Have you ever heard (or thought!) it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy than it is to eat healthily? What if cost was also measured in quality of life, the number of well days, hours of mental clarity and efficiency and healthcare costs?
The health benefits of meeting recommended daily food group goals for fruits and vegetables are plentiful, but food budgets are just that: a budget. Since forgoing eating the colors of the rainbow from fruits and vegetables to save money is never the answer, here are a few tips to get the most servings out of your food budget so you can Have A Plant® at every meal:
1. Buy In Season. Local produce tends to be more cost-effective and helps support your local community and neighbors. Take advantage of the season’s bounty in the year ahead and preserve excess fruits and vegetables by either freezing, canning or drying.
2. Grow Your Own. Any home gardener will tell you: one little cucumber, tomato or herb plant can produce a lot of deliciousness for your family. Don’t have the yard space to garden? Potted plants work great to grow fruits and vegetables on your porch or deck.
3. Fresh Isn’t Always the Answer. One caveat of the “eating healthy costs more” camp is the belief that fresh produce is the ideal and nothing else measures up. Nothing is further from the truth. Create recipes and meet Food Group goals by mixing up the form of fruits and vegetables you eat. Unless sauce or sugars are added, fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice all fit the mold in being equivalent when meeting Food Group goals.
Varying the forms of fruits and vegetables helps not only ensure color is added to your plate at each meal, but also flavor and texture. For example, want a side dish? Microwave frozen cauliflower right in its steam bag. Making a soup? Toss in canned corn and black beans. Prepping overnight oats? Dried blueberries sweeten as they rehydrate in the oatmeal. Whipping up a smoothie? Blend in 100% orange juice for a bite and vitamin C.
4. Repurpose Leftovers. Who says a dish of fruits and vegetables has to be consumed all at once or in the same manner it was prepared originally? Have leftover zucchini and summer squash? Add them to a morning egg scramble. Not sure what to do with an overabundance of apple sauce during apple-picking season? Add a dollop to plain yogurt or mix it into your favorite pancake recipe.
In the end, there’s no need for food budgets to dictate whether or not you meet daily Food Group goals for fruits and vegetables. Simply pivoting how you obtain your weekly produce and utilize the excess will help get the most out of your food budget dollars for your health and financial bottom line!