Eat Healthy on a Budget
Simple things you can change right now to save money and eat healthy on a budget.
Eat Healthy on a Budget
– Yes, You Can Eat Healthy and Stay on Budget!
25 Tips Guaranteed to Help You Eat Healthy and Save Money
Eat Healthy on a Budget – 25 Super Easy Tips
Your Body and Your Wallet will Both Feel Better.
Eating Healthy on a Budget is Surprisingly Easy If You Know a Couple of Secrets.
Use these super easy tips to save money and eat healthier. Learn how you can eat healthy on a budget.
We all want to eat healthier but it’s so easy just to hit the drive-through on the way home or order Uber Eats. Let’s face it at the end of a long day who can face prepping and cooking a fresh, healthy meal.
I love to cook, I cook for fun, I write about cooking and there are still nights when I’m fresh out of cooking inspiration and all I want to do is order a pizza. So I get it. After a long day sometimes cooking can seem overwhelming. And forget eating healthy. Try the following tips to put a plan together that will make it fast and easy to eat healthy on a budget, even when you don’t “feel” like it.
Buying Organic can Break the Budget: Fresh food, especially organic food can get expensive. I bought “regular” raspberries at Publix this morning for $2.99, if I’d gone for the organic raspberries it would have set me back $3.99. That extra expense can really add up, costing over $20 or $30 each week.
Does this sound familiar? “this is the week I’ll eat better”, so you go out and buy a bunch of fresh veggies, you carefully place them in your vegetable drawer and 2 weeks later you threw out all the limp, nasty and moldy vegetables that you didn’t eat. Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. Follow these simple tips to eat healthier on a budget.
Your body and wallet will thank you.
Benefits of Eating Healthy on a Budget:
- Feel better
- More energy
- Look better
- Clearer more vibrant skin
- Stronger nails and hair
- Reverse certain diseases or reduce reliance on medicine
- Sleep better
- Many time this clears up any tummy issues
- … you might lose some weight
- Save money
- Food will taste better
- Gain confidence
25 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget
Learn to Cook
I don’t mean just knowing how to boil pasta, spice up store bought pasta sauce and cook a chicken breast.
I mean really learn to cook. Learn what spices pair well together. Learn different cooking techniques.
Braising (slow cooking in a very small amount of liquid) will make less expensive cuts of meat fall-apart tender.
I learned to cook on a budget from my Italian Grandmother. Then I some advanced learned techniques from the Chef at one of my favorite restaurants as a young adult. I learned Mexican cooking from the owners of a Mexican restaurant in California. I experimented with flavors and cooking techniques based on favorite restaurant meals.
Sometimes my experiments were amazing and other times not so amazing but I always learned something.
How to Learn to Cook
- Take a cooking class
- Watch cooking videos
- Experiment with spices
- Try different cooking techniques
- Read cookbooks
- Talk to Chefs from you favorite restaurant
Recipes to Try
Whole Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Roast Garlic Blue Cheese (skip the blue cheese to cut some calories and fat)
Shop the Farmers Market – Buy Local, Seasonal Produce
I get it. I want raspberries in January too, but buying local fruits and vegetable that are in season will cost less and be so much better for the planet.
+ you get bonus points for supporting your local farmers and economy.
Shopping at the Farmer’s Market you’ll discover new greens for your salad, you’ll get to taste different varieties of your favorite fruits and vegetables and you’ll get to meet some awesome local food producers.
Fresh fruit and vegetables just taste better. Berries are sweeter, citrus brighter, vegetables crispier and earthy.
Recipes to Try:
Stock Your Pantry
With a well-stocked pantry and fridge, you can easily whip up a fresh meal in no time at all.
With basic supplies on hand, you’ll always be able to create a healthy meal in minutes.
