Eating Well On Social Security — 6 Ways To Cut Costs Without Cutting Nutrition
Rising food costs, particularly for fresh fruits and vegetables, rivaled the growth of cost in prescription medicines in recent months. According to consumer price index data, the cost of a pound of fresh tomatoes, for example, is 25% higher than a year ago. That doesn’t mean you should give up tomatoes. A nutritious diet is crucial for increased mental acuteness, resistance to, and management of, chronic disease, higher energy levels and faster recuperation from illness as you age. Here are six ways to cut food costs, without cutting nutrition.
- Concentrate on “nutrient dense” foods, eliminate “empty calories.” Choose foods that are nutrient dense. This means minimally processed, and as close to its natural state as possible — like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Look for unprocessed meats, dairy and eggs from “free range” animals that are raised without antibiotics on local family farms if possible. Stop eating empty calories products, like doughnuts, cookies, processed fatty meats, chips — and (alas), chocolate and other sweets. Eating vitamin-rich foods reduces risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer and anemia. When you get more nutrients from your food choices, you can consume less, save money, lose weight and feel better!
- Choose a diet rich in plant foods, ease off the meat — especially red and processed meats. You don’t need meat three times a day to get plenty of high -quality protein. Researchers have found that in areas of the world where people live to age 100 in greater numbers than in other parts of the world, their diets are high in plant-based protein, like beans and tofu. Fish is consumed about three times per week and red meat consumed only once a week or so. Beans pack a high protein punch at very low cost, especially if you soak and cook dry beans. Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, wheat, nuts, and seeds also provide plenty of quality protein as well, and can help you feel satisfied without over-eating. Explore how to prepare and enjoy these by checking out vegetarian or vegan cookbooks from your local library.
- Buy locally-grown fruits and vegetables. From the moment produce is picked from a living plant, it starts losing nutrients. Long - distance shipping and time spent on supermarket shelves only exacerbate the problem. For more nutritious and better tasting produce, visit your local farmers’ market. You may also want to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where, for a weekly fee, you get a “share” of the harvest from your local grower. Talk with local growers and find out if they have any “specials” on produce in season. Some growers may be willing to barter with you for services you may be good at providing if you ask.
- Grow your own, there’s still time to plant tomatoes. When you have fruits and vegetables right at your back door, you automatically eat more because they taste so much better. If you grow your own, you can grow enough to have extra to freeze or can. Even if you live in a city apartment, if you have a sunny patio that will hold a big flower pot, you can at least grow tomatoes, and other container —happy plants like zucchini, with a sizable pot and regular watering.
- Cook from scratch. In addition to the food you purchase when eating out, the most expensive supermarket foods are the tempting prepared items sold at your supermarket salad or hot food bars. But anything sold in a can, box, or found in your grocer’s freezer case is almost always more expensive than cooking it yourself and never tastes near as good. It’s also likely to be full of stuff you probably shouldn’t have, like fat, salt, sugar, cholesterol and unpronounceable additives. If you have special dietary needs, like acid reflux or gluten intolerance, all the more reason to get control of what you eat. A great way to learn cooking techniques, or how to prepare vegetables you may be unfamiliar with, is by watching YouTube cooking videos online. If you don’t have Internet access, ask your local library or a friend for help.
- Make big batches and freeze extra. For the biggest savings, buy essential ingredients on sale then make big batches of soups, stews, casseroles, cooked beans and lentils, whole grains, and baked goods that can be frozen ahead and warmed up later.