Monday, November 19, 2012

Healthy food on a budget

Living on a budget can make it much harder to eat healthy. One of the goals of flexilubes is to always make healthy meals and always do it on a budget. You will find many vegetables and hearty legumes in flexilubes because they are so good for you and pretty inexpensive too.

Most dietary choices available have some give and take between health and cost. In the graph below you can see some common choices and where we estimate they belong concerning price and nutrition. You'll notice most of the choices fall along a diagonal line meaning the less you spend the less healthy a meal you will get. You can spend just a few cents on one of those ramen soup mixes but you'll get almost nothing but sodium out of it. You can spend a little more on a can of ravioli and fulfill your protein requirement but you'll still be getting way more sodium than you need and missing out on your green vegetables. If you able to spend a little more money you can get a frozen veggie pizza or TV dinner which might come with a side of vegetables. Both are still high in sodium and aren't really that balanced.

On the bad end of the spectrum you have fast foods meals like fried chicken or burger and fries. Usually people choosing from this area are not thinking about health and probably not thinking much about cost either.

The better alternatives to pre-made meals are of course homemade meals and easy to make meals like hotdogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tuna salad, and best of all a garden salad. All of these options cost a little more in preparation time but save you dollars.

Flexilubes fits right into the spectrum in this area too. The nice thing about flexilubes is that making large quantities of meals allows you to save time it would take to prepare 5-10 individual meals and also save cost in buying a larger variety of ingredients. Another aspect of a flexilube that isn't measured by this graph is the portable nature of a flexilube. Unlike a salad with lettuce that goes bad and wilts or a sandwich with bread that gets soggy or stale, flexilubes are made with portability and longevity in mind. This means you can cook them once and eat them many times and many places.

All-you-can-eat buffets: more expensive than normal fast food. This can be healthy but most of the time its not and you tend to over eat.. a lot.

Canned Pastas: chef boyardee and spaghettios territory.
Dining out*: This one is a toss-up. There's healthy and unhealthy depending on what you choose to eat.
Fast Food: mcdonalds, burgerking, taco bell, kfc, and so many more. Some offer healthy options, few people actually choose them.
Frozen Pizza: worse than regular pizza because of the sodium, usually mostly cheese and not many veggies. 
Grilled Cheese: simple, delicious and cheap but you wouldn't want to live off it. 

Hotdog: Don't eat these too regularly; they aren't very healthy.

Macaroni & Cheese: easy to make and fairly cheap. Its heavy of carbohydrates and cheese but you could add broccoli and sausage to make this a healthier option.
PB&J: simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. go light on the jelly and add some baby carrots and you have a real healthy meal. 

Ramen: cheap 50-cent packages of ramen soup mix from the grocery store. You can add meat, egg, and vegetables to it but it will never be healthy.
Snack foods:
Sub Shop: subway, quiznos, jimmy johns, and more. Unhealthy choices abound here but if you are smart you can manage to find subs that are made with everything you need for a balanced meal.
Tuna: tuna salad, tuna sandwich made with canned tuna, egg, pickles, and lettuce. surprisingly inexpensive and healthy.
TV Dinner: From hungry man to stouffer's lasagna these all have high sodium and poorer vegetable choices. The healthy choice meals claim the top position in the health category here but still aren't that great.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Getting containers

Bringing leftovers to work is a simple way to save money but possibly the most neglected part is the container you use. Whether it is store-bought plastic microwavable containers like tupperware, rubbermaid, and gald ware, or reusable takeout containers from local restaurants, the container makes all the difference.

Our philosophy is always to cook meals that include a well-balanced meal all in one but some people prefer vegetables and dessert sides items. For those people, having segmented containers like shown below or a tiffin is the way to go.
Segmented plate-style microwaveable container
I prefer single-chamber containers for several reasons. First, they are smaller and more convenient to carry to work. Smaller also means it takes up less room in the fridge. Second, I find that when reheating a multi-portioned meal one part invariably heats faster then the other. You end up with either cold chicken or burning hot broccoli. Third, it is cheaper. Finding single-portion containers as leftover boxes at restaurants is more common than segmented boxes. If you do find a to-go box that is segmented all the better. Buying a set of the plates shown above might run you anywhere from $10 to $30. If you plan on making flexilubes for the whole family (like I do) you'll need over a dozen containers to portion out the leftovers. If you really plan to get serious about containers you can buy in bulk. Buying large quantities of containers can reduce the cost per piece to pennies and then you don't worry about losing a few either.

The containers we use all come from leftovers from local restaurants. If you ask your friends who eat out the most to save their containers for you, you will be surprised how quickly it adds up.