Access to healthy food is a basic human right (at least it should be). Without access to healthy food, people are at a higher risk for conditions such as heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity.
However healthy foods, along with many other basic costs of living, can add up quickly.
Here are some tips for eating healthy on a budget:
(Remember, only focus on making 1-2 small changes at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.)
1. Buy Generic Food and Store Brands
Generic versions of raw foods such as rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, and frozen fruits/veggies taste like brand name foods (or at least comparable), and they’ll save you money on packaging & advertising.
2. Buy in Bulk
Especially when there are sales. Foods like pasta, rice and oats are easy to stockpile. If they’re on sale, buy as much as you can afford and store to last you until the next sale. Scanning flyers takes time, but is worth it if you can consistently save!
3. Invest in a Deep Freezer
Even if you have to buy one second hand and clean it. It will save you tons of money in the long run because you can stock up on fruits, veggies, meats, etc., when they go on sale.
4. Buy Only What You Need
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to prepare yourself before you go to the grocery store.
Plan your meals ahead, including portion size. List all foods you need for the next couple to few days. Go the grocery store, get what’s on your list and get out.
Eat a solid meal before you go shopping. This prevents buying foods not on your list because you’re hungry.
Shop alone (if possible) as it prevents impulse buying from the significant other and/or kids.
Keep a list in the kitchen to write down items that you need to buy for your menu or to restock your pantry.
5. Prepare Your Own Food
Try cooking meals for the next day using a slow cooker, or cook and then store in the fridge/freezer. It will save you stress and time on what you’ll be eating the rest of the day and you eat healthy while saving money. Or choose one afternoon or evening a week to prep some meals for days when you know you will be busy.
Try and reduce processed foods: Use oats instead of cereals, make homemade protein bars or balls, tomato sauce, pizza, etc. This may seem like more work, but using less processed ingredients will save on cost (and of course is typically more healthy). Start with one recipe per week or two, and you’ll slowly build a recipe bank that works for you and your family.
Keep it simple: make double portions for leftovers, take leftovers with you to work, use cans of tuna, rice, pasta, etc., and frozen veggies.
Learn to cook from scratch: Learn to work with spices & herbs. Invest in a budget-friendly eating on a budget cookbook, or free sites for recipes. Note: it takes time, patience and practice to learn new cooking skills (as with learning any new skill). Don’t get frustrated if you burn something or don’t get it right the first time. You will slowly start to develop your skills over time. Start small, with 1-2 changes at a time. if you need help with learning these skills, work with me!
6. Make One Meal for Everyone
Try to offer everybody the same foods at mealtimes. As tempting as it is to please everyone, avoid making something special for ‘picky’ eaters. Children will learn to like many different foods only if they are encouraged to try them (research shows in can take 15-20 times being introduced to a good before kids realize they like it). Making only one meal also saves money and prevents waste. (Disclaimer: this might not be true for some households with picky eaters, so I do understand that sometimes you just ‘gotta do what you gotta do’ with a very picky eater). We have one, too!!
7. Plan for Leftovers
Make larger amounts of food and plan to use leftovers for lunches or suppers the next day. Add leftover vegetables, meats, fish, or poultry to salads, pastas, soups or spaghetti sauces.
8. Buy Frozen Fruits & Veggies
Unfreeze berries in microwave and eat warm with cottage cheese. Add frozen berries to hot oatmeal. Buy large bags of spinach and freeze half of it so it does not go bad; use the fresh spinach in salads and the frozen in cooked recipes. Try frozen beans, broccoli, carrots, corn, etc.
Benefits of using frozen fruits and veggies: Saves Money – often half the price of fresh and almost infinite shelf life when kept in freezer; Saves Time – frozen fruits & veggies are pre-washed and pre-cut, which saves preparation time; Nutrient Dense – if frozen right when picked, frozen fruits & veggies can contain just as much or even more nutrients than fresh ones.
9. Plan Easy Meals Around Affordable Whole Grains
Add meat, chicken or dried beans, peas or lentils and frozen vegetables to brown rice, quinoa, bulgur or barley. Follow the directions on the package to help you cook the grains.
10. Buy Discounted Meat
Grocery stores often discount meats by up to 70% as they approach expiration date. Buy several pounds and store in your freezer.
11. Buy Less Expensive Types of Meat, Poultry and Fish When Required
- Stewing meat
- Outside, inside or eye of round
- Blade or flank steak
- Medium ground meat (or lean when it is on sale)
- Pork shoulder
- Chicken pieces (legs, thighs) or whole chicken (or buy breasts when they are on sale and freeze)
- Plain frozen fish fillets such as salmon, tilapia, sole, haddock and Pollock
- Canned fish like salmon, “light” tuna, sardines and herring
12. Keep Portions Small
A serving of meat, poultry or fish is just 75 grams (2.5 oz) or about the size of a deck of cards. Have 2 to 3 servings per day. Enjoy meals that use small amounts of meat and lots of vegetables, pasta or rice. Try stir-fries, casseroles, curries and pasta dishes.
13. Explore different meat alternatives
Such as eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils, soy products and nuts and seeds. Try eating a few meatless meals each week. 2016 was the year of the pulses (beans, peas, lentils and legumes) and for good reason. They are a healthy (lots of nutrients), sustainable, affordable source of protein. They also have tons of fiber! (Which is important for digestion, disease prevention, and keeping you full for longer).
- Curried chickpeas and rice
- Vegetable cheese omelette
- Vegetarian bean chilli
- Lentil casserole or soup
- Tofu stir-fry
- Egg salad sandwich
- Hummus and vegetable pita
14. Try These Budget-friendly Meal Ideas
Make a stir fry with any protein and veg and serve it over rice.
Toss leftover pasta with low salt diced canned tomatoes, canned or frozen vegetables and cooked meat. Put in a casserole dish and top with light grated cheese. Heat in the oven or microwave.
Add chopped vegetables and dried fruit to quinoa, bulgur or barley and toss with oil and vinegar salad dressing.
Add cooked brown rice or barley and/or beans to soups.
Cheese, bean and vegetable quesadillas on whole grain tortillas.
15. Last but not least – Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Everybody has rough times for various reasons. People are usually too embarrassed to ask for help because there are judgements and stigma out there around this. Try to look past that and understand that no matter what people will always judge. Don’t refrain from seeking help just because there is a lack of understanding around who should and shouldn’t need it.
Here’s some homework 🙂 Choose 2 of these tips, and incorporate them into your routine. Taking on 1-2 small changes is much better than trying to take on too much and getting overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to post, share, and TAG me 🙂
And as always, I am here for support if you have ANY questions 🙂