This blog hasn't really taken off yet, I hadn't had much interest and it was started to show that one can eat healthy while still on foodstamps or a restrictive budget. I haven't known what to post or how to start and give a really good intro, so I'm going to just jump in and let it flow and see what happens. Maybe it'll be disjointed, but after things get going, I'll put some nice tags on the assorted posts so newbies can find the information they're looking for.
By now, everyone knows to buy things on sale, stock up and freeze the rest. But where do you get the good quality stuff and what do you do if the best quality food that you use for your healthy diet is the most expensive? It does no healthy hippie any good if he can't afford to eat, or worse, only buy what he can afford and eat just to keep his belly full. The foods you eat should be cheap in price, but not cheap in quality. It will actually cost you less over the long run than if you got by with a budget for food of only $20/week. What you spend in money, you make up in your health. There is nothing more valuable than your health.
Start learning to read ingredients. If you pick up a packaged food (you shouldn't be eating packaged food anyway, but if you must, do it right) do not put it in your basket without reading the label to see what it actually contains. "100% whole grain bread!" usually has enriched, bleached, nutrient-less white flour as the second or third ingredient. High-fructose corn syrup will certainly be on there. If it doesn't specify whole sugar, you can be sure white sugar was used. Check for additives and preservatives and MSG under all it's hidden names. If you want health, you must learn to do this. Follow Michael Pollan's advice: "If it contains more than five ingredients, don't put it into your body." The best whole grain bread will contain "flour, water, salt" and sometimes yeast. Check the frozen or refridgerated sections for the best breads that sometimes goes under the name "Ezekiel Bread". If you eat wheat bread, try to find sprouted wheat bread. It's much more filling and a lot of the enzyme inhibitors that are in wheat have been broken down by sprouting.
A note about wheat: if a lot of your diet is based around wheat and wheat products and you find you're suffering a lot of GI-distress, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and alternately constipation and you're a Caucasian person, you are probably gluten-intolerant. It's estimated that 40-60% of white people have some form gluten intolerance (reference link goes here when I find it again). I know I do. Since I cut out gluten-y grains from my diet and breads, I'm suddenly cured. If you still want to eat grains and bread and all those other things, try looking into the gluten-free grains. Don't be afraid of teff, quinoa, buckwheat (not actually a wheat but a relative to rhubarb), amaranth, oats, millet, rice, or perhaps corn. (Although I can't strongly recommend corn, I have an intolerance to it as well) Here is a good start to finding the gluten free grains.
I've had various breads made with alternative grains, like rice bread, and amaranth bread. I made pancakes with quinoa flour a few times. I made a pizza crust with millet. I've had good luck with an oat/buckwheat bread. They all have their own distinct flavours that take a moment to get used to if you're so used to the flavourless quality of white flour, but they're not unpleasant in the slightest.
A note about the high-sugar nature of breads and grains. Keep in mind that all grains are eventually converted to glucose in the body. If you're eating a diet 90% grains as recommended by the USDA food pyramid, you are eating a diet 90% sugar. (No wonder we have a diabetic epidemic.) If you're going to eat grains in any form, do not make them the base of your diet. Always combine them with equal parts fat and maybe a little protein. The high amount of sugar that grain convert into will lead to a high blood sugar, which leads to a high shot of insulin. Which will eventually lead to a "Ah, my blood sugar is low, I need FOOD" extreme hunger. Then you eat more "sugar" and start the cycle over. Over time, this cycle sets you right up for Type 2 Diabetes.
To stop this cycle, always eat your grains with equal portions of fat. Butter, coconut oil, olive oil, animal fats, any good fat you like to eat. This slows down the blood sugar spike and slows down the insulin spike and helps your digestive tract absorb better. You will also stay full longer and your hunger won't be as extreme when you finally do feel it again. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF FAT. If you are, this isn't the blog for you. I'm not afraid of whole milk, butter, coconut in all it's glorious forms, steak, bacon or eggs. Fat will not hurt you. Fat has no effect on your blood sugar or insulin. If you're a diabetic or in danger of becoming one, it will not hurt you to eat more fat. Remember that your brain is composed of 70% fat. You need fat. And for the last time, fat (the food molecule) does not make you fat.
I tend to spurge on fat with the most of my budget since it's so dense, it keeps me full for a long time. Keeping me full for a long time, means I eat less over the long run. Eating less means I save money. That is how I can often end a month with money left over on my foodstamps and then save up for the really expensive things like almond flour, coconut flour, coconut oil or even filet mignon.
The simplest guide to my diet is this: eat whole food, not food products made from food. If you cannot look at a food item and figure out what it is, what it's made of, where it likely came from in the first few seconds, don't put it in your body.
Some examples of whole foods:
Oils/Fats (butter, coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, lard, palm oil)
You get the idea.
Food products made from food:
Macaroni and cheese
Peanut butter spread (unless the ingredients are 100% peanuts it's not peanut butter)
Tofu snack sticks
Again, you get the idea.
Now this doesn't mean that you have to give up ice cream and pizza forever. There are better, tastier, healthier and even cheaper ways to make alternatives from home. I'll post recipes and pictures on another day.
Cut back on the gluten. Drop the sugars and grains to 1/3rd of you diet, replace it with good fats, vegetables and animal proteins. Read the ingredient labels and you're well on your way to saving money and getting good taste.