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Eat Healthy, Save Money

Oh boy, I love request posts. This buds for you, Sandy.

I gained 10 pounds on my quest to save money this year. Choosing to make mac n' cheese, cans of ravioli, hot pockets, ramen and other processed foods here at the office has added quite a few pounds and extra flab to grab on to. I'm not proud of it, but I did save money.

But there has to be a better way. Nobody should have to sacrifice their healthy eating habits in order to save a buck or two. With transportation costs high, the price of food is going to remain high as well. So where is the middle ground? Where does healthy meet frugal and our quality of life doesn't suffer in the process?

After some research, it's become obvious that it is indeed possible, just involves rules and a little bit of work.

Rule #1
Eat Less
The less you eat, the lower your grocery bill. If you feel you're overweight, eat fewer calories and smaller portions. Don't starve yourself to save a buck, but take a look at what your shoveling into that lip-flap of yours and decide for yourself.

Rule #2
Shop Smarter
If it comes in a box its unhealthy and more than likely expensive. If it comes in a crinkly bag, it'll make you a wrinkly hag. :) Sorry couldn't resist that one. The healthiest foods are located at the back and the sides of a grocery store, primarily. Meat and Dairy, Grains, Fruits and Vegetables, and Beer. Okay the last one might not be so healthy, but it flowed nicely. You can almost skip the middle section completely.

Rule #3
Spend Smarter
Forget the stereotypes, as we both know you're not a bingo-playing, old lady, trying to save every penny so you can afford another cat. Start cutting coupons, doing price comparisons, and visiting company websites for special offers. Make a list of what you're going to buy, stick to the list, and shop when you've just finished eating. Supposedly, you make rash decisions when you're hungry.

So with your rules in hand its time to go shopping. We all should have paid more attention in our Health Education/Nutrition class in high school. The Pyramid has been revamped since then, but the information is still the same. Start thinking of healthy foods and they all fall back on the basic principles.

One test that I have noticed is if you can say the fooditem's name without a brandname immediately popping into your head, its probably healthy and its probably cheap. For example: Icecream? Ben & Jerry's. Not healthy, not cheap. Corn? errr... Corn. Healthy and cheap. Soda? Dr. Pepper. Chicken? Breasts! So in terms of the food pyramid, we want to think smart.

The following foods are not only healthy, but you can purchase most of them for around $3. Plus they all pass my test! Yay!

1. Canned salmon $2.89/14.75 ounces (59 cents/serving) Get your Omega-3's for less. Salmon is full of these healthy fats, which help lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.

2. Chicken breasts $3.49/pound (87 cents/serving) Easy-to-prepare, chicken is full of lean protein, which helps keep you fuller longer.

3. Natural peanut butter $3.39/16 ounces (42 cents/serving) Skip the sugary, processed varieties and spread the real stuff on whole-grain bread. Throw a tablespoon in smoothies or yogurt, use it as a dip for carrots and pretzels, or mix it with a bit of low-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic, then thin with water for a quick sauce.

4. Canned beans 84 cents/15 ounces (22 cents/serving) Bulk up soups and stews while getting protein and fiber. Try chickpeas or black beans if you're not a fan of kidneys or pintos. Drain, rinse, and blend with lemon juice, garlic, cumin and a bit of vegetable broth for a quick dip.

5. Eggs $1.99/dozen large (17 cents a serving) Not just for breakfast, eggs are among the easiest foods to cook. If you're watching your cholesterol, scramble one egg and two egg whites. Add onion and spinach and you've got a great omelet.

6. Dried lentils 79 cents/pound (20 cents/serving) Full of protein and fiber, lentils cook in just 15 minutes! Throw some in soups and stews or cook with curry powder for a quick, spicy meal.

7. Almonds $3.99/9 ounces (44 cents/serving) Get vitamin E, fiber and protein while satisfying a crunchy craving. Nuts are rich in an amino acid that could be linked to heart benefits. Chop a few raw ones and throw them on yogurt.

8. Frozen fruit and berries $2.99-$5.99 pound (75 cents-$1.50/serving) Throw some in the blender with milk or yogurt for a healthy treat. Frozen berries can be used in oatmeal or drained and baked into muffins and quick breads.

9. Apples 68 cents each They might not keep the doctor away, but apples are actually full of antioxidants, which help slow the progression of age-related diseases.

