Sometimes you really can have your cake and eat it too—or in this case, your vegetables. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle really doesn’t have to be as pricey as many think it is. You can stay within your budget, fill your belly and get an adequate amount of vital nutrients by following a few simple strategies.
Here are seven great tips for healthy eating on a budget. We’re sure your body and wallet will love them.
Healthy Eating Tip: Set a Budget
The first step to staying within a budget is setting one. If you’re spending money is limited, take time to plan what you can afford to drop on groceries. Be realistic about your budget needs—food is not something you should sacrifice. Maybe decrease your bar, entertainment or shopping budgets to give your groceries a boost.
Whenever you buy food, mark down how much you spent, adding the cost to other expenditures. That way, you’ll know how much of your grocery budget you’ve used and how much you have left.
Healthy Eating Tip: Plan Your Meals
When you go grocery shopping without meal plans in mind, you may purchase ingredients that won’t help you to prepare healthy and filling dinners. You could end up letting produce spoil because none of the rest of your food would complement it.
By writing down meal ideas before you go to the store, you’ll know what ingredients you need to compose meals and avoid waste. You can also try to coordinate meals that use the same ingredients. For instance, chicken and mushrooms could be used in shredded chicken tacos, chicken marsala and stir fry.
Healthy Eating Tip: Buy Whole Ingredients
Those frozen meals, boxed snacks and pre-cut produce sure do look easy, but boy do they make a dent in your budget—and they’re usually packed with way too much sodium. Purchasing whole and fresh ingredients will allow for healthy eating at a fraction of the cost.
Most frozen meals are anywhere from $2 to $5. Purchasing ingredients to make a similar dish on your own may cost a bit more up front, but you’ll get significantly more servings. Plus, by cooking your own food, you can control how much sugar, carbs and sodium each dish gets.
Healthy Eating Tip: Check the Frozen Food Aisle
While buying frozen dinners can be a waste of money, frozen ingredients certainly are not. Vegetables that are frozen are picked and immediately chilled. This helps them retain their nutritional content. Frozen produce keeps longer (cutting back on waste) and is very affordable.
You can shop for protein in the frozen aisle as well. Look for lean proteins, such as chicken and turkey, to be really healthy. Just make sure you don’t purchase breaded, fried or glazed protein—those items aren’t exactly the most nutritious. Instead, by grilled or uncooked varieties.
We suggest getting protein that’s already been cut up. For instance, instead of getting a whole chicken, get chicken breast. That way, you can pull out a single serving at a time. If you’re feeding a family, a whole chicken may not be a bad idea.
Healthy Eating Tip: Stick to Seasonal
Getting fresh produce is definitely nice, and it can be cost effective. Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and locally grown. They tend to be cheaper because they were produced near to the store and didn’t have to be shipped as far (which costs a lot of money in fuel).
Find out what’s in season and look for that produce next time you go shopping. You can also use seasonal ingredients to base your weekly menu off of.
Healthy Eating Tip: Stretch Your Meat
Many doctors suggest that people reduce their meat intake. In fact, diets rich in animal proteins can cause an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes. You don’t have to go vegetarian to get the benefits of eating less meat; just reduce.
Some people, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, have embraced Meatless Mondays, in which they do not eat meat for one day a week. Others reduce the amount of meat they purchase and add other protein sources to their meals, such as lentils and beans.
For instance, you can cook up tacos that include pork and black beans. You won’t have nearly as much meat, but plenty of protein. Lentils and beans can also be a lot cheaper than meat. Check your canned food aisle for the average cost of a can of beans.
Healthy Eating Tip: Try the Clean 15
The Environmental Working Group publishes a list every year that consists of produce that contains the most and least chemical pesticide residue. All of the produce is conventionally grown, so it’s likely more affordable than organic varieties.
The Clean 15 is a list of produce that contain the least amount of chemical pesticides so you can skip purchasing organic varieties to save money. On the other hand, you should consider splurging for organic on the Dirty Dozen (produce with the most pesticide residue).