Eating fast food to save money? With three Ps, healthy meals can be cheaper and tastier!

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We’re moving together throughout 2017, from “Excuse-itarians” to “Do-ers”! One down (last month’s article tackled the excuse, “No time to exercise”), and 11 to go! Today, we begin a two part piece to address an all too common excuse, “It is too expensive to eat well!”  This excuse is probably the most common that I hear when students begin my nutrition class at Cosumnes River College. They tell me that they are “starving students” and just “have to” go to fast food places and order from the dollar menu! Yikes! Well, no one that I know ever only spends a dollar on fast food. In fact, the average bill is $8! Oh, what I could do with $8 at the grocery store!

The reality is that marketing is alive and well, and the industrialized food system banks on the fact that you may be unaware that other feasible (and better) options are within your reach! While it may seem safer to stay in your comfort zone, surrounded by processed food, your body is ALWAYS looking and is having to deal with the damage created by these chemical laden food like substances! You should feel amazing after you eat, not sluggish and full of regret…

So, why don’t we obliterate this excuse, save money (today and into the future) and improve our quality of life (today and into the future)! Every one of your cells will thank you and you’ll be free to spend any extra money on some of your favorite things, clothes, shoes, massages, trips or whatever you enjoy! I have so much info to share, we had to split it into two articles. Be sure to look for part 2 next week (I will also include a recipe)!

Not being deceived and falling victim to the “It’s too expensive to eat well” excuse is all about the P’s: Plan, Prep, and Package!

Plan: Planning out your week of food options not only enables you to save money (buy what you need and will actually use), but it is a HUGE stress reducer! When you know what you’ll have for your next meal, there is no need to rely on willpower to avoid the drive through or get into decision fatigue, succumbing to impulsive choices as the day winds down. It is already take care of, no need to worry about what to make, you’ve got the plan! Why not start with breakfast plans? Your next action: Write down a few simple breakfast ideas that you could rotate between for this coming week.

Prep: When you prepare you own food, you get to have it just the way YOU like it and save money! Remember to make the easiest options also those that are the best for maximizing your quality of life. If you have the jicama chips or carrot sticks already in the fridge ready to eat, or the romaine lettuce is rinsed and wrapped in the crisper drawer, it will be quick and easy to grab them when you are hungry or putting your meal together! Your next action: What can I do ahead of time to have those breakfasts ready when I need them to be? (Read on, to find some of my strategies below!)

Package: This is key, especially if you are away from home for a good part of the day! Packaging your food for work, whether it be your version of my Crazy Salad or a delicious soup or stew (my recipe for Austin’s Black Bean Soup never disappoints!), ensures that your brain and body are well fueled throughout the afternoon!  If you don’t typically eat breakfast at home, making a big batch of your favorite oatmeal or chia pudding recipe, divided into a container for each day, will give you a satisfying start and make it easy to pass up those donuts or muffins in the break room. You know the ones, they seem to just sit in your stomach, and make you wish you could have a “do-over” as soon as you swallow! Your next action: How do I want my breakfast packaged to make it the easiest for me in the morning? (e.g. make it ahead or simply gather the ingredients the night before)

Sage advice when it comes to packaging: Your freezer is your friend! When I make soup, chili or stew, I always double (or triple) the recipe and divide the amount into at least two containers for the freezer and one for the fridge. That way, we get to enjoy it for a few meals, but no one grows tired of the flavors. When you make at least one freezable recipe each week, before long, you will have an impressive variety of options just waiting to be thawed! I also freeze many of my homemade pasta sauces, including my pestos, different flavors of hummus and more! You can even freeze veggie and fruit smoothies in glass canning jars for a pre-made breakfast option (if you leave ~1 inch of space at the top, just under the “threads” on the jar).

Don’t delay and use the next actions to get these P’s working for you – plan, prep and package your way to a delicious week, full of nutrient-rich meals at your fingertips. You can say goodbye to the stress that you used to associate with answering the question, “I’m so hungry, right now, what is there to eat?”  Grab a pen, phone, tablet and laptop and have fun ditching this excuse and playing with these steps, as you become a do-er! You’ll want to be ready for next week’s article! I can’t wait to share my ideas about the king of P’s!

A few words about eating out… The easiest way for us to blow our family food budget is to eat out. My kids can attest to my typical response after a meal out, “I could have made that at home and not only would it have been way cheaper, but we would have had leftovers to enjoy all week, and it would have tasted better!” You may think that my family is lucky, because we get to enjoy the yummy food that I plan, prepare and package. Since I don’t want you to miss out, if you love good food, you’ll find many, many delicious meals and incredible recipes that will love you back and keep everyone happy, in my book, The Foodie Bar Way!

Timaree Hagenburger, a registered dietitian, certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health, and a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College. Timaree also conducts local events, corporate wellness work, has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV and published her first cookbook – The Foodie Bar Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. available at www.FoodieBars.com – where you will also find details about Timaree’s upcoming events (cooking demos, book signings and talks about the incredible power you yield with your fork!).

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