Hygeia Halfmoon: “Diseases don’t strike us, they grow inside of us in direct proportion to the types of food we eat, the emotions we choose to nurture, the amount of exercise we get, the stress levels we experience, the relationships we attract and the belief systems we embrace.”

Below are a couple of quick tips for healthy eating on a budget. I have heard so often how eating gluten free, vegan or dairy free is so expensive. It can be true, only because we are looking for replacements in our diet instead of finding a new healthy lifestyle. My two main tips are stick to real foods and keep it simple.

Meal Plans
I admittedly am not the most organized mom. I go shopping once a week and generally buy enough fruit and vegetables for that week based on what is seasonally available. From that I will get most meals planned out in my head and work from there. There are days when my son has karate and I really don’t feel like doing the whole palaver of vegetable lasagna, so I will make a bean curry and roasted sweet potatoes on those days – something I can whip up quickly. It is also completely vegan and very cheap! What I do also like to do is write down recipes or jot down notes of what my whole family enjoyed into a little notebook that I keep in the kitchen. When I’m running out of ideas I’ll go to this book and at least know my family will eat what I prepare. Therefore less waste.

Adults and children eat the same meals
We make the same meals for adults and children… but with some flexibility. My son will not eat gem squash but my daughter will, so I will give him some leftover broccoli in its place. If I am making a new meal to test out, we don’t force them to eat it but request that they at least try it, but have a backup. These are simple things like leftover oats and fruit.

Use leftovers for next day lunch/side dish for next meal
If I cook rice or potatoes, I always cook the whole bag and plan to use the starch in a meal another day. I also cook large amounts of beans and store in cup sized portions in ziplock bags in the freezer. It’s easy then to put together a batch of black bean patties or add them to a stew.

Keep staples in a chest freezer
A big freezer by far has been one of my best investments. We keep gluten free wraps, bread, frozen fruit (including cut up bananas from our trees), frozen berries, mango etc. These are excellent for smoothies. We also keep some frozen veggies for those times I need to cook in a rush or they are out of season and we want to eat something in particular.

Buy larger amounts for the pantry
I buy organic oats, beans, brown rice, lentils, chickpeas, organic tinned tomatoes and rice noodles in larger amounts and keep in the pantry.

Keep your meals simple
Meat, starch and two veg just don’t stack up anymore in the health stakes. We generally do one veggie based prepared part of a meal (such as a lentil dhal, bean curry, veg lasagna etc.) and the balance is steamed veg and a fresh salad (salads are so boring in my house, but I always make delicious dressings that can make the meal). I’m totally on board with eating half a watermelon as a meal too 🙂

Smoothies are great snacks or meals
I’m not a great juicing fan unless treating something specific like cancer or liver damage. Especially cost wise – the fiber is what fills you up and your brain needs sugar and fiber to function. I prefer smoothies for this and will load up on the greens and if I’m super hungry I will add in some oats and or chia for more bulk.

Eat enough
If you are eating plant based meals, ensure you’re eating enough. When you’re not dealing with fat and meat, you can eat until you’re fully satisfied. For me this generally means second and third helpings! Limiting yourself when it comes to veggies and fruits will just make you super hungry for the next meal before it’s time and I personally start hunting around for sugar laden foods or coffee to fill the gap.

Grow your own
By far the easiest things to grow are lettuce, spinach and kale. We use these daily. To feed ourselves, rabbit and chicken. We have a fairly large veggie garden, but these can easily be done from seed in pots.

Buy fruit and veggies that are locally grown first and foremost
These will be the cheapest and most abundant. And the wonderful thing is that you can talk to the farmer at the market about how they grow their veg. Often with very little or no pesticide because the produce will be natural to the area and be growing abundantly so there is enough to go around for the bugs too. Next on my preference list is organic, if you can with your own packaging or little packaging. Next would be chainstore bought organic. These often have heavy packaging but aren’t generally that much more expensive. Unfortunately preservative sprays are used in lettuce packets and banana boxes to keep these fresh anyway. Then I would choose chain store traditionally grown foods. I then wash using a commercial organic veggie wash (Triple Orange does a great one, and vinegar is great too) or peel in the case of potatoes or apples etc.

Snacks are not processed foods (biscuits, yoghurt, bread, chips etc.), fast food is fruit
We do not limit fruit in our house, and if I have to go shopping more than once a week it is always for fruit. If anything involves preparation, I consider it a meal. Fruit is quick and accessible.

Use full fat foods
We are vegetarian, plant based for most of the time in our home. But when we did consume dairy, we used full fat raw dairy only. The fat keeps you fuller for longer.

Don’t have processed foods in the house
Then we don’t have the option of eating it. We ensure we start preparing food before we get so hungry that we will not eat anything around, or buffer our tummies with some fruit while we’re waiting for a meal to cook.

When you are out at a restaurant…
Now is the time to have a different meal such as a (veggie) burger – children learn to separate this as a food not often eaten compared to normal food and don’t expect it at home.

Don’t buy replacement foods
Buying processed gluten free foods – such as muffins, mixes and breads are often packed with sugar and salt to make them more tasty. A gluten free muffin or a plain old muffin is still a muffin, there is little health benefit to buying processed “free of” foods. The only gluten free products I buy are wraps, mostly because I’m too lazy to make my own.

It’s a learning process but I do feel my life is infinitely simpler since we have been eating plant based. I don’t have to worry about meat or hormones or if I’ve defrosted anything for dinner. There is a huge amount of plant based inspiration online and I feel excited about eating this way – because it gives me infinite energy, my thinking is clearer, we barely get ill and if we do we recover very quickly, I am helping our world and our grocery budget is less!

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