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Eating Healthy on a Budget on SXM!

mon002067Many people in St. Maarten complain that eating healthy on a budget is nearly impossible. Sure, if you're going to specialty stores and restaurants all the time, the prices will most likely be high, but what's actually really healthy? Fresh food? Fresh veggies and fruits?

Depending on the time of year, you can always look through the pages of The Daily Herald for specials from the various grocery stores like Sunny Foods, Fresh Market, Afoo and Le Grand Marché. The best thing to do is to keep an eye on these and choose the healthiest foods that you happen to like from the "special items." Get a lot of them and use them in your healthy recipes.

What I like to do is to get something on special that I don't usually get (because it's usually pricey or out of my budget) and then cook it; or chop it up and seal it in a freezer bag and then date it for later use. I did this recently with pineapples, which I love. One of the grocery stores had a special on them for half (even a little more than that) the regular price. I only got two, and waited till they were pretty ripe but not gross and then I chopped them up and kept a small portion in the fridge but the larger portion I froze; it came in handy later for fruit smoothies.

But aside from waiting for specials, I have my "go-to" healthy foods that are quite affordable throughout the year.

Here's my list (of favourites):

-Baby spinach (fresh, bagged) – Watch out! the leaves don't last that long, when you see them starting to get soft, cook them up in a sauce, soup, stew or omelette and freeze remainder. Also good to freeze for smoothies; or make smoothies then freeze for later.

-Coconut milk (tinned)

-Bananas

-Chickpeas (Garbanzos) tinned or dry

-Black beans (tinned or dry)

-Canned tomato

-Oatmeal

-Almond milk, on shelf.

-Eggs

-Fresh Kale and Broccoli – Depends on where you go.

-Onions and garlic – I personally can't have a kitchen without these, I can't imagine cooking without them.

-Lemons

There are of course many others. I find wonderful brands and various types of healthy foods at good prices when they are usually first introduced to the grocery store or shop. I'm not into promoting canned/tinned foods big-time, but they can be convenient. The bagged versions of black beans and chickpeas for example are far better but take much longer to soak in water till they are "rehydrated" and ready for use in cooking. I usually carry both. Everything mentioned in the list is between $1 and $4 at most grocery stores. You must consider the brands and grocery store as well. On St. Maarten, you have to look around, and usually shop at three different places to really get good deals.

If you are on a tight budget, you CAN squeeze in healthy foods. I buy them in bulk and use them for many things. For instance, I don't just make oatmeal for breakfast for my daughter and myself; I also blend it and make a flour out of it that I can later use for pancakes, bread or even cake, depending on the recipe. I do admit that I have a really good blender; you can also use a food processor. I've also blended the dry chickpeas into a flour; that takes longer, but the outcome is the same and it's far cheaper than buying the already made flour in the store.

I like to buy already frozen fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries (no added sugars or syrups, etc.) that are always expensive year round when fresh. Go to where you can get deals – they come in handy for fruit smoothies; you can always pair with fresh fruits and spinach, lemon, etc. I find a really good deal at Cost U Less with a frozen berry mix; it's not within the price range of the other items on my list, but for the amount you get and how long it lasts, it's worth it.

One time when I used the excuse, "But fresher is always healthier, that's why I don't buy frozen stuff," one of my health-conscious friends answered, "You are right, fresher is always better, but if you at least have the frozen back-up, you can't use the 'fresh' excuse to consume junk. In the end, the frozen versions are still quite healthy, as long as there are no added preservatives, sugars, syrups, etc. Always read the labels carefully." He had a point. I only wanted the fresh stuff, and wasn't doing the whole frozen thing. I've saved a lot of money by cutting and freezing fruits such as bananas, pineapples or papayas just before they are too ripe. I've saved a lot by freezing leftovers instead of letting stuff go bad in the fridge.

Well, I hope this was good enough info for you, and that you can use it. Like I said, I've become a huge fan of "freezing and dating" lots of foods I've prepared myself; it saves me a lot of money and time as well. Choose a day that you can cook up lots of stuff, and then freeze it. Good luck!

Let me know how it works and what your favourite healthy foods are to keep on hand with a tight budget. Email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it – I'd love to hear from you!

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