There is a grave misconception that eating healthy costs a lot. This is so untrue. Eating healthy on a SNAP budget is possible. When families eat inexpensive, highly processed, highly sugared foods, they actually eat much more volume to fill up and eat more often to satisfy their spiking hunger cravings. Processed foods are quickly digested in the stomach and cause spikes in insulin which in turn make you feel hungry sooner and crave more volume.
When you eat whole foods you’ll actually eat less volume and less often because the whole food is digested in a totally different manner inside your body compared to highly processed foods. Whole foods stay in the stomach for longer periods of time and do not cause drastic spikes in insulin levels. This in turn leads to feeling more satiated and satisfied with the meal for longer periods of time. So, yes, the whole food does usually cost more at the store, but you will need less of it so the costs are pretty comparable.
Fast food meals are highly processed, full of preservatives and chemicals. And the sodas and sugared drinks that most people get with their meals (that includes chocolate milk) just add to the health cost in empty calories.
In a lot of neighborhoods across the country the only food available is fast food chains. The cost financially and medically is high. Let’s look at a comparison dinner for a family of four at Taco Bell and then if it’s prepared at home instead.
*Homemade whole wheat tortillas Recipe Here.
By preparing the meal at home your family will save on calories, save money, and gain more nutritional value.
By limiting the meat portion of the dinner and replacing it with other healthier and less expensive proteins like beans, you can monitor your food budget and still provide very healthy, filling meals for your family. Also, making sure that 1/2 the total food intake for the day is vegetables makes a huge difference in your family’s health. By eating more fiber rich vegetables and proteins your family will also feel full longer. Other tips for keeping to your budget while eating healthy foods:
- PLAN out meals — when you make a plan and stick to it, you’ll eliminate impulse buys while at the store and really keep your budget intact.
- also take an inventory of what you already have at home and utilize those products in your meal planning. Thus, limiting what you have to buy at the store.
- substitute expensive meats for other proteins like beans and lentils
- drink WATER only — don’t waste money on other drinks
- buy in bulk (when less expensive) with a neighbor and split the cost. Things like beans, rice, a larger jar of coconut oil may be less expensive when buying a large size. Find a bulk buddy and split those items and save together!
- grow your own fruits and veggies – gardening can be done on a patio in containers. You don’t need a lot of property to be a gardener. Even growing a small indoor garden of herbs can be money saving in your kitchen. See ideas here and here.
- limit waste – use “leftovers” from one meal to make another meal the next day
- see what’s on sale at the grocery store or what’s in season (it’ll be less expensive) and plan meals around those items
- take out unnecessary foods from your grocery list. Think of food as fuel for your body. If the item doesn’t add to your health, then eliminate it.
The other tidbit of information to know is that SNAP benefits can be used at a lot of Farmer’s Markets across the country. Farmer’s markets bring the food directly from the grower to you so it’s fresh, usually local, and sometimes organically grown. For the latest list of approved markets click here.
Eating healthy foods on a SNAP budget is absolutely doable! It just takes some planning and a little knowhow!