Browsing Category



8 Strategies to Eat Healthy on a Budget

I once saw a meme that stated something to the effect of “Don’t talk to me about obesity until you can tell me why a salad costs $7 and a burger and fries costs $3.” This is true.  It’s a real problem.  And it becomes even more real once you decide to commit to actually making dishes rather than buying pre-packaged ones.  There are solutions out there and over the past couple years, I’ve watched my food budget actually shrink when I decided to buy my food along the edges of the grocery store.

Get a Costco Membership if you spend more than $100 per week on food and toiletries

When I first considered Costco a couple years ago, I wasn’t sure if the price of the membership would be worth the amount saved.  Joining Costco was probably one of the smartest things I have done in terms of grocery shopping.  Here’s why…

  • Better sourced meats at better prices – If you are concerned about Organic meats, Costco has them and they are better priced than traditional grocery stores.  For example, in my area, 4 pounds of organic ground beef (90/10) is $19.99.  Organic boneless chicken thighs are 3.99/pound.  If you are concerned about the bulk sizes, don’t be.  They package them in separate perforated sections which means you can freeze them and use them one at a time.
  • Cheaper produce in some cases – I pick up most of my fruits and vegetables from places other than Costco BUT in some cases such as romain lettuce, you can save a couple bucks.  Once again, it is in bulk (currently I get 4-5 heads at a time) but the bulk price is actually cheaper than the grocery.  Same thing applies to spinach.
  • Cheaper Milk, cheese, butter and eggs –  2 dozen organic free range eggs from a local farm is $8.  Kerry Gold butter (grass-fed) in a three pack is $7.  A full gallon of milk is $2 and change.  Costco Brand coffee is great as well.  Need I go on?
  • Toiletries, paper products and dog food – Not only are the majority of these cheaper but you will spend less time getting them.  What used to be a weekly trip to the grocery for detergent has turned into once every month to month and half.

Not everything is cheaper and the rabbit hole you could go down is pretty deep but if you stay focused on the essentials, you can come out ahead.  There are a couple memberships to consider.  The cheapest one is $50 but if you spend over a $100 a week, go for the executive membership.  This option gives you 2% on your purchases which means that once a year you will get a check to cover the next year.

Buy Spices from Specialty Groceries

You can find things like Paprika, Cumin and other spices much cheaper at Indian and Asian grocery outlets than you can at places like your local Kroger.  In some cases, the cost can be a fifth of the cost of your big box grocery store.

Choose Cheaper Sourced Meats

In the grand scale of things, chicken breast is more expensive than chicken thighs and salmon is more expensive than cod or tilapia.  However, in most cases, they are interchangeable.  And in some cases, they can taste even better (I’m looking at you, chicken thighs.)  Also, the way you cook your meat can allow for cheaper cuts.  For example, a slow cooker can turn an otherwise tough piece of meat into something you can cut with a fork.

When Choosing Fruits or Vegetables, Always Choose the Ones in Season

Sounds like a no brainer but there is no reason to pay $4 for a pineapple when a couple months down the road, it is $1.  Same thing goes for grapes and tomatoes.  Respect the seasons and buy when they are in season.

Buy frozen vegetables that are rich in fat-soluble vitamins

I always have frozen spinach on hand for sauteeing.  Occasionally, when I’m in a pinch for time, I will buy a bag of California vegetables for a dollar and pair it with a protein.  Research shows that in some cases frozen is not only as good as fresh but may actually be better.

Process your own food

….meaning any fresh vegetables you buy should always be processed on your cutting board with a knife.  Listen, I understand that that shredded lettuce that you bought for $1.99 is nice and uniform but it is no better than buying a whole head of iceberg and chopping it yourself for less than a dollar.  If you buy a lot of pineapple, maybe consider investing in a pineapple de-corer.  It’s cheap and in the long run will cost you less.

Start Building a Staples List

Your ‘staples list’ is what will build the flavor profile of your dishes….

Perhaps one of the smartest things you can do is build a staples list of the things you most likely use.  Think coconut milk.  Think flour (if you use flour).  Think spices like paprika and cumin and chili powder.  Think oils like sesame oil (if you do a lot of asian food) or avacado oil.  Think vinegars.  Think sugar (if you use sugar).  A good staples list will give you more choices when it comes to choosing what recipes to make.  Plus, a good staples list can shrink the weekly bill because you aren’t buying these things spur of the moment.

Plan Your Meals

Perhaps the biggest problem that most face when they are trying to eat on a budget is how to stretch their dollar with food they bought for the week.  And the simplest way to do this is to plan.  For example, A rotisserie chicken is a great meal but can be stretched even further when the leftovers are pulled from the bone and put in a container for salads for lunch.  If you are using chick peas for a falafal, you can take the rest and turn it into hummus which can be eaten on vegetables as a snack.