Pantry Basics should include:
Extra virgin olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Almond butter or peanut butter
Dried fruit: cranberries, raisins, apricots, strawberries, dates or cherries
Old-fashioned rolled oats
Seeds: sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Rice and Grains
Long-grain white rice
Grains: bulgur, quinoa, couscous or farro
Canned and Bottled Goods
Chickpeas and black beans
Marinated artichoke hearts
Chipotles in adobo
Roasted red peppers
Curry paste – red and green
Good quality pasta sauce
Flour: all-purpose, whole wheat or pastry
Cream of tartar
Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
Chocolate: chips or bar
Pure vanilla extract
Plenty of Dried Herbs and Spices
Crushed red pepper
Good quality curry powder
Paprika: sweet and smoked
Stock the Fridge with Some Basics + Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Each week before you go grocery shopping review this list and replenish any missing items.
Just make sure you don’t let your fresh vegetable and fruit go to waste. If you bought too much try some of the tips below so you don’t waste food.
Refrigerated Basics for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Plain yogurt: regular or Greek
Cheddar or mozzarella
Blue cheese or gorgonzola (optional) – this cheese is so flavorful a little goes a long way and can help you reduce other fats
Tomatoes: romas, grape, cherry, or heirlooms
Green beans, snap peas or snow peas and/ or broccoli or cauliflower
Bell peppers (Buy green peppers for cooking they are cheaper)
Zucchini and yellow squash or eggplant
Leafy greens: spinach and arugula, watercress, kale, or chard
Lettuce: romaine, Boston, butter lettuce, green or red leaf lettuce, endive, spring mix or mixed greens
Cilantro, Basil and Sage
Sweet Onion like Vidalia or Maui
Berries (in season)
Pineapple (in season)
Seasonal fruit, like peaches, pears, plums, figs
Jam, preserves or fruit butters – buy at the farmers market or look for preserves made with fruit and contains less sugar and no preservatives
Ketchup – look for low sodium
Mustard: Dijon or whole grain
Roasted Red Peppers
Hot sauce: Tabasco, Sriracha
Soy sauce or tamari
Asian fish sauce
Mayonnaise – if you must, use sparingly.
Stock the Freezer with Portioned Protein Packets
Chicken Pork Tenderloin and Lean Beef
To save money and make it easier to get a healthy meal on the table quickly stock-up on chicken, pork tenderloin and lean beef in large family packs or when they are on sale and then wrap them for freezing either individually or in your most frequently used portions.
— I put 3 chicken breast halves in each packet so that I’ll have enough for a meal and lunch each time I cook chicken.
Freezer Basic for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Ground beef or ground turkey or chicken
Good quality veggie patties
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Lean beef strips or tips
Seafood can be tricky to freeze so I like to buy the seafood for my freezer already frozen. Seafood processing plants have freezers that freeze the seafood very quickly and the fish is frozen as soon as it is cleaned.
Buy only wild-caught fish and shellfish – never buy farm-raised fish or shellfish. It might be cheaper but it isn’t as good for you. If you are concerned about the environmental impact of eating fish, Dr. Axe has a great article about the best and worst fish to consume based on environmental impact and health risks or benefits.
Shop Sales, Specials, and Use Coupons
Always shop with a plan, but to save money it pays to stock up on pantry basics and protein when it’s on sale.
To really save money plan your shopping trip based on a meal plan.
Most groceries now have apps for your phone that have all the specials, sales, and coupons in an easy to use format. Many even let you add them to your shopping list right in the app.
Eat Healthy on a Budget Using Coupons, Sales and Specials
- Clip coupons – look in the Sunday paper (if anyone still gets them), look online
- Stock-up on Buy 1, Get 1 free specials. Freeze proteins in individual portions.
- Use store apps for coupons and specials
Shop at Stores like Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Local Fresh Markets for Produce
You’ll find a variety of fresh seasonal produce typically much cheaper than your local supermarket chain.
Try Meal Planning
Meal Planning is not some mysterious process, It’s not difficult and it should only take you about a 1/2 hour a week. Oh, and it will save you money and make it easier to eat healthy on a budget.
Meal planning is simple. All you have to do is decide “What’s for dinner?” once a week. Instead of answering that question every night you answer it once for the entire week. Then you can shop once and prep ingredients once.
