Someone I love (hi, Sweetie!) asked me for advice this morning on portion control and finding cheap, healthy foods to feed a household. Because it’s been a while since I wrote a post not centered on kitten cuteness and this subject would take 40 texts to address, I decided to put it here.
As far as portion control, my advice is as follows.
- Get a kitchen scale. You can’t control your portions if you don’t know what they are, and you can’t know what they are if you don’t measure your foods. We’ve used a low-priced scale from Walmart for years, and it was instrumental in my going from 230 pounds to 126.
- Weigh and measure your food, especially nutrient-dense stuff like cooking oils and peanut butter. They can really add up in your calorie allotment if you’re not precise and you’ll end up going over budget. For liquids, measuring cups and spoons are fine. For solid things like beans, rice, and meats, you really need to weigh.
- Download the Myfitnesspal app and use it to log your food intake. I’ve been using this app for six years and it was also instrumental in my weight loss. It’s free, and while it takes a little setup to use, logging is easy and doesn’t take a lot of time per day. The benefit is worth the effort. Go with the calorie budget and macronutrient split it recommends (50% carb, 30% protein, 20% fat) and watch how the foods you eat stack up to those amounts. You’ll figure out how to adjust your balance as you go and put together meals that fit your needs.
- Read labels and watch the serving sizes. Companies try to trick you into thinking you can eat more than you should by saying things like “ONLY 40 CALORIES PER SERVING” when a serving is actually half a cracker and there are 20 in the package, so you have to be vigilant. They’re just trying to sell more product; you have to watch out for you.
As far as finding cheap, healthy food, my advice is as follows.
- Dry goods are great. If you have time to prepare them, dry beans (pinto, red kidney, or black) are a great source of protein and fiber. They’re also very cheap and easy to buy in bulk. The same goes for white or brown rice. If you like rice, I recommend buying both white and brown because white rice is just better in some dishes, like sweet and sour chicken, while brown rice goes well with chicken and mushrooms or broccoli beef.
- While it’s great to buy fresh produce, especially when it’s on sale, frozen is your friend. Many people think you have to buy fresh produce all the time, and that just isn’t true. Frozen vegetables are cheap, easy to prepare, and nutritious as heck. They also keep a lot longer, so load up on the veggies you like and nom those suckers. We eat a ton of broccoli in this house and most of it is the frozen variety. A word of caution with this, be sure to buy the plain vegetables. Sauced ones are often tasty, but they’re full of sodium and extra calories you may or may not want. Plain ones are easy to season and you can make sure you aren’t taking in extra calories you don’t want. All this goes for meats too, especially fish.
- Canned veggies are also great, especially on sale. Watch your store for big 10 for $5 type sales and stock up on the ones you like. I like the lower sodium varieties, but they tend to go on sale less. It just depends on your needs and preferences.
- Organic is not necessary. Sure, organic is great if you’re into that, but it’s also expensive and has become a buzzword that companies are sticking on things so they can charge more. Avoid it if you’re on a budget. The same goes for gluten-free. Unless you suffer from celiac disease or a diagnosed allergy, there is no reason to buy gluten-free stuff. It just costs more and often has added sugar and fat to make it more palatable.
- Buy meats on sale and freeze them. Watch for big sales on the meats you like, buy as much as you can fit into your food budget, and freeze them in portions to keep for future meals. We do this with chicken breasts, cheap beef cuts, and pork. Similarly, don’t feel like you have to buy certain cuts of meat. Chicken breasts are great, but thighs are just as good and are usually cheaper. Beef sirloin is good, but so is chuck round steak. Flexibility will help you here.
For preparing these cheap and healthy foods, a crock pot or slow cooker can become your best friend. We use ours frequently for healthy chili, stew, and chicken/veggie dishes that go well with rice or other sides for a nice balance. Plus you get to just dump the ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and come back to a tasty dinner hours later. Win.
As far as recipes, my go-to spot is Allrecipes.com. You can search for free, and the reviews people leave often have a ton of great ideas for tweaking a recipe to meet your needs. You also don’t have to wade through a ton of unrelated bullpoop like you would if you just try to Google search a recipe and end up in food blogger hell. Double win.
In short, you can totally do this. If you need any help or food prep ideas, just let me know. I’m here for you! <3