Today I’m going to discuss a topic in the same vein as one of my recent articles regarding health and nutrition. This post was inspired through a few different interactions, but the most notable exchange was with a gentleman on Twitter who posted this:He goes on to say how there were so many people who were naysayers and made excuses for their own shortcomings.
- Ryan was lying.
- Processed meals are just cheaper.
- Ain’t no one got time for cooking!
You know what all these are? Excuses for their own failures, plain and simple. This is the blathering of weak men and women who don’t want a solution to their woes. They just want to go on complaining about how miserable their life is and how they just can’t get a break.
If only big daddy government could give them more money.
If only they could get that raise.
That shit don’t fly around here, men, because we are, well…men! Men don’t make excuses. We find solutions. Today I am going to offer you a solution to the age old debate as to whether you can eat healthy for cheap with photographic proof that I’m not just pulling this information out of my ass. Let’s begin.
Disclaimer: You’re NOT going to be eating like a king on this protocol. You’ll be giving up luxury foods and cutting down to the bare necessities so don’t think this is some secret formula that still allows you to eat lobster and sip on martinis.
Cutting Out the Luxury Items
As you go throughout your day, take notes of any food or drinks you’re purchasing. This can be range from anything to a drive through meal at McDonald’s to a cheap coffee at your local gas station. After you find where your money is going, you can then begin to cut out the extraneous spending.
Before I hear the cries of outrage over giving up coffee, let me ask you: Can you get your coffee for free? If so, take that route. I don’t remember the last time I paid for coffee because my office supplies it for us. If your workplace does the same, take full advantage of it. If you’re really trying to knuckle down on your expenditures, you should only be drinking water from the tap and the free coffee.
No six-pack of beer on the weekends or soft drinks for you!
That goes double for snacks out of the vending machine as well.
Eating Healthy for Cheap
This part is going to take a bit of planning on your part. What I’m going to provide below is a list of staples that you can purchase at dirt cheap prices. It’s going to be up to you to take these items and make them into meals that fit your tastes. This shouldn’t be too hard, but if you’re having trouble getting the creative juices going, do a DuckDuckGo search for some recipes and adjust accordingly.
The first item we have on the list is good old rice. Rice is great for stretching out how far your meals can go and is one of the cheapest foods you can purchase. I’m not too picky about whether you purchase white or brown rice. Brown rice will be a bit more expensive, but is still a good option for eating on the cheap.
The only downsides to rice are that it isn’t exactly nutrient dense and almost devoid of any protein as well, but it still beats the hell out of those prepackaged microwave meals filled with chemicals.
I found white rice as low as $0.03 per ounce and brown rice around $0.044 per ounce. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that gents, unless you go somewhere like Sam’s Club and buy the REALLY big bags.
The second item we will be discussing is dried beans. You can opt for buying these in the can (which is still a pretty cheap option), but to really save on money, by them by the bag and cook them up yourself. Unlike rice, beans are a nutritional powerhouse and also sport a respectable amount of protein and fiber.
It’s really hard to go wrong when picking which type of beans to cook with. I generally opt for black beans, lentils, or a bag of mixed beans. A trick I’ve learned over the years is that the beans cook up easier if you allow them to soak in water for 24 hours before cooking them.
Beans are a bit more expensive that rice is coming in around $0.15 – $0.19 cents per ounce (depending on what type you buy), but is still a great staple to add to your meals when you’re on a budget.
Third on the list are eggs. Eggs are considered by many as a perfect food, boasting a bevvy of vital vitamins, cholesterol and saturated fats (essential for testosterone production), and protein.
What’s better is that eggs a incredibly versatile and can be added into a multitude of meals, although yours truly enjoys the simple classic of a couple over easy eggs paired with toast and bacon. Call me old fashioned!
Unless your budget allows it, you’re probably going to stick with the basic, generic eggs and skip over the all natural, organic, free range, eggs from chickens that receive weekly massages after their cardio kickboxing class. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though. Although not optimal, you’re still getting quite a few micro and macronutrients.
The cheapest eggs I found while hunting around Publix was a case of 30 eggs for $3.00. This means each egg was only $0.10!
