One of the easiest things you can do to reduce your grocery bill is to reduce the amount of animal products (specifically beef, chicken and pork) you buy and consume each week. This is a good idea for several reasons.
First, you save money. Meat products are easily the most expensive items in most people’s food budget. Reduce or eliminate those, and you can reallocate those dollars for something else.
Second, you’re probably be healthier in the long run. Consumption of animal products has been linked to health problems in peer-reviewed scientific study after study. Don’t kid yourself. If you’re eating better, feeling better, you’re happier, you’re sick less, and, again, you save money…this time on doctors and prescriptions.
And third, you’ll be doing the planet a favor. A considerable amount of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming are produced as a result of the processing of beef, poultry, and pork products. And please don’t kid yourself about global warming. It’s happening and we’re responsible. One thing we can do is alter our diet, even in small ways. So, just know that if we all ate fewer animals on a regular basis, the planet would be much better off.
The single most important thing you can do to eat better is to sidestep the big-chain, corporate-owned grocery store and go to your local farmers market.
Here’s what I like about the farmers market: first, the food is fresh. How do you determine fresh? Ask yourself how many miles you’re food traveled before it’s offered for sale. The freshest food would, therefore, be food you grew yourself in your backyard, picked, walked a few feet into your kitchen, cooked, and consumed. Next, your neighbors’ garden, down the street. Third, the farmers market.
Most farmers markets are populated by farmers who drive 2 hours or less in their own vehicles from their own farms, to offer their own produce for sale. Nothing frozen, nothing artificial, much of it organic. In grocery stores, food products could be spend weeks on a truck, traveling across country, and they’re often grown with pesticides and laced with preservatives.
Second, I see and know the people who grew the food I’m eating. This is the same food they probably feed to their children and eat themselves. Do you think the CEO of a corporate food conglomerate eats the hormone-injected, preservative-laiden, processed junk food that they market to consumers? No, they don’t. And they don’t let their children eat it, either. Most of them have chefs who, you guessed it, purchase fresh, organic produce from the local farmers market or high-end organic grocery store. The same chef then prepares a great meal using fresh ingredients prepared in a healthy way. So, do like the big boys do, except be your own chef. And know who is selling you your food. It’s the most important purchase you make for you and your family.
Third, I’m supporting local farmers, not big corporations. These farmers represent, by and large, family-run businesses. They work hard. They believe in what they do. I don’t bother with T-shirts or bumper stickers or online campaigns: I put my money in their pockets, every week. That’s my statement. That’s my support. That’s my dollar, voting. Why? Because I’d hate to think of what my food choices–and resulting health–would be without them.
Now, to the menu. By far the easiest, simplest, and most economical substitution you can make for meat products like beef, chicken, and pork is to prepare and consume beans and rice instead.
Why? First, there’s a tremendous variety. You’ve got the choice of black beans, pinto beans, fava beans, lentils, chick peas, and even black-eyed peas. And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. So you and your family won’t easily get bored.
Second, beans and rice are easy to cook. You boil water. You dump them in the water. You cook them. You spice them. You eat them. I’m a guy and I can do it. So you can do it, too.
Third, leftovers are easy. You spoon any leftovers into a bowl, cover it with foil, and stick it in the fridge. The leftovers can be re-heated, which I recommend, or eaten cold, which, I admit, I’ve done.
Things to remember: add one or two fresh vegetables to your rice and beans for a well-balanced meal. These can be sliced and sauteed in olive oil in a pan in a matter of minutes. I recommend summer squash, eggplant, cabbage, kale, green peas, green beans, and carrots to start, all of which you can buy, you guessed it, at the farmers market. (Wink, nod.)
Make it tasty: you can slice green, white, or red onions and add them to your squash. You can do the same with bell peppers and garlic for your eggplant, and mushrooms for your peas and green beans to liven things up. There’s a world of spices you can learn about and try. Experiment, enjoy. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. The worst that can happen is that you’ll have to eat it.
Final notes: buy the highest quality beans and long grain brown rice you can find. If possible, buy them organic and loose (not prepackaged). Don’t overcook your rice. You don’t it starchy. You can also substitute pasta for rice, but be mindful of your carb intake.
Consult your physician before making a change in diet or exercise. Back off the animal products gradually. It’s a big change for your body.