Mediterranean Diet on a Budget
Is a Mediterranean Diet a budget friendly way to eat?
With an overall focus on produce, beans, and healthy grains, this way of eating can be substantially cheaper than other methods of eating that are more meat-heavy.
Whether your food bill increases or decreases depends a lot on what you have been eating, where you buy your produce, whether you buy in-season produce, and so much more!
If you are used to ordering take-out 5 nights a week and then switch to primarily cooking at home, you can save yourself some money.
If you normally grill beef and turkey burgers most evenings and you swap to preparing homemade veggie burgers, your wallet will benefit.
If you are used to buying cheap convenience foods like chips and granola bars, switching to nuts and fresh produce as snacks may increase your grocery bill, slightly. (Your health, however, will thank you!)
Ways to reduce your food budget:
If you are looking to maintain or reduce your food bill, there are several ways that you can achieve this. Here are some of our recommendations for cutting your food bill while maintaining the health benefits of Mediterranean living:
1. Buy frozen instead of fresh (produce and seafood)
Research has shown that frozen fruits and vegetables retain similar nutrient content as their fresh counterparts.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are typically picked and frozen at peak ripeness, locking in all the goodness!
While shopping for frozen produce, be sure to read the food label to double check that there are no additives such as sauces, salt, or sugar (sometimes manufacturers sneak things in to make food last longer or taste better).
This advice goes for seafood too. In many grocery stores, the “fresh” fish has already been frozen for shipment and then thawed for presentation.
Thus, buying frozen is virtually no different, but will often be lower in cost.
2. Build your meals around beans, rice, and legumes, rather than meat
Beans and rice are a fraction of the cost of chicken, beef, or seafood. Embrace vegetarian meals!
Many of your favorite dishes can be made vegetarian without much heartburn: tacos can be stuffed with beans and rice; stews and chilies can easily be made with legumes instead of beef; pasta and lasagna are delicious with hearty tomato sauce no meat required!
3. When you do eat meat, make your portions smaller
Start to think of meat as a side dish. Even if you are having, for example, grilled chicken for dinner, have a smaller portion and pair it with a few different sides. Ideally, your plate would be half-covered with veggies, one-fourth meat, and one-fourth grains or legumes.
Swap out portions of recipes that call for meat with veggies, grains, or legumes. For example, use half a pound of ground chicken in your chili instead of a full pound and make up the difference with a can of beans.
Meals made with ground meat, like meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf can usually be mixed with a substantial quantity of minced veggies without affecting the taste too much. Try diced, sautéed onions, mushrooms, or cabbage.
4. Reduce your consumption of convenience foods.
There is a trade off between quick and easy convenience foods and those that may take a little longer to prepare, but may be more budget-friendly.
A box of “minute rice” which has already been precooked and takes just a few minutes once home costs more than a bag of rice that needs to be soaked and then cooked for 45 minutes. Same with the bagged salads or pre-wrapped vegetables.
You are paying for the convenience of these items!
While it may be worth it to buy these items if it makes your life easier (we do at times), learning to meal prep and prepare frozen foods, beans, legumes, and grains in large batches for the week will help you save money in the long run!
What else would you add to this list? Share your budget friendly meal hacks with us in the comments below!
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