental concerns. We prefer choosing products that are greener. This is why some products in our groceries are organic. In an ideal world, all the things on our list would be organic, but it’s unrealistic for now. That will hopefully change in the upcoming years.


Save Money

When I first shared my thoughts with Mr. My Husband about my diet goals, he first thought it would cost more. I was convinced I could still make us save some money. Our family was getting larger (and will be once again in a couple weeks) and we needed to tighten our budget.


So, How Did I Make It? What Are My Tricks?

1. Plan Ahead

The very first step is planning! Make a weekly menu that respects your goals in terms of the type of food you want to eat. I only buy what I need to make our weekly menu. It prevents us from buying too many treats and wasting food. Savings since then are quite impressive.


2. Look for Discounts

I go to a grocery that applies other stores’ discounts. I come in with all my circulars and I benefit from discounts offered by at least 4-5 stores. Sometimes, I also combine these with manufacturer’s rebates found on their websites or coupon sites. I estimate my savings to around $50 each week doing this.


3. Eat Vegetarian

Vegetarian food is quite cheap. Eating less meat is good for your health and your wallet! The savings I make buying vegetarian food help finance my high-quality meat! Indeed, beans, peas and other legumes are very affordable. Most children appreciate them as well. Tofu is a good option as well, although its texture is sometimes less preferred by kids. My trick is to chop it into meals. We eat about 4 vegetarian meals per week. It’s easier than I first thought and very tasty too. Spices are the key! 😉


4. Buy Local and In Season

During autumn, squashes, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots and other root vegetables are in season. They are available almost everywhere and discounts are common. It is time to make a menu based on them! 😉

I was also surprised to realize buying local was in fact cheaper than I thought! Local farmers often reunite in small markets to offer their fresh products. They do offer discounts at times, but what I noticed is that their quality products result in less waste. As if their products inspired me to make out the best from them!


5. Use Every Part!

Did you know that the broccoli foot makes the most delicious potage you’ll ever eat? Use your meat juice as broth for your soups. Keep your vegetables and retrim them to add flavor to your sauce or soups. Bones will add a lot of flavor to your roasted meat too. Don’t throw apple peels away! You can use them to make your homemade pink applesauce! Truly delicious!

I got very inspired by my grandmothers for that part. During their difficult financial times and with many children around, they couldn’t afford to waste. Some might see that as a waste of time, I prefer thinking it’s very smart and green! I’m not perfect at it and still can make improvements, but I’m much better than I was and will continue!


6. Look for Inspiration

I have 2-3 favorite websites that I get new recipes from. I regularly browse them to new ones, but these offer the type of cooking I like: natural, tasty and diversified. Find your own sites and go visit them often. It’s never too late to learn something new!


Image source: from a recipe my family enjoys on Ricardo Cuisine.

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