3 Steps to Meal Planning to Eat Healthy on a Budget
- Decide on dinners (lunches and even breakfast). I like to do “family fav” recipes 4 nights a week, then try a new recipe 1 night per week. I typically cook 3 or 4 nights a week.
- 2 nights will be “cook once, eat twice” recipes.
- 1 night is a night out
- 1 night new recipe
- 1 night leftovers or a pantry pasta
2. Shop for ingredients
3. Prep ingredients for the week
Meal Planning Schedule
- Plan your Menus on Friday
- Shop on Saturday
- Prep on Sunday
or choose the schedule that works best for you.
My Personal Meal Planning Schedule
I entertain a lot on the weekend, so many times I’m planning menus on Thursday night.
Then shop Friday morning before work (this works for me because I have to shop quickly, there are fewer people in the store and timebound shopping makes its easier to stick to my shopping list)
I prep for the weekend Friday evening.
Then Sunday morning I prep for the rest of the week.
Cook At Home
When you cook at home you are in complete control of the ingredients you use in your recipes. This means that you can change a recipe to meet your dietary needs.
Reasons to Cook at Home When Eating Healthy on a Budget
- Manage fat and sodium content
- Control all the ingredients
- Saves money
- Reduces impulse eating – like ordering dessert or adding a fried appetizer
- Fresher, better tasting food
- Fewer foodborne illnesses
- Greater variety
- Easier to manage calories
- Better portion control
Cook Once, Eat Twice
This has to be one of my all-time favorite ways to eat healthier on a budget and it’s so easy.
So here the deal, you cook a double portion of protein or vegetables (or both) and serve it once then serve leftovers in a slightly different way or over a giant salad.
Cook Once, Eat Twice Ideas
Meal #1 – Slow Cooker Sweet Heat Chicken served with a simple salad and roast potaoes
Meal #2 – Buffalo Chicken Salad – toss chicken from meal 1 with Frank’s Red Hot then top a salad
Meal #2 – BBQ Pork Flatbread – toss pork from meal 1 with an easy homemade BBQ sauce and serve on Naan
Meal #1 – Chicken and Red Sauce served with angel hair pasta
Meal #2 – Chicken Parmesan baked ziti with a green salad. Simply cook the ziti, toss in chicken and sauce then top with mozzarella.
Meal #1 – Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
Meal #2 – Salsa Verde Taco Salad with Mexican street corn and bean salsa
Meal #1 – New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp
Meal #2 – Shrimp and cheese grits
Prep Once per Week
Prepping veggies in advance is a game changer when you need to get dinner on the table in a hurry.
Prep Fruits and Veggies for the week to Eat Healthy on a Budget
Your prep will depend on the meals you chosen to cook, but here are a few suggestions for making weeknight meals easy.
- Chop garlic and onions
- Slice and chop tomatoes
- Wash and cut vegetables – this works well for zucchini, squash, bell peppers, broccoli
- Spiralize veggies if you plan on cooking zoodles or other veggie noodles
- Wash berries
- Cut melons and pineapple
- Optional – Throw some boneless chicken breasts in a slow cooker to get a jump start on lunches and Monday night dinner
Stock the Freezer with a Couple Bags of Frozen Vegetables
Make sure you always have a couple of bags of vegetables in the freezer. These can either be vegetables you have purchased fresh or frozen vegetable from the grocery store.
Veggies defrost super fast and can be throw in a wok for a quick stir-fry, microwaved or tossed onto a sheet pan for a quicka nd healthy side dish.
Buy Store Brands
To save money buy lower priced store brands.
Store brands have come a long way and manay items are just as good and some are better than national brands.
