It’s that time again! Time to start fresh with a new year and make a full-hearted attempt to remedy any perceived shortcomings from last year. These usually include things along the lines of exercising more, eating healthier and getting better with finances. Since this seems to be the case for most of us, then this is the best time to combine eating healthier and getting better with finances by ringing in the new year with a food overhaul.
Pantry Clean Out
What exactly is a pantry clean out? The best way to start anything anew is to take an inventory of everything that wasn’t working before and start fresh. This applies to our pantries, refrigerators and freezers as well. Let’s start with the numbers, since that is one of the most important deciding factors when it comes to changing a bad habit.
The CDC estimates that by losing 10% of your excess weight, you could save anywhere from $2200 – $5,300 over your lifetime in healthcare costs alone. Cutting out junk food, fast food and alcohol on a daily basis can save you $3 per day, $21 per week or $1092 per year. By cutting portions in half, you can save around $9 per week or $468 per year. By going vegetarian 2-3 days per week instead of eating meat, you can save $15 per week or $780 per year. Of course these numbers are just averages because everyone’s habits vary.
Just looking at the numbers, making small changes could amount to more change in your pocket. This doesn’t even speak of the health benefits alone!
So how do you implement changes to eat healthier and still save money? Good question! So let’s get into the meat of HOW to implement the changes to save you money through your dietary choices.
Changes in Choices
There are a few steps involved in making changes to your choices for a better you in the New Year, physically and financially.
The first step to making positive changes is to take an inventory of what you currently have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Things to look for and get toss out are:
- Anything expired
- Anything that has been in there for a long period of time that you have forgotten about, or will never eat (if these are unopened and non perishable, then donate them to a local food shelter)
- Junk food (candy, cookies, highly processed foods)
The second step is to figure out what your goals are for the year. These could be anything from:
- eating healthier
- changing your diet to assist with health issues
- eating at home more
- losing some weight
- saving money
Once you have identified the goal(s), then you will have a clearer idea as to which foods may be better choices for you. The third step is to make a list of the foods that you should replenish your stock with. These should include:
- Staples – variety of whole grain rice, whole grain bread (gluten free or not), quinoa, flaxseed, variety of beans, variety of potatoes, whole grain pasta
- Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies (depending on the time of year) – variety of berries, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, rainbow carrots, beets, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, asparagus, cucumbers, variety of squash, spinach, rainbow chard, kale (baby kale is much more tender and less bitter, so give that one a try if you aren’t a fan of kale), variety of tomatoes, grapes, garlic, peppers
- Meat and eggs (sparingly) – local cage free farm raised eggs, local farm raised chicken, local farm raised and grass fed beef, wild caught fish
- Dairy and dairy free options – organic milk, organic 1/2 & 1/2, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, Greek yogurt, organic yogurt, coconut yogurt, artisan cheeses (preferably from local cheese-makers if any are around you, if not then I suggest other countries due to the high incidence of rBST in the cheeses in the US as well as the prevalence of mistreatment of animals here), organic ice cream without a lot of added sugar or artificial ingredients, gelato
- Other – whole grain crackers, whole grain chips, chips cooked in avocado oil, baked chips, hummus, Greek yogurt dips, organic almond butter, variety of salsa, spices, healthy oils (such as olive, coconut and grapeseed), tea (tea has more antioxidants and health benefits than coffee and it is now easy to find a multitude of flavors, as long as they aren’t artificially flavored), variety of nuts
A lot of people ask me how they can save money by purchasing organic items, since the unhealthier options seem to be cheaper. Yes, it is true that the unhealthier foods are less expensive on the front end. But the thing most people forget to account for is the fact that these foods are not considered nutrient dense This means that they don’t contain the amount of nutrients needed to satisfy your body, which makes you end up eating more of it to feel satiated. Not only that, but you aren’t giving your body the fuel that it needs to operate at its optimum potential, which can result in many side effects such as:
There are many solutions to make the more nutrient dense, healthier foods cheaper on the front end though. Some of the solutions that I recommend are:
- Downloading apps from your favorite grocery stores
- Shopping the sales and coupons before you go to the store
- Downloading and checking the ibotta app for any additional money back on items you were already planning to purchase
- Checking Amazon for their pantry items that are non perishable that can be shipped directly to you
- Check around for a local CSA (this will give you a wide variety of fruits and veggies throughout the year to experiment with and diversify your diet)
- Go vegetarian at least 3 days a week and those days that you eat meat limit it to 1 meal a day
- Cook staples in bulk one day a week and then utilize them throughout the week in different dishes to save on cooking time in the kitchen and freeze what you don’t use within that timeframe to use at a later date
- Find a food pantry
Overall, there are many ways to save by eating healthier in the new year. But the best way is to take stock of what you need, cook in bulk weekly, and make sure to shop all sales and coupons before going to the store. Just by doing these few things you could have a thinner waist line and a fatter wallet by the end of this year.
Have you thought about executing a food overhaul? If so, what has been your experience and how much money have you saved doing it?
Do You Know Your Credit Score?
Even if you don’t plan on getting a loan, a good credit score can affect your ability to get a job, a place to live, and will save you money whenever you need to borrow. If you don’t know your credit score, you can get yours free at Credit Sesame. It’s 100% free with no credit card required to signup. I’ve been using it for years to monitor my credit score.