Top 10 Tips – eating well on a budget, vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, organic

One question I get asked often is, “I want to eat healthy food but I can’t afford it! What should I do?”

I recently turned 30 and my twenties have been up and down with times where I was able to strut up and down the aisles of fancy grocery stores throwing anything in my cart and other times where the 50 cent oatmeal in Hofer/Aldi was a lifesaver! ? Regardless of where you currently stand in the spectrum, hopefully the following tips can help keep your wallet happy without any compromises.

Top Ten Budget Saving Tips 

  • Oatmeal– the biggest nutritional bang for your buck.You can get a bag of organic quick oats in Spar for about 70 cents. A litre of soy milk fortunately doesn’t cost much more than 2€, even organic. A basic oatmeal recipe for two people is this:   1 cup oats, 1 cup milk of choice, and 1 cup water. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until bubbly and creamy. I like to add banana slices and a dash of coconut palm sugar to sweeten. If you need to switch things up, basic pancakes or Toast slices with peanut butter are also cheap breakfast alternatives. I love the pancake recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen. Substitute the regular flour with gluten free flour, works like a charm!
  • Ditch the meat– cheap meat is pumped full of antibiotics and the animals are fed anything but what they are supposed to eat to be healthy! Several health experts suggest buying organic pasture raised meat instead. I am not going to go into the ethics, environmental concerns, health, or animal abuse aspects here as this is a budget post so just know this: vegan is cheaper. anyone who tells you it’s not is perhaps thinking of processed meat replacements – totally unnecessary. A bag of lentils and rice will be cheaper than a pound of hamburger meat. End of story. This post by Rich Roll shows how simple it all is/how unnecessary meat is. 🙂
  • Don’t waste bread–  A good organic and whole wheat loaf of bread from a nice bakery will be max 3 euros. Organic gluten free bread can be pricier so not wasting it is even more important. Take it home, slice it straight away, and pop it in the freezer. Take out individual slices for your toaster whenever you need them. This way nothing gets wasted! More bang for your buck!
  • Shop for food in non grocery stores– DM in Germany/Austria has a great range of organic and wholesome products at an unbeatable price! DM also has dry beans like chickpeas at a great price. Remember to soak them overnight and you have a crazy cheap and healthy protein source! When in Ireland/UK be sure to check the bigger stores like Tesco for store brand organic products. You might be surprised at what you find! Tesco has great organic beans in water for just a euro.
  • Shop the sales– Get the store cards from the stores where you shop and sign up to be notified for sales and coupons. It adds up! It often pays off to stick to one store too. Ireland/UK check the Tesco online shopping sites as all the sales are listed there. Austria- Billa has the best sales on Wednesday/Thursday/Friday where it is often 25% off a range. The best is to stock up when they have 25% off their organic range.
  • Willhaben/adverts.ie/craigslist is your friend– I’m not going to sugarcoat this: if you want to save money and eat healthiest, you have to make your own food- that takes appliances! At the very very least you will need a strong blender. If you are coffee drinker- you will need a coffee machine to make coffee at home. Etc. Do not be afraid to buy all these things used! Lots of people buy a juicer, never use it, and then post it on willhaben. I once got a craving for donuts from watching a TV show with cops. I went on willhaben and a day later I picked up a donut pan for 2€. It doesn’t get better than that! Listing things on willhaben is free (except real estate) so it is also a great way to sell stuff you no longer need and make extra money. Also look at reputable brands that are more affordable. Klarstein makes very powerful blenders, food processors, and stand mixers for a much more affordable price than Kitchen Aid!
  • Eat the same things regularly– During a phase when my food budget was very strict, along with a special diet I was trying, I figured out a few meals I liked and were cheap and I ate those most days. I was then able to buy larger amounts of ingredients during sales and keep a good supply so I was not tempted to eat out.
  • Find meals you like that are cheap to make– my favorite for a while was risotto. I would buy a 3€ bag of organic brown rice and cook it up in a large pot on a Sunday (it takes 45 min). Then during the week I would saute some diced onion in a pan, add some white wine (the cheapest you can find that’s vegan), a bit of broth powder, cooked rice, cream (oat cream works well), and nutritional yeast. I would then add frozen peas or spinach and italian spices. Pasta with tomato sauce is always a winner.
  • Make your own– Take a look at products you spend a lot of money on and see if there is a way you can make them yourself. You would be so surprised at how easy it is to make your own face cream, babywipes, babyfood (steam veggies and then puree in a blender), pesto from a basil plant, etc. The savings can be substantial after picking up a few key ingredients. A simpler version of a product often saves money too. I recently switched to soap from shower gel. A good organic moisturizing soap from a local soap maker will last much longer and support small businesses. Win win!
  • Grow your own– even growing your own herbs will save you money. I am always agitated when I buy organic lettuce, which is almost every other day, because I know it is so easy to grow! So are tomatoes and zucchini. If you are fortunate enough to have a balcony or garden. Use it! I would love the chance to do so! If you have space for a compost bin- then all your food waste will go towards great earth for your plants.  This website has great recipes for cheap homemade gardening sprays: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/homemade-organic-gardening-sprays.htm

So that’s it! Have any great tips on how to save on a healthy lifestyle? Post them below! Would love to hear them. 🙂

Smiles,

– Mariana

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