10. Bananas 35 cents each Slice one on your morning yogurt or oatmeal for some added fiber and only 100 calories or so. Snack on a potassium-rich banana to prevent cramps after a workout.

11. Grapes $2.99/pound (75 cents a serving) Freeze grapes for a decadent, low-calorie dessert or snack. Grapes--especially the dark purple ones--contain plenty of antioxidants that are known to help heart health.

12. Romaine lettuce or other hearty lettuce $1.99/head (66 cents/serving) Banish the iceberg and choose sturdy Romaine for your salads. It will give you more fiber and nutrients, plus a satisfying crunch.

13. Carrots $2.79/3 pounds (23 cents/serving) Mom was right. Carrots are good for your eyes, thanks to the antioxidants, including beta-carotene, in them. (That's what makes them orange!) Dip them in hummus (made from canned beans), natural peanut butter or low-fat dressings.

14. Frozen spinach $2 for 16 ounces (50 cents/serving) Thaw and drain this good-for-your green, then toss it in omelets, soups, stir-fries and pasta sauces. Spinach is full of vitamins A, C, K, plus fiber and even calcium.

15. Canned tomatoes $1 for 14.5 ounces (28 cents/serving) Choose low-sodium varieties and throw a can in pasta sauces and chili to stretch a meal. Puree a can with a cup of skim milk and season to taste for your own tomato soup. You'll get a dose of vitamins A,B and C and lycopene, an antioxidant known to prevent cancer.

16. Garlic 50 cents/head (5 cents/serving) Ditch the bottled and powdered stuff if you want to reap more of the myriad health benefits. Pungent and tasty, garlic can help lower cholesterol and blood clots, plus it can have a small effect on high blood pressure. Crush or chop it to release more of the antioxidants.

17. Sweet potatoes $1.49/pound (37 cents/serving) Aside from being sweet and delicious, these bright root vegetables are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Bake, mash or roast them--you'll forget about those other, paler potatoes.

18. Onions 97 cents each (32 cents/serving) Like garlic, this smelly vegetable is full of health benefits. Onions have been proven to lower risks for certain cancers, and they add flavor with few calories. Try roasting them to bring out their sweetness and cut their harsh edge. (If you well up while cutting them, store onions in the fridge for a tear-free chop.)

19. Broccoli $2.49/pound (63 cents/serving) Broccoli is like a toothbrush for your insides. Full of fiber, it will provide you vitamins A and C, plus fiber and a host of antioxidants. Broccoli is a superstar in the nutrition world.

20. Whole-grain pasta $1.50/13.25 ounces (45 cents/serving) With a nutty flavor and a subtle brown color, whole-wheat pasta perks up any meal. Start with half regular, half whole-wheat pasta, then gradually add more wheat pasta for a burst of fiber and nutrients.

21. Popcorn kernels $2.39/32 ounces (30 cents/serving) Air-popped popcorn has just 30 calories and a trace of fat. Pop a few cups, spritz with olive oil or butter spray and sprinkle on your favorite seasonings for a guilt-free treat.

22. Brown rice $1.49/16 ounces (19 cents/serving) Brown rice is a great side dish, but you can also use it to help stretch your ground meat. Mix a cup of cooked rice with 8 ounces of lean ground beef next time you make meatloaf to save 45 calories and five grams of fat (and some money) per serving.

23. Oats $3.19/42 ounces (15 cents/serving) Oatmeal is a hearty breakfast, but you can also cook sturdy steel-cut oats in chicken broth for a savory side dish. Or, mix oats with ground turkey to stretch your meatballs.

24. Quarts of low- or fat-free yogurt $2.49/32 ounces (47 cents/serving) Buy large containers of plain or vanilla yogurt, then add real fruit. You'll save money and calories by not buying fancy single-serve yogurts.

25. Gallon of skim milk $3.04 (19 cents/serving) It really does a body good. Full of calcium and protein, milk can help stretch a meal. Pair an eight-ounce glass with a piece of fruit or a granola bar for a filling snack.

Of course none of this will mean anything at all to you if you don't actually commit to cooking in home. None of the planning, spending, and lugging your groceries into your kitchen will help if you just run out to Chicos Tacos instead. So stop by my favorite recipe website FoodGawker and take a peak at their delicious and for the most part nutritious array of food art.

Hope that helps some what, Sandy. If I was way off the mark, well then take it as a good thing. Don't think you want me on Mark anyways. XP