Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Do you have to have money to eat healthy?

Several weeks ago, I got into a friendly debate on twitter surrounding this question: Do you have to have money to eat healthy? I say yes and no. Yes, you have to have some money, but do you have to be rich to eat healthy? Absolutely not! Now, I base this response off of my own experience. I am a full time teacher, making a modest salary so I can't afford organic groceries from Whole Foods on a regular basis but I do budget about $200 a month for groceries and have been able to maintain a pretty healthy diet with that. I utilize sales at my local supermarket and I also utilize the everyday affordable prices at Trader Joes, my favorite store ever. Because of my thriftyness when it comes to groceries, most of my meals are homemade (or semi-homemade), never fried, with plenty of vegetables and healthy proteins. So when I saw a discussion about money being linked to healthy eating, I chimed in sharing my view that it is possible to eat healthy on a budget.

However, a good friend of mine disagreed. She told me that she was unemployed and consequently broke, so she had almost no budget for groceries. She confessed that her budget could be as low as $2 a meal so she was reduced to eating things like ramen noodles just to survive. Now, I like ramen noodles just as much as the next person. But to know that ramen noodles is a staple in my friend's diet is just is too much for me to bear. The sodium alone is off the charts, not to mention it has absolutely no nutritional value.

After learning this information, I began to worry about my friend and she has been on my mind ever since. And this question: "Do you have to have money to eat healthy?" was constantly popping up in my mind. Not to mention it's the start of a new year and with all of America trying to eat healthy, loose weight, and "get moving," I wonder is money really the main factor keeping some people from getting on board. Are we too broke and is healthy food too expensive? Or are we lazy and/or lacking the will power to give up our big macs and fried foods? OR do we just not have enough options for dishes that are both healthy and affordable? Well, I think it's the latter and at the end of our debate my friend told me that although she was pretty firm in her belief that you needed money to eat healthy, she would entertain any ideas and/or tips that proved the opposite.

So my resolution for the new year is to give her, and anyone else who is interested, some cheap, healthy dishes that would help maintain a nutritious, balanced diet. I also decided that, besides being cheap and healthy, these dishes should be quick to make and any leftovers should freeze well. These two factors are important because the friend, whose name will be revealed shortly, also has some health issues which is something that we have in common. I have been battling Crohn's Disease for the past 5 years, and she has a similar disorder, so I know first hand that when you are having a flare up, you don't feel like cooking but yet you have to eat. And you want what you do eat to be delicious, comforting, and be full of fiber and nutrients to boost your energy and (lets be honest) move your bowls. Therefore, I think it would be great to have leftover dishes in the freezer so that when we are not feeling well, healthy, comforting food is just a few microwave minutes away as opposed to making ramen or ordering take-out that we can't really afford and shouldn't be eating anyway.

So stay tuned to this blog for a few recipes that I call HFC: Healthy, Fast, and Cheap. Healthy to keep us looking and feeling our best, fast so that we have no excuses, and cheap to help us all through this recession. First up, I've got Avier's (Stop Eating Ramen Noodles) HFC Chicken and Vegetable Soup and my HFC Black Bean Soup.

I also will be posting some tips that will be useful to any cook whose on a budget and/or trying to eat healthy. They're just a few things that I learned while trying to create these Healthy, Fast, and Cheap meals. It definitely wasn't an easy undertaking but perhaps if I teach you what I know now about thrifty grocery shopping, it will be easier for you to be successful.

Lastly, while you all are waiting on my posts, I would love to hear what you think about the subject. Do you think you have to have money to eat healthy? Do you think that healthy is synonomous with wealthy? What are your experiences with grocery shopping on a budget? Your stories and opinions will not only help influence by blog posts, but also the cookbook I am writing. Can't wait to hear from you!

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