Everywhere you turn these days, there would be advice that you should eat healthy. An advice that a particular disease can be prevented by our diets. An advice that you should feed well. But we all know how difficult things are these days! We want to feed healthy but where is the money? We are still being paid the same salary in 2023 (when garri is now probably 500 naira per congo) as we were in 2019 when Garri was 80 naira per congo!
So, many times, we only feed to survive and as a very religious country, we leave the health repercussions in God’s hands because we believe that eating healthy is too expensive and only the rich can afford that!
Well, I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t sacrifice your health on the altar of the country's dwindling economy because even with the tightness of your income, you can still feed healthily! I will be giving you some helpful tips today but before that, what does it mean to eat healthy?
Eating healthy means consuming a variety of nutritious foods and drinks and getting the number of calories that’s right for you (not eating too much or too little) every day. It is fueling your body with nourishing, whole foods.
When you eat healthy, you mix a number of healthy foods from each class of food everyday for consumption. You daily need to consume:
WHOLE FRUITS — like apples, berries, oranges, mango, and bananas. Two pieces of banana each day is even enough for this class.
VEGGIES — like broccoli, sweet potatoes, beets, okra, spinach, Ugwu. If you can successfully take some okro soup with veggies inside, this one is fulfilled.
WHOLE GRAINS — like brown rice, millet, oatmeal, bulgur, and whole-wheat bread. For this, if you can take pap with millet or even your rice and beans, this is satisfied.
PROTEINS — like lean meats and chicken, eggs, seafood, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and tofu. Taking some fried ‘wara soya’ or a cut of fish satisfies this class, folks!
LOW-FAT OR FAT-FREE DAIRY — like milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free dairy, and fortified soy beverages (soy milk) or soy yogurt
OILS — like vegetable oil, olive oil, and oils in foods like seafood, avocado, and nut. If it is a cup of groundnuts you are able to eat well here, you have done well. Even though, in Nigeria, we consume way too much oil every day!
Eating on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice nutrition. With a little know-how and planning, you can enjoy nutritious foods without breaking the bank. By following these six tips, you may be surprised at how much you can stretch your grocery budget.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR EATING HEALTHY WITH A TIGHT BUDGET IN NIGERIA
1. COOK AT HOME AND PREP AHEAD.
Cooking at home can be less expensive than eating out. A meal of 3500 naira at the restaurant can provide some good foods on your table for a few days if you cook at home. So, instead of eating out at the last minute, make it a habit to cook at home. It is not compulsory you cook every day. You can prep your meals fully (Like cooking jollof rice and storing in the fridge) or almost fully (like cutting your veggies or blending your tomato bases for whatever meal you might need during the week) during the weekend.
2. HAVE A FOOD TIMETABLE
Choose one day each week to plan your meals for the coming week. Make a shopping list of everything you'll need to prepare those meals and be sure to stick to your list once you've planned it. Be strict with yourself. This way, you will spend less money and stay on track with your healthy eating plan.
3. BUY IN BULK
The more you buy, the less you spend. Buying fresh veggies every time you want to cook is more expensive than buying a lot of them and portioning in your fridge for later use. Apart from the fact that you save a lot of money when you buy in bulk, it will save you from the hassle of constant price increases on food items. You know, what you buy in Nigeria for 5000 naira today might be 5500 naira before the close of the day! However, only buy quantities that you will be able to use or preserve before it goes bad.
4. GROW A SMALL GARDEN
Have a small garden in your house no matter how small where vegetables and some fruits especially can be grown. If you are able to do that, you wouldn’t have to bother about buying tomatoes, spinach, egusi, pineapples, watermelon etc. anymore. Wouldn’t it be nice to just go to your backyard and pluck some tomatoes instead of going out to buy them?
5. HAVE A LITTLE POULTRY
This is another very helpful tip. You can’t imagine how much we spend on meat and eggs every month. How about having a little free-range pen at the backyard where we can rear some hens, a goat, a pig, two turkeys etc.? Apart from the fact that we can eat the eggs and their meats, they will begin to multiply and before we know it, we have more and can even sell. It becomes easy to have meat for our family and to eat meat products too.
6. INVEST IN A FRIDGE
Fridge is very important if you will save money. If you don’t have one, start saving to get one. It will be an investment you will be grateful for. With a fridge, your meal preps will be of a great benefit to you week in, week out.
7. BUY DRY INGREDIENTS
Another thing that can help is to buy dried ingredients and store for the week or month. Dried okros, dry meat, dry ponmos, dry vegetables can work very well and make your cooking easier and faster. Dry foods are very healthy and less costly. All you have to do is soak them when you are about to cook and you are good to go.
8. PACK A LUNCH
Stop wasting your 300 naira on that Amala shop while at work. If you keep spending those 300 naira every day for five days a week, do you know how much is being lost or how much you could have saved? It is better to pack lunch from home no matter how simple.
9. MAKE YOUR SNACKS AND DRINKS
This is highly underrated but it is very important. Learn to make your snacks and drinks at home. Apart from the fact that this would save you a lot of money, it will also be healthier. Make fine coconut cup cakes during the week, put one each in some zip lock and snack on them. Make some chinchin. Make some plantain or potato chips. Then, for the drinks, make some soya milk, some zobo, some smoothies and freeze. Take a bottle of Zobo and a pack of potato chips to your work place for the day and you would have saved yourself some bucks no matter how small. This is wisdom!
10. DON'T GO TO THE GROCERY STORE ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.
Don’t go and shop when you are hungry because everything in the market will look like food to you. You will find yourself buying even the unnecessary things. But when you are satisfied before leaving home, your main aim would be to satisfy what is on your list and go back home.
11. EAT A FRUIT A DAY
Many times we eat a whole bunch of banana at a sitting. We eat four to five mangos at a go. We bring down a whole ball of watermelon before we know it. This is not the best way of eating fruits. When you buy fruits, eat them minimally and save the rest for the next day. That way, you have enough for the next few days before you buy more or harvest more from your garden.
12. INVEST IN LEFT-OVERS
Don’t be a waster. You can still make something delicious out of the cold left-over rice in your fridge. That left over eba, simply break to pieces in the pot, add some water, bring to a boil, add a little more garri and a fresh version of eba is ready for your family. Always try to see to ensuring that you don’t throw foods away!
Eating healthy and living on a budget doesn’t have to be two parallel lines that can’t meet. You can eat healthy without breaking the bank. Even if eating nutrient-rich foods are expensive, we can follow the tips above to getting the cheaper versions of these healthy foods, fruits and vegetables. You cannot put a price on your health, please.