I get tired of hearing that you can’t eat healthy local food on a modest budget.
It is absolutely possible to have a very good diet on very little money–and integrating just a few whole, unprocessed foods can make a huge difference in nutrition without taking up a huge amount of time in preparation.
For some examples, read today’s great short post on how to eat healthy foods on a budget at the Eco Women blog.
I would add to their discussion that not all canned foods have added salts and sugars–but a lot of them do. I buy some no-additive canned beans for convenience, but dried beans are hugely more economical, and I try to use those most of the time.
Dried beans might seem like a pain, but if you soak and cook a full bag of them, you can use some right away and freeze the rest in portioned-out bags or reusable containers for use in soups, chili, salads, etc.
In her post, Enviro-Girl makes a great point about how many fresh fruits and vegetables are actually cheaper than the canned versions–and some of them last well in the crisper or even a dark, cool closet or cupboard.
Onions, apples, squash, oranges, carrots, parsnips, and beets keep for a month or longer. Most other fresh veggies will keep at least a week or two.
Lettuce and other greens don’t keep as well, but if you buy those items in season fresh-picked by a local producer, they tend to keep better than the pre-packaged, long-stored and transported varieties in the grocery store.
It’s not such a great value to buy a head of lettuce on sale if half of it goes to waste because it’s already two weeks old when you get it. If you’re really into salad, you might consider making the base of that fresh dish from something different–shredded carrots or beets or sliced cucumbers–when lettuce isn’t in season.
In season, you can generally buy large amounts of local produce for a reasonable price and freeze it–I wouldn’t shell peas for my entire winter wants, but sweet corn is a great deal in season–and it freezes well, too. So do green beans and peppers.
You can even do combos of veggies for the freezer–roasted summer squash and green beans with sage is a favorite of mine.
Another easy and fast some-for-dinner/some-for-the-freezer project is a very simple sauce made just by washing and chunking-up the last of the summer tomatoes (as I did last night with a flat of paste tomatoes from the farmers market–on discount because they were nipped lightly by frost), tossing in a little garlic and oil, salt and pepper, and roasting them ’til they soften and give up their juices.
There’s no need to peel and seed them–if you want the sauce smoother, just put it in a blender. I like it chunky, myself.
The main idea is to make what’s economical (and hopefully in season), and to make it in larger batches, so you have some left over to toss in the freezer for later meals–put in just a little more time during one meal’s preparation to have something extra that’s easier and quicker for later.