Eating Healthy on a Budget
Many people think eating healthy is too expensive, but that simply isn’t true. With some planning and a little creativity, anyone, on any budget, can eat a wholesome, nutritious diet. First, what is a healthy diet? A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy.
Eating healthy also means avoiding or minimizing the consumption of processed, prepackaged, and convenience foods that are full of sodium, saturated fats, and additives. To learn more, the USDA has a healthy eating guideline called “Choose My Plate” http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ that provides guidelines and information about making healthy choices.
To get started building a healthier diet, here are 8 simple things anyone can do to eat healthy on a budget.
1. Read the Weekly Grocery Store Advertisements
Every week grocery stores offer dozens of specials on healthy foods. This is the perfect opportunity to save money by planning meals around the best values. Also, plan to use featured items for more than one meal to really stretch every dollar. For example, if ground turkey is on sale, plan to prepare two meals, turkey chili on one night and turkey burgers later in the week. Or freeze some for future use.
2.Always Eat Before Going to the Grocery Store
It is too easy to succumb to the temptation of less healthy foods on an empty stomach. It’s also easy to overspend. Eating before a trip to the grocery store will help adhere to the shopping list and stay on budget.
3.Take Advantage of Buy-One-Get-One-Free Offers
Some grocers offer buy-one-get-one-free deals on many items, including canned and frozen goods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and other healthy options. Take advantage of this great money saving opportunity and fill the pantry and freezer - there’s nothing better than free! Canned and frozen foods are excellent to have on hand for quick side dishes, soups and smoothies. These are excellent alternatives to fresh produce, and a delicious and affordable option at any time.
4.Buy Store Brands
The generic brands or store labeled items are less expensive than the name brand products. However, the quality is comparable in terms of taste and nutritional value. Sometimes the generic brand is better. Go with the store brand and save money on healthy foods like brown rice, canned beans, and frozen fruits and vegetables.
5.Eat More Non-Meat Sources of Protein
Take advantage of alternate sources of lean protein like chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and egg whites. Fish, such as canned tuna and frozen shrimp, is also a great source of protein and can be very affordable. Beans and fish can be added to soups and pasta dishes easily for quick and healthy meals without breaking the budget.
6.Brown Bag it to Work
Buying lunch every day can really add up in dollars, as well as unwanted fat, sodium, and calories. Take leftovers to work, or prepare a healthy, nutritious and satisfying lunch the night before, to save both time and money. And don’t forget to pack some snacks to maintain energy throughout the day and resist the temptations of the vending machine after lunch.
Stretch the grocery budget and reduce the time spent cooking meals by repurposing leftovers. For example, roasted chicken is a healthy choice for dinner and leftover chicken can be used for a quick chicken and vegetable soup or as an addition to a salad for a light meal.
8.Make Extra to Freeze
When preparing a healthy meal, make a little extra to freeze and enjoy on a night when cooking is not an option. Many people choose less healthy foods when they are in a hurry or don’t have time to cook. Freezing a complete meal is a great time saver, ensures there is a healthy meal at the ready at any time, and is budget friendly.
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is possible for any budget. Taking advantage of advertised specials, being creative in meal preparation, stocking the pantry and freezer with healthy options, and cooking at least a few meals a week are simple and easy ways to stay on track, while squeezing the most out of every grocery dollar.
Tom writes for Heating Oil Shopper, a leading source of information on a range of topics related to heating oil prices ma.