After a year of living in NYC, I’ve learned a few things about making it work.
Eating healthy is a priority in my life. Yes, I treat myself now and then to pizza with real crust (sorry cauliflower) and ice cream, but balance is everything! Restriction will only make you bitter, watching your friends eat french fries and wings like it’s an ASMR video… I don’t do this!!! Anyways, here are my tips for eating healthy on a budget in NYC.
Find the best deals in your neighborhood
So you’ve just moved to your new NYC neighborhood, get out there! My first tip is take a walking tour of your neighborhood, no I don’t mean walk to the nearest cafe and people watch with a latte (another thing I’ve never done) I mean walk as far as you’re willing to go on a regular basis for groceries. What I mean by this is how far you’re willing to walk with a case of seltzer under your arm. Walk the radius, the ins, the outs and I guarantee you’ll find more than one market selling groceries.
Bodegas, organic markets, and overpriced specialty stores, that seems to be the usual for urban neighborhoods in New York. Getting the most for you buck means utilizing each market’s price point and quality. Sure, one market might sell something for dirt cheap in comparison but quality is important. Yes I’m suggesting you put quality ahead of price point in an article about saving money, but bear with me!
There are places to spend and there are places to be frugal AF. Like toilet paper, never pay more than a buck for toilet paper, NEVER. Maybe when you have disposal income you can enjoy the pleasures of 2 ply but listen, that’s going one place for less there 30 seconds, not worth it. If buying in bulk and the price is less than a $1 roll, do it. You might be reading this from a city where that’s normal, in NY you come across some crazy prices and toilet paper is something with an oddly high mark up.
Fruits and veggies vary a lot in a neighborhood. A red bell pepper might be 2.99 each somewhere and 99 cents a lb somewhere else. That’s a big difference. It might sound like too much effort but shopping your neighborhood efficiently is important.
So we’ve covered my first round of advice, shopping your neighborhood strategically, but what about the best foods to buy on a budget that support healthy eating?? Here’s a list of foods I always stock on for the week because the pay out is always consistent:
Carrots – easy snack and always cheap in NYC
Eggs – extremely versatile, high in protein and nutrients
Oatmeal – cheap and easy! You can make it savory or sweet
Onions – red or yellow, they add a ton of flavor and texture without costing a lot
Sweet potatoes – filling and usually priced very low in the city, but def shop neighborhood for competitive prices
Bananas – another versatile food, add it to smoothies, freeze it or eat it raw they’re great. Typically marked down when they start to turn brown, that’s when I buy and freeze!
Those 6 items alone can offer a lot of diversity when you use them wisely. Then there’s the essentials that maybe aren’t the cheapest but you budget for, like:
Non dairy milk
Paper goods – toilet paper, paper towels
Baby Spinach – greens, but I find baby spinach to be most versatile for the cost
Obviously the bottom list is based on personal taste, but those are my suggestions. Why do I feel Baby Spinach and Yogurt are products to budget for? Let me tell you.
Baby spinach is high in iron, protein, essential vitamins and is easier on digestion than other nutrient dense greens like kale for example. When you store it properly – with a couple pieces of paper towel that absorb the condensation, spinach has a decently long shelf life. You can sautée it, add it to smoothies, or eat it raw. LOVE IT.
Yogurt, whether made with milk or dairy free, provides probiotics that are essential for a healthy gut. Instead of spending money on probiotic supplements, here you have a protein dense snack that’s going to benefit the overall functions of your body. Yogurt is also versatile. Pair it with fruit, as a topping, add to a marinade, blend it in a smoothie or use as a dressing.
Lastly, I love having a jar of nut butter on hand, and yes that’s definitely more of a splurge, especially if you get almond BUT it lasts a long time in your cupboard and adds protein to any meal keeping you fuller longer. Top it on yogurt, oatmeal or add to a smoothie. It’s also high in healthy fats that will benefit your skin, muscles, joints and energy.
Versatility makes all the difference in getting the most out of your food budget.
If you want to budget for meet in your diet I recommend two things. First, I have found the ground meat such as turkey and beef are a lot cheaper and are a good option. You can use it in stir fries, make burgers or sautée it and add to a salad. But if you’re really trying to stretch a dollar, meat bone in and skin is typically always the cheapest option because less labor is involved in the packaging process. Chicken tender always seem to be really cheap too! And if you’re not a meat eater, dried beans and legumes are your hero.
I wanted to end this blog post sharing a recipe that combines some of grocery items I listed. This is something I eat regularly and absolutely love, savory oats topped with a fried egg and spinach.
SAVORY OATS WITH SAUTEED VEGGIES AND A FRIED EGG
2 Cups baby Spinach
1 small tomato – another cheap vegetable that adds lots of flavor
1 cup of chicken broth or the very budget friend bullion !! (I swear by bullion packet, 10 packets for the price of one can and add lots of flavor)
Thinly sliced red onion – only for topping so amount is based on preference
1 tsp olive oil
Soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder – another flavor inducer for cheap and long shelf life
HOW TO DO IT:
Boil water and one pack of bullion. Add oats, stir and cover till cooked.
Meanwhile, sautée spinach in salt, pepper and a little garlic powder – set aside. Sautée the chopped tomato until it has some nice canalization, also set aside.
In the same pan, fry an egg sunny side up. My trick is topping it with a lid
Add some garlic powder, salt and pepper to the oats to taste. Pour oats in a bowl, top with spinach, tomatoes, egg and drizzle with olive oil, soy sauce and a sprinkle of chilli flakes for some heat. Trust me, this will change your opinion of oatmeal FOREVER.
Okay guys, there you have you it, my tips for affording a healthy diet in the ever expensive New York City. Maybe you have to adjust your meal plan, but eating healthy can be done. Not to mention how good you’ll feel supporting a small business! Have more tips? Please share! Talk soon,