For the budget-conscious college student or the thrifty homemaker, eating healthily on a tight wallet can be a challenge. After all, the “dollar menu” many unhealthy fast food joints boast and the “family value” fried chicken dinners seems to give a bigger value for your buck. However, eating healthy on a budget can be simple if you invest a bit of thought, some creativity, and some quality time. Here we’ve put together a simple cheat sheet to help you budget healthier meals and snacks.
- Buy locally. Look online to see if there are farmer’s markets around your neighborhood, and pay a visit next time. Since the vegetable and fruits sold at such markets are usually grown locally, they can be much cheaper than what can be purchased at the grocery store (as there are no fees for transportation and packaging), and is guaranteed fresh.
- Clip coupons. Take a few minutes and shuffle through the ads you receive in the mail, and you may discover discounts and savings at your local grocery store. Also, take advantage of weekly or monthly specials your local grocery store may have.
- What’s in season? Look for fruits and vegetables that are in season for the lowest prices on fresh produce. For example, persimmons are abundant in the fall, while strawberries are common in the summer. Just do a bit of research.
- Buy in bulk. For whole grains (such as oatmeal), dried fruits, nuts and seeds, it will be cost-conscious to purchase in bulk. Not only are they unprocessed and nutrient-dense, they can last a long time. Home-made trail mix and snacks, anyone?
- Be earth friendly. Many stores nowadays offer a discount if you bring your own grocery tote bags. Although it may just be a few cents, it can add up over time. Also, some food co-ops (if available in the neighborhood), can give you discount produce if you volunteer hours at the store to help sort operations.
- Freeze fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that when unprocessed produce are frozen at their peak, they lose minimal nutrients. Make your life easier by purchasing in-season produce, then freezing it for later for a cheap and nutrient-dense ingredient on the path to eating healthily on a budget.
- Make your own snacks. Not only will you know what the snacks are made from, you can also control how much you want to spend. For example, swapping oil in baked goods with applesauce makes it so much healthier (more fiber and vitamin C), but does not compromise on taste and texture, and is not necessarily more expensive (see: 10 Fun Ways To Make Your Food Healthier).
- Cook all your weekly meals in one day. You can make it a routine by cooking every Sunday night and package meals for the rest of the week. Not only will you be able to control what goes into your food, you will also have the power to make it tasty while saving money (versus going out to eat at lunch or dinner all the time).
- Have Meatless Mondays. Meats and poultry tend to be more expensive than produce and grains, so it can be cost-conscious and healthy to consume less meat, if possible. Swap meats for legumes and beans to maintain healthy protein levels, and try out new vegetarian recipes. Who knows, maybe you actually like tofu more than you think!
By using this cheat sheet, you are one step closer to becoming a healthy budget-eater guru. Try employing these tips next time, for not only will you save money while being kind to your body, you may also lose weight as a desirable and healthy side effect. All in all, it’s a win-win situation for both you and your wallet.