What Eating Only Unprocessed Foods has Been Like

This was originally written over 3 years ago, on June 24, 2013.  But most of my food philosophy still stands.

A few months back I made the decision to try to go completely unprocessed in terms of diet.  Truth be told, I didn’t formally make the leap until about 2 months ago.  But in these last 2 months, some of the changes have been surprising and others, not so surprising.

My food philosophy is fairly simple. No GMO’s (if I can help it).  No processed foods. Little to no sugar.

The “gmo” thing hasn’t been much of a problem although over the past couple months I have had to cut out a couple foods like corn, soy and yellowneck squash out of my diet.  I’ve had sushi in restaurants a couple times and each time I used soy though.

Avoiding processed foods is another beast altogether.  For instance, suddenly mundane things like mayo or ketchup become t0-do tasks. This isn’t as much of a problem since I am gluten-free (do to laziness…who wants to make bread?) so sandwiches have become a thing of the past.  Things that are kind of cumbersome are things like making italian dressing for salads but even this is fairly easy.

Grocery shopping is nothing more than a trip around the edges of the store, this by the way is how to how to avoid buying fake forskolin supplements. And of course, I still have to buy things for my 5 year old daughter who isn’t too keen about my diet as she has noticed trips to MCD’s suddenly plummet.

I don’t want to have to think about it and cooking it should be about as easy as eating it.  Oh…and it has to taste good.

I also still have coffee in the morning (with cream and honey) and an alcoholic drink or two at night.  So, I guess you could call this almost paleo although I don’t like considering myself anything other than someone who eats what they are supposed to eat.

Over the past 2 months, I have lost roughly 15 pounds and a few inches of girth around my mid-section.  I know this isn’t “biggest loser” amounts but I am not that overweight.  The biggest thing for me hasn’t been the pound count though as much as it is the how-do-you-feel-in-your-clothes feeling.

Here are a few things that I have learned along this journey….

You have to plan what you eat.  This is probably the hardest part for most and not having food around for you to snack on is a recipe for gorging yourself on things that you probably shouldn’t eat.  Almonds, mixed with a bit of dried fruit replace that bag of chips late night.  A big bucket of salad pre made on Sunday can get you through the week for lunch.  If you are in a hurry, a chopped up chicken breast cooked in bacon fat can expedite the cooking down from 15 minutes to 5-8 minutes.  Boiled eggs are perfect when you are refrigerator grazing.

That said, everything has to be pre-planned to a certain degree.  It’s actually remarkably easy.  Grocery shopping pretty much consists of me planning a week of protein with staples.  I kind of put a little toe water here by joining the primal blueprint weekly menu planner which I will talk about a little later.

Protein Staples include eggs and bacon, chicken, some sort of fish, bison and the occasional pork product.

Vegetables and fruits are fairly easy.  I buy a couple pounds of spring mix and then some seasonal fruits and vegetables, usually around $30.

Eating out isn’t as hard as I thought they would be.  In the past 2 months, I have managed to stick to my diet through an anniversary dinner, memorial day weekend and finally a week long vacation to Florida.  I figured the anniversary dinner would be relatively easy (and it was…I had a spoonful of canoli with the wife for dessert) but I was dreading memorial day weekend.  All in all, eating burgers without the bun wasn’t really all that bad although I did get a few weird looks from my wife’s family.

The reality is that most restaurants these days cater to the gluten free crowd which happens to closely resemble my diet. And hey….aside from vegetarians and vegans, who wouldn’t love a juicy hunk of steak with potatoes and vegetables?  For the vacation, I was able to sidestep all the junk food and replaced it with fresh fruit for breakfast and a huge caveman type meal for dinner.  Fresh fish anyone?

Food doesn’t have to be boring.  The last time I went on this diet, I was basically eating chicken breasts, fish and burgers with a side of broccoli or some other vegetable.  In essence, it was very boring.  This time around, I elected to sign up for Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint menu which basically plans weekly meals and breaks them down into a grocery list.  It helped me get out of the cycle of eating bland boring food.

These days, I have an organic chicken thigh recipe cooked with green onions and bacon in a chicken stock dish that even my daughter loves.  I also make a pretty mean Bison Chili topped with avacado.  This week, I making carnitas, which I will eat on a salad. I don’t necessarily follow the menu plan to a T but it gives me ideas for delicious whole food recipes.

Of course, there is boring too.  For example, my post workout days I eat 4 eggs with a slice of bacon and wilted kale, which looks (and actually could be) a quiche.

Your body reacts better to whole food than processed food.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise but what did was how my body has changed.  For instance, I used to have some pretty bad gas issues that was getting worse the older I got.  When I made the switch, it virtually went away overnight.  Same thing with heartburn.

People who are Paleo would like to attribute this to their diet but I think that what is really going on here has more to do with actually eating whole foods rather than ingesting a bunch of chemicals.  I do think that the copious amounts of refined sugar in the American diet wrecks havoc on the intestines and gluten rich products probably aren’t the best idea in the world.