On the subject of breakfast food, let’s move onto another; oatmeal. Like everything else on this list, buying in bulk will be your friend. The store brand tub of plain oats that I found was a respectable $0.083 per ounce.
While oatmeal isn’t as nutrient dense as some other items on this list, it is quite filling, especially paired with a few eggs for breakfast. It’s also quite versatile and can be flavored in a multitude of ways. More on that later.
Last we’re going to cover on the list today is chicken. We’re not talking about buying chicken breasts, mind you. No, we’re talking specifically about purchasing a full chicken and cooking the entire thing! To those who haven’t cooked a full bird before, it can seem a bit daunting, but fear not. It’s actually quite easy.
If you have a crockpot, something I HIGHLY recommend, then you can simply throw a thawed chicken into it (be sure to remove the bag of giblets out of the cavity in the bird), set it on high, and come back in 3-4 hours to check and see if it’s fully cooked. After that, place the chicken on a pan, carve it up, and use the meat in whatever meals you’re cooking.
A fully grown hen runs about $1.59 per pound at my local Publix, but I have occasionally found them on sale for as low as $0.89 per pound. Those are the time you should stock up on a few and throw them in the freezer!
Not much to cover on the nutrition facts of chicken. This is where you’ll be getting the majority of your protein.
To make this plan work, as well as make your meals taste better, you’re going to need a few additional items. These are things you won’t purchase as regularly, or are one time purchases, so we’re not going to tally the costs of them in this article.
First and foremost, buy a crockpot. No seriously, this will be the best purchase you’ll ever make for the kitchen. Crockpots are fairly cheap, are great for low maintenance cooking (what other appliance can you cook something in overnight?), and will actually save you a little money on your electricity bill due to their energy efficiency. Plus, if you’re a culinary novice, crockpots are very forgiving and won’t burn your food if you leave it in an extra hour.
Secondly, you’ll need a few spices to season up your meals. This is all dependent on your own personal tastes, but try to buy your spices with a plan in mind. For example, I cook chicken fajitas in my crockpot fairly often so I make sure my spice cabinet has plenty of the following:
- Salt & Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
- Garlic Powder or Minced Garlic
If I’m eating oatmeal regularly, then I’m going to make sure I have a jar of honey and some cinnamon to flavor it. Hell, I might even add in some blueberries and yogurt. You get the gist.
Quite honestly, this is going to be the hardest part of the whole process – planning your meals and everything you’ll need. Do it right however and you’ll be eating dirt cheap while staying full and fueling your body for the gym.
Wrapping Up – Example Meal Plan
To wrap up this article, I’m going to create an example meal plan for a week and see how we do with just the items mentioned above (minus the spices). This will be for one person, but if you’re feeding a family, simply multiple the amount of food used and the price by the number of mouths you’re feeding. Easy as pie (and before you ask, no, pie is not on this meal plan).
The math I use for breakfast vs lunch will be a bit different, so just bear with me. I will write it all out though so you can see how everything is being calculated.
- 1 cup of oatmeal/day = $0.083/oz x 8 oz = $0.66/day x 7 days =$4.65 per week
- 3 eggs/day = $0.10/egg x 3 eggs = $.30/day x 7 days = $2.10 per week
- Weekly Total: $9.77
Lunch and Dinner (Chicken Fajitas)
- 1 chicken = $12.00 per week (approximate)
- 1 bag of lentils = $2.29 per week
- 2 cups white rice = $.03 per ounce x 16 oz = $0.48 per week
- 2 frozen bags of diced peppers and onions = $1.75 per bag x 2 = $3.50 per week (approximate)
- 2 cans diced tomatoes = $.75 per can x 2 = $1.50 per week (approximate)
- Weekly Total: $19.77
Grand Total (minus spices, honey, etc): $29.54 per person!
And there you have it. A no nonsense approach to eating healthy on mere pennies per day with the pictures to prove it.
Some of you might argue that there’s a lot of carbs in this diet and is therefore not optimal. You would be correct, but compared to the SAD, Standard American Diet, it is many cuts above. Add some leafy green vegetables to the mix and you’re all set!
Got any dirt cheap items we didn’t cover? Leave a comment below with your ideas!