Money Saving Tip: Reduce Your Portion Size

Good for Your Wallet and Your Health.

When it comes to food, there are very few of us who can say that our portion sizes are currently too small (except maybe when it comes to vegetables…). In fact, when we’re eating out, our average portion sizes have increased 2-3 times or more from where they were 20 yearsago1. This, in turn, has played a big part in normalizing what we think of as a normal portion, whether we’re eating at home or eating out. So, for most of us, when it comes to saving money while eating healthier, reducing our portion size is one of the easiest and healthiest things that we can do. 

Portion Size vs. Serving Size

According to the National Institutes of Health, a portion is the amount of food that we choose to eat for a meal or snack2. In other words, it’s completely up to us how big or small our portion sizes are. 

Portions often get confused with serving sizes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that a serving is a standardized or measured amount of food3. It may be stated in tablespoons, ounces or cups but is a standard amount that can easily be measured. 

Take for instance a 16-ounce bag of chips. I could easily eat half the bag in one sitting on a really stressful day. In that case, half the bag or 8 ounces would be my portion size. On the other hand, the bag’s nutrition label says that there are about 16 servings in the bag or 1 ounce or about 11 chips per serving. So, if I eat half the bag, I’ve eaten 8 servings and an outrageous number of chips. Hmmm…. 

As another example, if I have an 8-ounce box of pasta, and I fix half the box as one serving, I’ve had a 4-ounce portion of pasta. If you look at this amount compared to what you get for a dinner serving in many restaurants, it’s about the same. The catch though is that the nutrition label on my box of pasta tells me that 2 ounces is a serving size, so I now have to double all of the values listed. Ouch! 

This is where the National Institutes of Health’s idea of “portion distortion1” comes in. If you want an interesting look at how portion sizes have increased over the past 20 years, be sure and check out their interactive quizzes on that here.

Benefits of Reducing Portion Size

Given the increase in the size of portions over the years, when we talk about reducing them, we’re not talking about unhealthy food restriction. We’re talking about getting back to a healthier way of looking at the amount of food we eat. In general, we simply do not need as much food as many of us are currently consuming. Two of the most significant benefits to reducing our portion sizes come in terms of saving our health and our money.

Health benefits

Regularly eating portions that are larger than what our bodies need takes its toll on our health over time. That’s due in large part because consuming more calories than we burn causes the excess calories to be stored as fat. In turn, too much body fat may cause us to become overweight or obese4. In addition, too many simple carbs and too much sugar can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels, also resulting in many health problems5. Here are just some of the risks associated with being overweight, obese or simply eating more food than we need. 

  • Eating too much food requires your organs to work harder4
  • Type 2 diabetes6
  • High blood pressure6
  • Heart disease and strokes6
  • Certain types of cancer6
  • Fatty liver disease6

While reducing portion size won’t prevent all of these issues, it will go a long way toward making sure that we’re not needlessly overloading our bodies with food it really doesn’t need or want. It will also enable us to eat a reasonable amount of something that’s not-so-healthy if that’s what we want while at the same time leaving plenty of room for healthy food. 

Money saving benefits

This one is fairly straightforward. If we eat less, our food bill isn’t as high. Again, the idea here isn’t to starve ourselves by any means. That is absolutely not the point. But, if we get back to eating reasonable amounts of food, we can stretch our food budget even further or invest in healthy foods that we might have otherwise thought were too expensive.

Take my bag of chips. What would have been two servings on a couple of really tough days or even 4-5 servings in amounts that many of us would regularly eat, could actually be up to 16 servings. That means that instead of going through a bag of chips a week, one bag may last two weeks. 

The same holds true with my pasta. If you go by the serving size listed on the box, instead of needing two boxes to feed four people, you only need one box to feed four. That’s half the cost in both cases. 

How to Limit Portion Size

The concept of reducing portion sizes is fairly easy. Putting it into practice is where things can get more challenging. Here are some ideas to help get you started.

  • Learn how much of the healthiest foods to eat at different calorie levels by following the  NIH Guidelines.
  • Weigh and/or measure your food at least in the beginning until you learn what an appropriate portion looks like. 
  • Learn what a reasonable serving size looks like without measuring cups or a scale by following the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Serving Size Card.
  • Drink water about an hour to half hour before you eat. Water is something that most of us need more of, and it will make you feel more full while you’re eating. 
  • Don’t eat from the bag. Set out a serving size or a serving and a half if that seems like a more reasonable amount and put the bag away.
  • Eat healthy snacks at regular intervals throughout the day so that you’re not ravenous  when you sit down for a meal. 
  • Go by the nutrition labels on packages. 
  • If you’re making a recipe from a blog, follow the recommended serving sizes that are usually included. Most blog recipe creators are home cooks. You can normally rely on them to include very reasonable serving sizes as well as the associated nutrition information. 

Bottom Line on Reducing Portion Size

The bottom line on reducing portion size is that we’re not talking about depravation here. We’re talking about eating more intentionally and intuitively as to what your body needs to nourish it. That’s opposed to what your emotions may be making you think they want as well as what may just be habit or conditioned eating. When it comes to portion size, you’re in the driver’s seat, and you’re the one in control. Let that be empowering for you – whatever you decide to eat. 

Sources

  1. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/eat-right/portion-distortion.htm
  2. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/eat-right/distortion.htm
  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eat Right. Serving Size vs Portion Size is There a Differencehttps://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/serving-size-vs-portion-size-is-there-a-difference
  4. The University of Texas. MD Anderson Cancer Center. What Happens When You Overeat? https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/What-happens-when-you-overeat.h23Z1592202.html
  5. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/
  6. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Health Risks of Being Overweight. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight


Money Saving Tip: Financial Benefits of Growing Herbs

If you often use herbs in cooking, you may want to consider growing your own. If you aren’t using herbs often, in my opinion, you should be! They’re a great, nutritious1 way to give even basic dishes a lot of flavor. That’s why I wanted to let you know about the financial benefits of growing herbs so you can reap the health1 and taste benefits while saving money at the same time.  

