8 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Many of us welcome the New Year with the best intentions of eating healthier. And with the recent release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we have yet another reminder of the importance of eating healthy all year-round.
What I often hear from friends and family is that while they understand the basics of eating healthy, they don’t have the budget for it. The reality is mealtime doesn’t have to be complicated or costly! There are a few tricks and tips I follow when it comes to eating healthy without breaking the bank.
My tricks and tips for eating healthy on a budget:
- Plan a weekly menu. Taking the time to plan meals means huge time-savings and money-savings when it comes eating healthy. A plan gets you organized, it gives you some direction and it makes you efficient in the grocery store. Take a look at your pantry or fridge before you start shopping so you don’t purchase something you already have. Also, plan to purchase what you are actually going to use to prevent food waste.
- Make a shopping list. And be sure you stick to the list! A list saves time and money (and sanity) while grocery shopping. Stick to the list while at the store, especially if you are on a tight budget. To keep your grocery list from growing too long, prepare meals that include similar ingredients throughout the week. Skip highly processed items and snack foods, which can increase your total spending and fill your cart with not-so-healthy items.
- Check the circular for deals and coupons. Or you can also check out your supermarkets website! The circular helps me become aware of prices and brands. Higher price doesn’t always mean higher quality or nutrition—take a moment to compare.
- Focus on nutrient-dense foods. Selecting nutrient-rich foods and beverages first is a way to make better choices within your daily eating plan. Nutrient-rich foods include brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt, and lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. Milk is one of my favorite nutrient-rich purchases. At $0.25 per 8 ounce serving, milk is a nutritional bargain, providing 8 grams of high-quality protein in each cup.
- Buy in bulk. Many foods, like grains, are available in bulk for a lower price. They also keep for a long time if you keep them in airtight containers. Another trick I like to use when buying in bulk has to do with my family’s favorite dairy foods. While my children love fruit-flavored yogurt, I like to buy a large container of plain or vanilla fat-free yogurt, and flavor it myself with fresh or frozen fruit.
- Factor in leftovers: Leftovers can be a lifesaver when you have those 5 p.m. hungry moments after a long day. Prepare a large batch of favorite recipes on your day off and freeze in individual containers. You can then use them throughout the week and save on the takeout temptation.
- Eat at home. While it might be a bummer to have to do your own dishes, cooking and eating at home is generally less expensive than dining out. My family and I live in a city that has wonderful restaurants; both dine in and carry out. It’s tempting to eat out often! But by making more meals at home I can control what goes in my body and take it easy on the credit card.
- Shop seasonally, and enjoy foods that are always in-season. If you compare prices of produce items when they are in-season versus out-of-season, you’ll often notice an increase in price. So try to stick to purchasing foods that are in-season. And if you are really craving strawberries in December, check the frozen foods section for a great deal!
For great deals on foods that are always in season, head straight to the dairy section of the grocery store. You’ll always find milk, cheese, and yogurt and a variety of brands and prices, all year round.
With a little know-how and planning, you can enjoy nutritious foods while sticking to a tight budget. Mealtime doesn’t have to be complicated; by sticking the basics of healthy eating and shopping for nutrient-dense foods, you can ensure you are providing you and your family the very best foods to eat, all while keeping your budget in check!