The following guest post is by Megan Gilmore, a certified nutritionist consultant (CNC) and the creator of Detoxinista.com. Though she wasn’t raised as a healthy eater, Megan credits her former junk food habits for helping her to create quick and delicious recipes using easy-to-find whole food ingredients. Get more in her two cookbooks, Everyday Detox and No Excuses Detox.
Do you ever find yourself making excuses for why you can’t eat healthy? Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough time. Or that your family is too picky. Or that it’s too expensive.
As a working mom with two kids, I’ve been there. I know how challenging it can be to consistently prepare meals that are fast, healthy, taste good, and fit into your budget. That’s why my latest cookbook, No Excuses Detox, is here to help.
My approach to detoxing is different than most. Like Lisa, I believe you can support your body’s natural detoxification system by gradually replacing processed foods with nutritient-rich whole foods. No drastic measures required! My latest book also helps you “detox” from your excuses. I want to help you rid yourself of the mental roadblocks that might be holding you back from making healthy choices on a daily basis.
Do any of these sound familiar when it comes to eating healthy?
- I don’t have enough time.
- It’s too expensive.
- My family is too picky.
- I’m always on the go.
- I can’t control my cravings.
I cover all of these excuses in the book, providing tips and solutions to help you bust through your plateaus, plus 100 recipes that are fast, affordable, freezer-friendly, and family approved. (I have a picky 3 year old to feed myself.)
In the spirit of busting excuses, today I thought I’d share a few ways that I save money while eating REAL food. It’s true that fresh organic produce is more expensive than the conventionally grown variety and that pasture-raised animal products are more expensive than factory-farmed animal products. However, that doesn’t mean that healthy eating has to break the bank.
Here’s how you can save money while eating well:
- Stick to a meal plan.
Meal planning can help you stay on track and on budget. When you shop for only the items you need each week, you’ll avoid making expensive impulse purchases, and you won’t need to dine out when you find yourself hungry and unprepared. Preparation is key, so take twenty minutes out of your weekend to plan your meals for the week along with a corresponding grocery list. In No Excuses Detox, you’ll find a Budget-Friendly Meal Plan that feeds you for less than $6 a day, including 3 meals and snacks(!), and you should also take advantage of these free meal plans from Lisa.
- Eat fewer animal products.
Animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, tend to be the priciest items in a shopping cart. So by reducing your weekly consumption, you can easily shave dollars off your grocery bill. If your family relies heavily on meat-centered dishes, try serving a little less meat at each meal and then make up the difference by adding extra veggies to your plates. Or, simply aim to eat meatless one day a week and try a new vegetarian meal instead. The Lentil Sloppy Joe recipe below is a great way to get started!
- Keep it simple.
In my experience, healthful eating is often the most expensive when you try exotic ingredients and packaged convenience foods that are reminiscent of your old favorites. In many cases, these packaged foods aren’t much healthier than their processed counterparts, and you certainly don’t need a bunch of special ingredients to make truly delicious, healthy food. Instead, shop for simple whole foods, such as fresh produce, raw nuts and seeds, and bulk grains, and then use them to make your own salad dressings, dips, snack bars, and puddings for healthier and cheaper alternatives to pricey packaged snacks.
- Shop seasonally.
You’ve probably heard that it’s better to eat seasonally and locally, and one of the best benefits of this practice is that it saves you money. When produce is in season, its supply is at its peak—making it easier and cheaper for farmers to distribute to your local store. Those savings get passed on to you, and, as added perks, your food tastes better and is more nutritious. When your favorite produce isn’t in season, you can save money by buying it frozen, which is almost always cheaper than fresh.
When you start to make healthy eating a priority, you’ll most likely cut back on some other expensive habits, such as dining out often, buying fancy coffee drinks, eating greasy popcorn at the movie theater, or sipping overpriced cocktails. Improving your health now will likely mean fewer costly doctor visits for you in the future, too. Consider that as even more reason to banish this “too expensive” excuse for good.
Now, let’s put some of these money-saving tips into action with an easy, family-friendly recipe.
This fresh vegetarian take on Sloppy Joes from my new cookbook is not only good for you, but it’ll cost less to make too. Unlike other varieties of lentils that take much longer to cook, red lentils are tender in just 20 minutes, and they are the perfect vehicle for this sweet and spicy sauce. Served over a baked sweet potato, this dish is comforting, filling, and ultra-nourishing, but you can also serve it on your favorite high-quality bun to please any picky eaters. To make this recipe as excuse-proof as possible, I’ve included extra directions so you can cook it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, if you’d prefer.
This recipe feeds 6 people for just $1.39 per serving.
Lentil Sloppy Joe Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 cups tomato puree (strained tomatoes)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt plus more for sprinkling on potatoes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 - 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 cup red lentils dried
- 4 - 6 sweet potatoes (see notes below) or your favorite sandwich buns
- parsley for garnish (optional)
- green onions for garnish (optional)
In a large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat and sauté the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until tender, 8 - 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, mustard, 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup, the water, chili powder, and lentils and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer and cover to cook until the lentils are very tender, about 20 minutes. Stir intermittently through the simmering process to make sure none of the lentils sticks to the bottom of the pot. When the lentils are tender, adjust any seasonings as needed, adding up to 1 tablespoon maple syrup to taste.
Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and gently mash with a fork, sprinkle with salt, and spoon the filling over the top and garnish, or simply serve the filling in your favorite sandwich bun.
- Slow/Pressure Cooker Method: To prepare this filling in a slow cooker or pressure cooker, complete the directions in step one and then instead of bringing the mixture to a boil, simply cover your pot and set it to cook. For a slow cooker, this dish should be ready in 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. For a pressure cooker, it should cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.
- Freezer Friendly: Freeze this prepared filling for a fast meal in the future! Simply thaw it in the fridge overnight before you want to serve it again. To reheat, I like to warm the potatoes and filling separately in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes at 350º F.
- To Bake the Sweet Potatoes: Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork to help them vent, then place them on a baking sheet to bake at 400º F until easily pierced with a fork, about 45 - 60 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. You can also prepare them in a pressure cooker by adding 1 cup water to the bottom of the pot, then placing a steamer basket or metal trivet in the pot so the potatoes aren't sitting in the water. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for at least 10 minutes before carefully venting and removing the lid.
- We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.
I hope you will enjoy this filling and affordable meal from my book, No Excuses Detox. Feel free to leave any other money saving tips you might have in the comments below. I love hearing new ideas! You can find more of my recipes and tips on Detoxinista.com.
Thank you so much for having me, Lisa!