Nutritious foods for healthy cheapskates

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 30, 2009

In my phone conversation with cheapskate Jeff Yeager, I found myself agreeing with most of Yeager’s opinions about how simplifying our lives can help us save money and increase our happiness. In fact, I think before we hung up he had referred to me as a sister of the cheaphood.
I was so proud.
Simplifying our diet ó by cutting out overpackaged, over-processed food ó is not only economical but healthy.
It’s simply not true that healthy eating has to be expensive. People complaining about the high cost of food ó including the media ó need to get a little historical perspective.
Would you assume that the average family is now spending more or less of its annual income on food than in the 1950s? If you said more, you’d be wrong. According to the most recent figures, Americans spend about 10 percent of our disposable income on food, down from 21 percent in the 1950s. That’s pretty amazing, considering that people were largely cooking from scratch in the 1950s and not eating out the way that we do today. I like to be a locavore when possible. It’s not always the cheapest way, but spending a little bit more to support the local economy ó for high quality food ó makes sense.
I do understand, however, that people who are having a problem making ends meet may simply have to focus on bottom line food costs.
If you take time to comparison shop and buy generic when possible, as well as buy in bulk on certain items, it is possible to eat well and still keep your grocery bill down.Here are some of my favorite healthy foods that give a huge bang for the buck. – Oatmeal. If you’re tired of spending $4 a box for cereal that contains 10 servings or less, consider switching to oatmeal.
Forget the prepackaged little packets that go into the microwave. Those are expensive and with so much added sugar, they’re not particularly good for you ó get the real stuff in the round cardboard box. Oatmeal is a great source of fiber and has been shown to lower cholesterol. You shouldn’t have to pay more than 10 cents per serving, and you could pay as little as 5. It really doesn’t take long to cook, and it’s a very satisfying start to your day. Steel-cut oats are even better for you. They’ll cost more but I’ve found them for less than $1 a pound.
– Rice. White rice in moderation is a good inexpensive source of carbohydrates.
Since rice can be stored safely for several years, it makes sense to buy rice in bulk. Even if you only buy three pounds at a time, you can still find it for 60 cents a pound.
Brown rice is a little more expensive but more nutritious than white rice and worth the extra money.
If you buy instant rice or boxes of rice with seasonings included, you’re paying too much. Seasoning your own rice isn’t that hard.
– Potatoes. If you don’t muck them up with too much butter and sour cream, white potatoes can be a nutritious part of your diet. The potatoes in this photo cost 35 cents a pound at Aldi.
– Sweet potatoes. They may cost a little more than white potatoes, but they’re nutritional superstars and worth the extra money. Try cutting them up as fries, coating them with olive oil and baking them in the oven for a healthy, filling side dish. You ought to be able to find them for less than $1 a pound. I found some recently at Aldi for less than 70 cents a pound.
– Apples. A great source of fiber, they can be a good weight loss tool since they fill you up. It will depend on the time of year, but if you shop around, apples can be a huge bargain. Aldi recently offered three-pound bags for $1.49, which came out to less than 20 cents per apple.
– Beans and lentils. Pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils: these are all great staple foods, low in fat, packed with fiber and protein and inexpensive ó often under $1 a pound.
For the most savings, buy them dry and cook them yourself for the biggest savings. I must admit, I kind of ignore cooking directions that involve soaking and tend to just throw mine in a crockpot with a bunch of water and cook them on low while I’m at work. I’m never disappointed with the end product.- Eggs. At less than 10 cents per egg, eggs are a fantastic food bargain.
At about 78 calories per egg (hard-boiled, nothing added), they’re a good source of protein and high in nutrients.
Although not everybody can handle straight-up hard-boiled eggs, I like them as a snack at work ó much healthier than getting a candy bar or crackers from a vending machine ó cheaper, too. – Citrus fruit. Depending on the season, citrus can be a great bargain. Tangerines were available recently at Aldi at three pounds for $2.99 ó less than $1 a pound (which means Jeff Yeager, the Ultimate Cheapskate, would have bought them).
– Cabbage. This vegetable is another excellent choice. It’s plentiful, stores well, and is inexpensive. Heads of cabbage were available recently at Harris Teeter for 49 cents a pound and at Aldi for $1.19 a head.