How To Save Money On Healthy Food
Eating a healthy and wholesome diet can be incredibly expensive in the UAE. In this post I have put together a list of tips that help me to save money and the environment.
1. Stocking up on organic staples when they have special offers. In Abu Dhabi both organic supermarket have discount weekends. Mawasim has 25% off everything every first weekend of the month and Organic foods and cafe has 20% off every 3rd Saturday of the month and the Friday prior. In Dubai Biorganic store also has 15% off weekends, for the exact dates check their Facebook page. This is a great opportunity to stock up on organic staples such as rice, quinoa, beans and canned and frozen food. Tip: Always make sure to check the expiry date at the shop.
2. Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables. Local, organic farming is becoming more popular and from November until April there is a wide selection of vegetables to chose from. Shuwib farm offers affordable vegetables with free delivery for orders over 30 dirhams and for those wanting to harvest their own vegetables I highly recommend IGR farm in Al Rahba. In Dubai there is a weekly farmers market with more than ten different farmers offering their produce. There is a great app called Al Ebdaa, which has a cultivation chart on it showing fruits and vegetables that are in season.
3. Planning ahead and writing shopping lists for meal plans. It is good to set a weekly budget and write a shopping list. Meal planning does not only help to stick to a healthy diet, but it also helps to save money. At first meal planning can seem a little overwhelming, there are many different ways to do it, but it is easy to find out what way works best for you. I created a recipe list of meals that I enjoy eating. Around 5 different options for breakfast, 20 options for lunch and dinner, 5 different packable lunches and 20 quick snacks. I put each meal into a category: cheap, moderate and expensive. Then I figured out how many meals I have to plan for the week ahead, packable lunches, dinners and quick snacks. I also take into consideration how much time I will be having to prepare the meals, if it’s a busy week ahead choosing quick meals is better. When there is more time, I like to add new recipes or cook a little more so I can either eat it the next day or freeze it for a quick meal on another day. I check the quantity I need of each ingredient and after checking my cupboards for ingredients that I already have at home, I add all the other to my shopping list. By efficiently meal planning one week ahead I avoid food spoilage and don’t end up ordering from restaurants.
4. Freezing and fermenting fresh produce. I buy most of my smoothie ingredients either frozen, or farm-fresh and then freeze them at home. This way the fresh produce I buy lasts a lot longer. Especially when it comes to berries and other organic produce it turns out a lot cheaper to buy the frozen version. They taste just as good in smoothies, raw cakes or in infused water. Typically fresh produce is thought to be the most nutritious, however in the UAE – where most of the food has spent a long way traveling this may not be true. Once the fruits and vegetables are harvested they begin to lose nutritional value by exposure to heat, light and oxygen. This process can be stopped by freezing the foods, meaning that frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh. Fermenting vegetables extends the shelf life and also adds beneficial probiotics. I love home-made sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles.
5. Buying dry beans in bulk is a lot cheaper than buying cans. Soaking, sprouting and cooking dry beans is also a lot healthier than eating canned beans. Most aluminium and tin cans have a bisphenol-A plastic lining, which is a toxin I prefer to avoid. Even at very low doses BPA can cause health issues such as cancer, diabetes, infertility and miscarriages. A good alternative to metal cans are glass jars. I also own a 7 in 1 instant pot, which is a great investment for those who eat legumes, rice and grains on a regular basis. An instant pot is a multi-cooker with the functions of a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté pan and warming pot. Without pre-soaking the foods couscous only takes 2-3 minutes, porridge around 5 minutes, brown rice around 20 minutes, black beans 25 minutes, kidney beans 15 minutes and lentils around 5 minutes. The instant pot is one of my most used kitchen appliances.
6. Keeping a stocked and organised pantry. It can save a lot of money to have a stocked pantry with simple ingredients to make a quick meal, instead of ordering food or eating out. I make sure to stock up on staples when they are on sale, such as nuts, legumes, oats and other grains and frozen produce. These ingredients can be combined for a wide variety of quick meals. Another great tip is keeping the kitchen cupboards and drawers organised, it makes it easier to know what you have at home, and you won’t be buying excess. This can be a little difficult, when storage space is limited in a small kitchen so I do a clean up and inventory once a month.
7. Eat leftovers. Once a month I clean out my entire fridge and cupboards and check sauces, dressings and other products for their expiration date. Most people don’t seem to be big fans of leftovers, however this is the time I get the most creative in my kitchen by using left over fruits and vegetables for smoothies, dehydrating them or cooking a curry, stew or stir fry.
8. Extend shelf life by correct storage. I store all dry ingredients such as herbs, nuts, legumes, dehydrated fruits, in air tight mason jars and write the expiry date on them with a charcoal pen. Storing them in glass jars stops toxins from plastic to leach into the foods and helps to prevent spoilage and bug infestation. The location of storage, is just as important as the way that the food is stored. Herbs, oils and spices should be stored away from the heat of the stove. Due to the high humidity in the UAE I store most of my fruits and vegetables in the fridge to stop them from molding quickly.