I give a lot of nutrition and lifestyle counseling in my practice because as powerful as acupuncture and herbal medicine are, they need to be supported by a foundation of lifestyle and nutrition balance. I'm a huge advocate of intuitive eating and simplifying healthy choices to make changes that support balance, health, and are manageable long term. If you know me, you also know that I'm always trying to advise on how to live life best to support healthy hormones and blood sugar regulation....so that means no crash dieting or starving yourself! Being prepared is one of the best ways to do that.
It's always the goal to give advice that is specific to each individual since all of our needs are different and my advice is based on that individual's TCM pattern diagnosis and differentiation, but here are 5 things that everyone can do that promote healthy eating and save you money! And really...who isn't trying to cut down that grocery bill.
1. Make your own nut butter - Nut butter can be a great way to get in healthy fats and proteins. The monosaturated fats in nut butter can help improve HDL cholesterol, which is the "good" kind. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nut butter can also help promote good egg quality, healthy cervical mucous, and hormone balance. It's important to use nut butter that is free of extra oils and has no added sugar. But nut butter can also be expensive. Some jars of organic nut butter are over $10! You can save a ton of money...almost half the cost, by making it at home. All you need is a high power blender and the nuts of your choice. Dump them in, blend away until your desired consistency and then jar it and keep it in your fridge. I like to get creative with this. My current favorite blend is 1 cup each of walnuts and peanuts with a tablespoon of chia seeds and a few brazil nuts which support thyroid health.
2. Make your own bone broth - Bone broth is fantastic. It's delicious, versatile, gut healing, and full of collagen to help support healthy skin, hair, and joints. The best bone broth is the broth you make at home and it's really easy to make in bulk and store in the freezer! Premade broths can get expensive, especially if you're using a lot of it. Some of them are $8/carton, and you could use several cartons for a single meal. I put my general bone broth recipe below...but I also have a great bone broth kitchen hack. Get a 2 gallon freezer bag and store your veggie scraps and bones (from rotisseries, steaks, pork shoulders etc), and then once full dump it in a stockpot, fill it with water, some ACV and 24 hours later bam, amazing broth. You can freeze it in silicone muffin trays, glass jars or gallon bags and then take it out of the freezer as needed. This is a great way to reduce waste, reduce cost, and have delicious nutritious bone broth at your fingertips.
Bone Broth Recipe - 3-4 lbs of mixed bones (beef, chicken, turkey are all fine, it is especially good to get some marrow bones and oxtail if possible) best if organic/grassfed. You can also save bones in the freezer from meat you have cooked. - 2 bay leaves - 1 onion rough chop - 1-2 carrots rough chop - 2-3 celery stalks rough chop - 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (this helps draw the minerals out of the bone) - Optional to add other herbs and spices to taste (i like to add parsley and ginger to mine) If bones are raw, roast in oven for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees. Then transfer bones, juices, and other ingredients into a large stock pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 8-48 hours (the longer you cook, the richer the taste of the stock and the increased nutritional benefit) Check the stock every half hour or so for the first few hours to skim the foam/impurities from the top. Once done, strain and salt to taste. You can store in the fridge for about a week or freeze it. I usually recommend 1 cup of broth 2-3 x/day to start. You can also use the bone broth instead of water when cooking grains or for soup.
3. Meal prep ingredients - I know this isn't the first time you've heard that meal planning helps keep food healthy and affordable...so consider this a reminder, with a twist. I am going to suggest you meal plan in a different way. Keep it simple and instead of premaking full meals, prep ingredients - this keeps things flexible so you have trouble thinking about what you are going to eat all week, or find that you don't want to eat the meal you prepped, you have the foundations of several meals and can adapt in a way that works for you at the time. Meal planning reduces waste so thereby cost, reduces time stress, and consolidates cook time.
Here are some easy food prep, meal prep ideas
Bake a few sweet and white potatoes - they can serve as the base of a meal or aside. For example, you pick up a rotisserie chicken, and the sweet potato is already baked, steam some broccoli and there's a meal in only a few minutes. Got a baked potato? Drain a can of black beans, puree with some bone broth to desire consistency, stuff your potato with the black bean puree, salsa, some cilanto and green onion. You can see that just by prebaking the potatoes, you cut way down on cook time which can stimulate making the healthier and cheaper choice of eating at home instead of grabbing take out.
Have a snack drawer in your fridge and pantry - requires prep but saves time and reduces on the go expenditures of fast and convenience foods.
Pre cut veggies - cut your carrots and celery and store in mason jars with water. Dice some onion, carrot, celery bell pepper to reduce prep time on busy nights or to add to summer salads
Grill some chicken breasts, tofu, fish, or steak and then use them as a base for any recipe you like through the week
Hard boil eggs - snacks, breakfast, add in for salads, egg salad sandwich etc - versatile, and really easy to have on hand
So you can see how prepping ingredients can make it easy to adapt through the week, but gives you options for quick meals with less prep and cook time when you have a tight weekly schedule.
4. Freeze your herbs - we all know that food is better with flavor. Fresh herbs are a great way to add flavor and can provide other health benefits - but sometimes we don't have them at home, or there is an abundance you need to deal with, or they are out of season and what you are looking at in the produce section is wilted and simply sad. My favorite solution to this is freezing your fresh herbs and taking them out as needed. You can do single herbs or blend several. I like to make an Italian blend, with some fresh garlic, oregano, and parsley.
There are a few ways to freeze herbs
As is on the stem - lay them on a baking sheet, freeze, and once frozen transfer to an airtight container for storage. This works really well with heartier herbs like rosemary.
In water - chop to desired consistency, pack into an icecube tray, I prefer silicone ones for this, fill with water and freeze. Then remove from the cube tray and store in an airtight container. This method is great for leafy herbs. I love adding 1 cube of frozen herbs to steamed veggies because it helps blanch the veggies to keep them crisp and adds flavor.
In oil - You can use the method above or you can add herbs and olive oil to a food processor or blender. This is best for herbs you plan to use in stir frys, sauces, soups, and sautees. Basically, any recipe where the oil is desired or necessary.
Eating nutritious food doesn't have to be overwhelming and it's amazing how a little bit of prep time can help you save a ton of money on your weekly groceries!
I'm Amy! I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, registered nurse, and expert in women's health, anxiety, and stress relief.
If you are looking for acupuncture, herbal medicine, or cupping in Denver, Lakewood, or Golden Colorado, get more info here.
**All information and resources found on balancedstonewellness.com are based on the opinions, experience, and research of the author unless otherwise noted. All information is intended to educate and motivate readers to make their own health decisions after consulting with their health care provider...even if that provider may be the author ;)