Products to Consider
- Dairy products such as milk and butter
- Canned goods
- Grains, like rice and quinoa
- Stock or broth
Skip the Junk Food Aisle Completely
Don’t even tempt yourself. Steer clear of the chip and snack aisle. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
Make Your Own…
- Fruit and yogurt bowls
- Flavored yogurt
- Oatmeal with spices and dried fruit
- Fruit and nut mixes ( great for snacks and for salad toppings)
- Spiced nuts
Batch cooking is simple. The idea is to cook larger portions of versatile proteins (chicken, pork, beef, etc or plant-based protein), vegetables and grains, then mix and match them to create different meals during the week.
You can do all your batch cooking at one time on the weekend – but that doesn’t sound like much fun. So I suggest making your slow cooker your friend and batch cook protein a couple of times a week.
Here’s an example of a batch cooking schedule:
Sunday (about 1/2 hour or 45 minutes)
- Wash and chop vegetables like bell peppers, zuchinni, squash, green beans, peas, anything that won’t discolor.
- Chop onions and garlic
- Sweat eggplant and roast for use later in the week
- Roast or Slow Cook protein like chicken, beef or pork. Slow cooking is my favorite way to jump start my weekly meal plan, 5 or 10 minutes of prep then set it and forget it.
- Cook grains, legumes and pasta – most grains, legumes and pasta store well once cooked. Then you can easily reheat and add spices or veggies. Toss pasta with a little olive oil before refrigerating. Let all of the cool before sealing and storing – steam created from storing before cool with create extra un watened moisture.
- Make salad dressings or any sauces you plan to use for the week so it’s just ‘grab and go’ when it’s time to cook.
How Batch Cooking Can Help You Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Make the Freezer your Friend – You can freeze lots of things you may have never thought of, like rice, pasta sauces, vegetables, soups, chili, most breads, fruit, chili, muffins, and pies. You can freeze full meals, cooked meats, cooked potaoes, casseroles and even frozen pizza. Don’t freeze lettuce, uncooked potatoes, or pasta. Never refreeze anything.
2. Cool any cooked food you plan to freeze.
3. Carefully wrap anything you plan to freeze, remove excess air, but make sure you have room for expansion, if you are freezing liquids.
4. Defrost frozen food safely. Always defrost frozen food slowly in the refrigerator, or quickly by submerging it in cold water – make sure you change the water frequently.
Make Slow Cooker Meal Packs and Freeze
Season your meats before you freeze your portioned protein packs.
Buy in Bulk —
But only if you can use it, freeze it or share it before it spoils
Bring Your Lunch to Work
Batch cook plenty of food to make lunches for the week.
Bringing your lunch to work will save hundreds of dollars a year + you’ll likely consume fewer calories and your lunch will contain less fat and additives.
Don’t Buy Convenience Items
Skip buying prepackaged food like pasta dishes, pre-cooked and seasoned rice and sauces. These are easy to make and will be much healthier that the prepackaged convenience food.
Freeze Fresh Herbs
Many herbs can be simply frozen on the stem and stored in an airtight container. Left on the stem, hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, thyme, bay or sage can be spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate and placed in the freezer.
Freeze Herbs in Oil or Butter
Dont’ throw out fresh herbs. It happens to all of us we either buy or grow too many herbs to use before they spoil, instead of throwing them out grab an ice cube tray and chop fresh herbs into the squares then top with oil or melted butter.
Cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
Remove the frozen cubes and store in freezer containers or small bags.
Stock your Freezer with Basics to Pull Together a Quick Meal
- sandwich bread
- dinner rolls
- Hoagie rolls
Choose your favorites. I like to have corn, edamame, and plantains.
- mangos or pineapples
- pizza dough
- pie dough
- puff pastry
Vanilla ice cream
The Freezer is Your Friend – Freeze Leftovers, Artisanal Bread, Fresh Vegetables, and Fresh Fruit
Don’t Shop Hungry or Without a Plan
When you shop on an empty stomach you are way more likely to pick up food that isn’t on your list and looks good. Grab a snack before you head to the grocery to help you steer clear of impulse purchases and buying the extra greasy fried chicken that only smells good while you are in the store.
Shopping with a list will keep you focused while you shop. This will save time and money. + You’ll have the ingredients for your meal plan and to restock your pantry.
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