Times are tight right now. Food costs are higher than ever yet people are struggling to pay bills, provide holiday gifts, and somehow get a healthy meal on the table every night. I get it: fabulous as it is, organic broccoli and grass-fed, pasture-raised beef just aren’t in everyone’s daily food budget.
Tally up your bills. I believe you’ll find you save money doing The Virgin Diet because you’re not loading your cart with overpriced processed foods or buying those stale coffee shop Danish. You’re also gaining a lean, healthy physique, which is priceless.
To help you create even more value, I’ve provided a dozen strategies to make the most of your food dollar.
1. Buy in season. Asparagus peaks in spring, while blueberries are ripest in summer. Besides being fresher and more likely to be locally grown, produce is more affordable in season.
2. Buy frozen and stock up. Ever regrettably tossed a head of broccoli that sat in your fridge for a week? Frozen foods eliminate that problem and save you money. You can literally buy months of veggies and other foods to store in your freezer, so you always have organic frozen spinach to toss into soups, stews, or to use as a side dish.
3. Less meat, more plant-based foods. In The Virgin Diet, I encourage you to only choose the best-quality meats, like grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon. But they aren’t cheap, especially if you’re trying to feed a family of 4 or more. Rather than buy lower-quality, conventionally produced meats (sorry, but farm-raised salmon is just gross), load your plate with less meat and more green veggies, good fats like avocado, and starchy high-fiber carbs.
4. Start your day with The Virgin Diet Shake. Occasionally someone will write that they can’t afford the pea/rice protein powder in my store. A little math solves that problem, since you’ll be spending about three dollars total to do The Virgin Diet Shake. That’s less than you’d spend on a nutrient-empty, fat-storing muffin or breakfast smoothie.
5. Don’t snack. I have clients total the money they spend at bodegas, vending machines, and other snack ventures. They’re often shocked at the amount. In The Virgin Diet, I encourage you not to snack unless you absolutely must. You’ll save calories and money.
6. Join a farmers’ collective or co-op. More cities now have food co-ops where you volunteer your time for reduced-cost produce and other locally grown and raised foods. Farmers’ collectives provide similar opportunities with grass-fed beef and other pasture-raised foods. You probably have a farmers market during the warmer months, which in LA and other warmer climates is nearly year round, although some cities now conveniently have indoor year-round farmers markets.
7. Shop warehouse stores for bulk buys. Make a list and stick to it, since warehouse stores love to lure buyers with serendipitous bargains.
8. Load your plate with high-fiber foods. Fiber delays gastric emptying, balances blood sugar, curbs cravings, and makes you full faster. What’s not to love? Aim for 2 – 3 high-fiber foods at every meal. Excellent choices include avocado, lentils and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens.
9. Prepare ahead of time. If you know you’ll be stuck late at work tomorrow, prep dinner ingredients and you’ll be far less tempted to spike your credit card bill ordering in or grabbing take-out.
10. Make your own. Could you imagine if a little hidden gluten in your favorite spice blend was stalling your fast fat loss and holding your health hostage? Make your own dressings, sauces, spice blends, and other condiments. You’ll save money and know exactly what you’re getting.
11. Try my stoup recipe. My hybrid of soup and stew, called stoup, makes the perfect fast, economical hearty meal. You can even toss leftovers into the slow cooker and voila! You have dinner waiting when you get home from work. Portion and refrigerate leftovers for office lunches.
12. Brew your own. Coffee and tea, that is! Ever tallied how much you spend on those fancy coffee-shop drinks? That doesn’t even consider the stale pastry or low-fat muffin (aka adult cupcake) you grabbed prior to The Virgin Diet. (I hope you’re using The Virgin Diet Shake for breakfast now!) Become your own barista and brew a cup of organic coffee or green tea for far less than what you’d spend at a coffee shop.
© 2012 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food allergies. She is the bestselling author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, a Huffington Post blogger, creator of the 4X4 Burst Training Workout & co-star of TLC’s Freaky Eaters. Her latest book, New York Times Bestseller The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days, is out now. Learn more at www.thevirgindiet.com.