Dietitians Offer 13 Ways to Eat Healthily on a Budget
This is for you!
Do you believe that eating well on a budget is impossible? Rethink that! While speciality supermarkets like Whole Foods give the impression that eating well is only for people with large budgets, there are actually many resourceful ways to eat well even if you're watching your pennies. All you need is a solid strategy and the desire to think beyond the box.
Here are some tips from qualified dietitians on how to prepare healthy meals on a budget, from buying in bulk to using frozen and canned goods. Check out our list of 13 Amazing Tricks for Saving Money at the Grocery Store, According to Employees, for even more money-saving advice.
1 Shop your pantry first.
Make a list of what you already have in your pantry or refrigerator before making a grocery list, advises Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a dietitian in northern Virginia who assists women in quitting dieting. "More money saved means less food wasted,"
2 Buy in bulk.
According to Kelsey Lorencz, RDN of Graciously Nourished, "Buy dried beans or microwaveable rice in bulk rather than canned beans or microwaveable rice." "In an Instant Pot or on the stove, you may make beans or rice with ease. A can of beans costs the same as a bag of dried beans, but they produce four times as much. Additionally, by controlling your salt intake, you can reduce your sodium intake."
For bulk staples like canned foods, rice, bread, pasta, and even meats and seafood to store in your freezer, Thomason advises visiting Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's. Although you might have to pay a bit more up front, you'll ultimately save money.
3 Cook more at home.
According to Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our medical expert board, cooking more at home will save you a lot of money as well as a lot of calories, sodium, and added sugar. Considerable study has revealed that meals prepared at home typically include more nutrients than meals purchased at a restaurant.
4 Swap meat with plant proteins.
Another option to reduce costs and enhance health is to substitute plant proteins for meat, according to Young. "A fantastic method to save money and eat healthily is to replace red meat a few times per week with chickpeas, lentils, almonds, and seeds. Plant protein sources are affordable, simple to prepare, and packed with nutrients. Additionally, you'll receive fiber, something meat does not provide."
5 Shop frozen and canned.
"There is a misperception that the only "healthy" type of produce is fresh. But that is untrue, "As a member of our medical expert board and the author of *The Sports Nutrition Playbook, Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, says. "Fruits and vegetables are selected at the height of ripeness before being frozen or canned to preserve freshness. In general, these items are less expensive, last longer, and eventually help reduce food waste. To increase your family's consumption of produce, you can add them to a variety of meals and side dishes. Try to buy canned and frozen produce without sauces or additional sodium."
Another member of our medical expert board, Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT, says she always saves a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer to easily add to stir-fries, sheet pan meals, and other dishes. Additionally, when you're pressed for time, bags of frozen vegetables, like wild blueberries, are simple for yogurt parfaits and smoothies.
6 Repurpose leftovers.
According to Goodson, "So many people waste food by not using their leftovers." "Even if you don't have enough leftovers to prepare a dinner, you can still add them to one. Have any leftover beef strips? Use whole wheat tortillas and mozzarella cheese to make quesadillas. leftover vegetables from the bottom of the pot? To increase the nutritional value of your pasta, add them to the spaghetti sauce. Is your fruit past the point of no return? It is blended with milk and yogurt to make a smoothie. You can spend less at mealtime by using what is left over."
7 Implement the "plan-over."
Thomason advises setting aside a day to "plan over" leftovers if you find yourself with more than you can handle. On this day, you should just wipe out the fridge and get inventive.
To prepare for leftovers, set aside a day to clean out the fridge and "make-do" with what's left over, the author advises. Eating the leftovers rather than throwing them away will save you money.
8 Add in a variety of grains.
According to Manaker, a variety of grains can be a cheap option that is high in antioxidants, fiber, and even protein. I enjoy making a large batch of grains, such as sorghum or quinoa, and using them as the foundation for a variety of nutritious dishes throughout the week.
9 Reach for eggs.
Eggs are a cheap, nutrient-dense item that make a wonderful addition to any meal of the day, according to Manaker. "Naturally, eggs are a good source of protein, but they also provide other nutrients including choline, iodine, and vitamin B12. As a convenient and wholesome source of protein, I adore having eggs in my refrigerator. When I have the time, I also hard boil six for a wholesome grab-and-go option."
10 Buy produce in season.
According to Lorencz, you may conserve in-season produce at its ripest to enjoy all year round if you prefer shopping at farmer's markets for all of that farm-fresh goodness.
Buy produce when it's in season and preserve it to enjoy all year long by freezing, drying, or canning. "When you can preserve the produce at its ripest, buying it in season not only saves you money but also improves the food's nutritional content. When you cultivate it yourself and store your harvest, you can save even more money."
11 Plan your meals.
It is impossible to exaggerate the value of meal planning, according to Lorencz. "You'll spare yourself from having to order takeout at the eleventh hour because you have nothing to eat, in addition to wasting less food and spending more money. To reduce costs, create wholesome meals that all contain the same few fresh ingredients. Buy a large head of lettuce, for instance, and use it in a salad one night, on a sandwich or burger the next, and later in the week as shredded lettuce in a burrito bowl."
With this One Whole Week of Easy Meals You Can Make at Home, you can try it out for yourself.
12 Be a little flexible.
Being adaptable can be beneficial when attempting to cut costs on groceries, according to Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, founder of OnceUponAPumpkinRD.com and the author of the recently released The Great Big Pumpkin Cookbook. "You might want to see what's on sale and base your meal plans on those goods rather than planning your meals and then going grocery shopping. This could be a terrific method to reduce your grocery price, however it could require a bit more imagination on your part."
13 Store your produce correctly.
Nothing is worse than discovering a just purchased item is already deteriorating before you have even had a chance to use it, according to Michalczyk. "The simplest approach to ensure that fruits, vegetables, herbs, and proteins last as long as possible is to store them properly. Moreover, reduce food waste."
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