I was recently asked by my friend good friend, Kelly, how she could switch to natural sweeteners without breaking the bank. Kelly is a new, busy college student who doesn’t have loads of time or resources to devote to natural baking. Many people have this same dilemma and eating healthy can be a challenge. Natural sweeteners can be expensive and healthy ingredients are not always cheap! But with a little planning and research, eating naturally sweet can be done!
1. Stop buying white sugar. Usually, eating unhealthy desserts or buying treats at the store are just a cap at the end of the meal or the end of the grocery list. They are unnecessary snacks, but it’s not like we NEED them. Sugar cravings will still hit because you will be used to it, but instead of buying sugar to have on hand, you’ll be forced to go without. When the sugar cravings hit and there is no sugar around, that will promote some creativity and you can start in the kitchen.
2. Start using honey. Find a local bee keeper to purchase local honey if you can. It is often cheaper and healthier to go through them than finding it at the store, especially for organic, raw honey. Local, raw honey has amazing health benefits and will give you a less expensive sweetener that you’ll be able to use in a ton of ways! Buying honey this way means you are helping local businesses and you are ensuring that you are buying real honey. If you are against eating honey, maple syrup is another great accessible sweetener.
3. Save white sugar cash for better treats. Once you have some money saved up, buy the natural sweeteners and make treats only when you really want them. Even if you are surrounded by you co-workers, roommates and friends with traditional treats, knowing that you can make a better healthier treat makes it worth it!
4. Make treats that require only a little bit of sweetener. One example is chocolate peanut butter popcorn. The only sweetener needed is chocolate. They are sweet, but the main ingredient is not a natural sugar. Sometimes it’s possible to decrease the amount of sugar in a recipe and still have it be delicious and sweet. One example of this could be easy chocolate mousse. You could easily decrease or omit the sweetener in these. These peanut butter and jelly bars could also be adapted by decreasing the sweetener in the peanut butter and really piling on the jelly! (As a side note: you can decrease regular white sugar in your baking when starting out if that helps!)
5. Shop online. Shop vitacost.com and amazon.com. They usually have the cheapest prices and often times have free shipping! For college students on amazon.com, take advantage of their student prime membership programs which give free 2 day shipping! This is especially helpful if you live or are going to school in a rural area.
6. Shop around! Check different stores and make a list of places that have the cheapest items and ask about sales they might have. Then plan your grocery shopping around what you find. Make sure to refer to the websites mentioned above to verify it’s the cheapest you can find.
7. Go in with family, roommates or friends to buy natural sweeteners. Chances are, when they see those natural cookies that you made, they’ll be interested in trying them out! Once they taste how delicious healthy cookies can be, they’ll be convinced natural sweeteners are worth it! If a few of you want a particular sweetener, buy in bulk, which always saves money! If you don’t live with roommates, go in with friends or family. The three of us sisters often buy in bulk and split the cost. Go in together, and make the cost less for all of you, while sharing the enjoyment.
8. Spend time on Pinterest. Use Pinterest to pin healthy desserts to keep you motivated and interested in making desserts at home. Making things at home will always save money from eating out. A batch of natural brownies is still going to be cheaper than going out for ice cream at a restaurant! And they will last longer! Once you get in the habit of eating at home, you’ll notice the difference in your pocket-book, not to mention your waist line!
9. Freeze your treats. When you make healthy desserts, get in the habit of freezing a few of them. This will make it so you won’t eat all of them, and saves the treats to be spread out. When you are out of the natural sweeteners or are low on cash, you can have a few frozen treats to get you through.
10. Eat clean and healthy. Keep your diet filled with lots of greens, fruit and nuts with plenty of water. Eating a well-balanced diet will keep your body sufficiently filled with the vitamins and minerals that it needs and will diminish the unhealthy cravings. This also helps avoiding overeating! If you splurge on sugar, it will be worth it and on something you really truly love.
As a last suggestion, check out the recipe tags under each recipe. There, you can find lots of recipes sweetened only with honey, stevia, maple syrup or fruit! Prices of ingredients may vary for everyone, as will the accessibility of some of these sweeteners, but with a little planning and creativity, everyone can eat sugar-free treats without breaking the bank! Hope you enjoy them and good luck!