A lot of people talk about insulin levels and how well a whole food diet controls this but even more surprising is the fact that I’m rarely hungry and when I am, I eat a ton less than I used to.

And fiber?  I keep hearing all the dietitians talk about fiber but I have been just as (if not more) regular without gumming up my diet with high fiber foods (like whole wheat bread, bran, granola, etc.)  Of course, a lot of my fiber would be coming from the vegetables I eat.

And then there is sleep.  I sleep a lot more soundly, feel more alert when I’m awake and rarely have that mid afternoon crash.  I don’t know if this accounts for the food I am eating or if it is a placebo effect of thinking myself well although after a couple months I would think if it was all in my mind, it would have run it’s course.

You don’t eat as much as you would think.  This was a total surprise.  I thought eating this way would create a bigger food budget but in essence, it has actually dropped my food budget.  There are days where I have to force myself to eat (non workout days).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are times that I don’t eat a lot.  For instance, a week ago, I sat down and ate a pound of ground beef in one sitting (and didn’t feel bad about doing it).

I don’t crave the foods that I thought I would.  I have heard of all sorts of things about sugar.  And before going into this, I thought for sure I would miss my ice cream time.  But to be perfectly honest, I haven’t.  In fact, I can take my daughter to the yogurt place and not even worry one bit if I am going to fall to temptation.

The last time I did this wasn’t as easy though and I think it was because I allowed myself sweets every now and then.  I know a lot of diets have cheat days but I think this compounds the cravings when ultimately what you need to do is break the cycle.  Breaking the cycle is the hardest part.

I don’t do cheat days but I have had a couple meals that isn’t a part of the diet.  For instance, I had an orangesicle gelato shake while on vacation with my daughter and there was a day where I had a slice of pepperoni pizza.  In both cases, there wasn’t a feeling of reward there though.

I’m losing weight but it wasn’t instantaneous.  Here’s something weird.  The first month I was on this diet, I didn’t lose a single pound but my clothes started fitting better.  But in the past month, I have dropped 15 pounds.  I started at about 205 and am now hovering around 190.  My six foot frame could stand to lose another 15;  I think that this is completely doable by the end of the summer.

Some tips for anyone who is thinking about trying this diet out.

It’s only been 2 short months but at this point I do have a few tips to help those who are wanting to try this diet out.

  1. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.  Perhaps the biggest thing to consider is that this is a lifestyle choice, not a diet that you should play around with to lose weight.  You will lose weight on this diet though.  And feel better about it.
  2. Expect a period of your body readjusting.  I didn’t lose any weight the first 2 weeks although I felt a heck of a lot better and my clothes started fitting better.  I think that a lot of what this has to do with is your body reaquainting itself with burning fat stores (which is the primary fuel) rather than the usual ready on hand sugar that most diets consist of.
  3. Don’t sweat what you are eating…just eat whole foods.  Well, kind of.  You probably aren’t going to lose much weight if you are eating bags of almonds and drinking coconut milk.  But for the rest of us, you can pretty much eat what you want and get results.  The way I look at it, a pound of ground bison may be 1,000 calories but then again, it is probably half of the calories most people ingest at a restaurant.
  4. Keep Foods Interesting.  Whole foods don’t have to be boring.   Experiment with your food or even better, experiment with combining foods.  Apples go nicely with bacon for example.  Why not cook the two together and add them to a salad?  Beef and Avocado absolutely rock. Recently, I discovered that basil in burgers is mighty tasty.  And then there is coconut flour, which makes some pretty bad ass (and healthy) pancakes among other things.
  5. Cheat Days?  What’s that?  I know that a lot of popular diets advocate a cheat day but from my personal experience they just lengthen the cycle of cravings.  When I stopped eating lots of sweet things, the cravings went away completely after about 2 weeks.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t indulge every now and then.  What I am saying is allow your body time to adjust to NOT craving the stuff before you do.
  6. Don’t obsess over the scale.  The hallmark shouldn’t be an actual number but how well your clothes fit your body.  If they are fitting better, then good things must be happening.  I would recommend to step on a scale no more than once a week.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up when you visit the dark side.  80/20 rule applies here.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then and let’s be honest here- No one wants to be THAT guy at a family function that doesn’t eat because his / her diet is conflicting with the menu.
  8. Organic is better.  I went round and round on this one but have decided that organic chicken and grass fed beef is worth the extra dollars.  This is personal though.  The idea of making a bone broth from an animal that has been fed antibiotics since it was born and then me eating those antibiotics kind of freaks me out a little bit.  When a label reads organic, you can rest assured that there isn’t any preservatives or other weird stuff in your food…at least not to the extent that comes from conventional farming.  The way I figure it, the less weird stuff in your food, the less resources your body has to use to get rid of the weird stuff.