Photos of growing herbs in pots

Most Common Types of Herbs Used in the Kitchen

Some of the most common types of herbs used in cooking include the following:

  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Oregano

Fortunately, growing all of these herbs at home is very easy to do. 

Growing Herbs

Growing herbs can be done inside, outside, in containers or in the ground. It mainly depends on the amount that you need and the space that you have available to you. If you decide to grow them anywhere but in the ground, you’ll also want to make sure that they’re in a nice sunny spot. Some types actually do fine in partial or indirect sunlight, so these are the best for growing indoors or as I do, on my screened-in porch. 

From a cost benefit perspective, it’s important to know that some herbs are perennials2 and will come back each year. These include Chives, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme. Keep them alive and your one-time cash outlay will definitely give you a fantastic return on investment. 

Financial Benefits of Growing Herbs

If you buy fresh organic herbs in the grocery store, they can cost anywhere from $1.50-$5 for a bunch or a package, depending on the type that you’re buying. That’s for one bunch, that unless you’ve planned a couple of recipes for the week around that herb, you may or may not use all of it. 

Growing herbs is such a money-saver because a packet of organic seeds can cost anywhere from $3.25 – $10 for a pack. Most are on the lower end and usually come in packs of 500-700 seeds. 

The best part – if you don’t use all of them, you can store them, and they’ll stay viable for 1-5 years. Johnny’s Selected Seeds recommends that you store them in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. You can check out the company’s chart for average storage life for specific types of seeds here.

This type of storage life means that even if you’re using annuals, you can probably get at least two years of plantings, if not more, out of one packet of seeds. 

If you decide to use starter plants for herbs, the cost for a season or year’s worth of herbs is equivalent to buying 2-3 bunches in the grocery store. When I’ve bought them as starter plants, I’ve paid $3-$4 for each plant. 

You can also dry your herbs or store them in other ways so that they last anywhere from 3 months to a year or more. Here are a couple of great resources for that:

Resources for Growing Herbs

The following are resources for organic herb seeds that I would highly recommend. 

Growing herbs does require the upfront cost of investing in some pots or other types of containers and potting soil if you’re growing them inside or on a porch, but those costs are quickly recouped if you cook with herbs often. The ability to only cut as much as you need when you need it and to dry or otherwise store what you don’t use makes this an easy money saving strategy in my book. 

Sources

  1. T Alan Jiang, Health Benefits of Culinary Herbs and Spices, Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL, Volume 102, Issue 2, 1 March 2019, Pages 395–411, https://doi.org/10.5740/jaoacint.18-0418
  2. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2008/aug/060101.htm

Money Saving Tip: Taking Your Lunch

There’s no doubt about it. The money saving and health benefits of taking your lunch are enormous. This is one area of your life where you can quickly see the savings and positive health impacts add up.

Photo of quinoa salad as an example how taking your lunch is less expensive than eating out

Budget Benefits of Taking Your Lunch

If you’re not sure whether it will really be cheaper to take your lunch, try tracking what you’re spending on eating lunch out for a month. Visa’s free Lunch Tracker app for iOS can easily help you do this. The app was developed after Visa’s 2015 Lunch Survey found that on average, Americans eat lunch out about 2 times per week and spend $20 per week or $1,043 per year on eating lunch out. Remember that’s only for eating lunch twice a week.

In contrast, those who packed a lunch or ate at home an average of 5 times per week spent $32.76 per week or $1,704 per year. That’s for 3 days more per week of lunches.

Here’s more proof of how realistic it is to take your lunch less expensively than it is to eat out. On average, I spend about $27 for 7 days of incredibly healthy lunches. That’s about $3.85 per lunch. Even if you ate the cheapest fast food possible – for around $3 per lunch – that’s still $21 per week on lunches that will without a doubt come back to bite you (pun intended) with extremely high health costs in the long run.

Health Benefits of Taking Your Lunch

Here’s a look at just some of the health benefits of taking your lunch.  

  • You’re in control of what you eat.
  • You don’t spend time waiting on your food in a restaurant or going through a drive-thru. You can use the extra time instead to sit outside and enjoy your lunch in a much more healthy and relaxing way or you can even have time to take a walk or move a little after you eat.
  • Spending less is healthier because it causes less stress over money.

Things to Keep in Mind

There are several things to keep in mind to make taking a lunch do-able and healthy.

  • Use reusable food storage bags. I highly recommend silicone bags (Affiliate Link) for making sure that chemicals don’t leach into food.
  • Use glass food storage containers or  Stainless steel lunch containers (Affiliate Link)
  • Batch prepare your lunches on the weekend or days off.
  • Be sure and take your own reusable water bottle. Going to all of the trouble of packing your lunch is diluted if you have to spend a fortune on buying a drink from a vending machine. Even water in a vending machine is expensive and comes in unhealthy plastic bottles.

If you need some inspiration to get you going in taking your lunch, be sure and check out my 5 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Busy Women.



Money Saving Tip: Develop a Holiday Budget

5 Tips for Sticking With a Holiday Budget

Now that the holiday shopping season is here, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the “deals,” excitement and checking things off your list. That’s certainly understandable, but one major cause of stress this time of year is overspending on gifts. According to the 2019 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey, about half (51 percent) of the survey respondents told Bankrate that they feel pressure to spend more than they are comfortable with on gifts during the holidays. That’s why it’s so important to develop a holiday budget and stick with it.

photo of wrapped holiday packages
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