Nutrition Articles

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Save Money Without Sacrificing Quality

When you’re on a tight budget, the thought of preparing tasty, healthy meals on a regular basis can seem daunting. Not only is it easy to get sucked in by grocery merchandising tricks, but it’s also normal for most of us to fall into a mealtime rut, eating the same foods over and over. But you’re in control of your kitchen—and if you cook smart, you can enjoy the first-class meals you deserve. 

You can save money and still have quality. If you’ve been using cost as an excuse to eat junk, you can kiss that excuse goodbye! With a little organization and creativity, you can have the proverbial champagne when cooking on a beer budget. To start, here’s a quick review of basic tips of healthy eating:
  • Limit your intake of junk food and alcohol
  • Drink lots of water (at least 8 cups a day)
  • Limit salty and sugary foods
  • Avoid eating many foods that are high in saturated fats
  • Make “variety” the watchword of your eating
Next, set aside regular blocks of time for planning meals, making your grocery list, and shopping—tasks that are most often shortchanged in food prep. Include healthy snack ideas, as well as main menu items. Think about the time of day, day of week, and even week in the month that you shop. Generally, the grocery is the least busy early in the morning, in the middle of the week, and on any day but the first day or two of the month (when many people receive pension or paychecks).

Don’t be afraid to surf the internet for recipes that use specific ingredients (plug the ingredient in as a keyword of your search), since you can often get good buys on breads, meats, and other items marked for quick sale before they go bad.

Stock your fridge and cupboards with items that are quick and easy to cook (yet kind to your wallet):
  • Beans and lentils, whether canned or dried, make nutritious, hearty soups, and can be a main course with the addition of fresh vegetables or rice.
  • Brown Rice is a great addition to leftover meat and veggies. Although brown rice is slightly more expensive than white, the nutritional payoff is well worth it. Another inexpensive, easy-to-fix grain, millet, is best when bought fresh. Simply rinse and toast before using it in recipes.
  • Pasta, likewise, is quick and easy to prepare, and can be paired with veggies, meat, or a fresh salad. Have fun adding your own embellishments (mushrooms, spices, and herbs.) Choose whole-wheat pasta whenever available.
  • Soups can’t be beat for nutrition and convenience, especially since you can use canned or packet soups as your base, then add your own veggies and leftover meat. Again, try to experiment, adding your own herbs and spices.
  • Fresh vegetables and fruit should be bought at least once or twice each week, preferably in season, to ensure optimal taste and nutrition. You can also rely on canned/frozen varieties as handy additions to last-minute meals. Veggies make great stir-fries and vegetable patties, while fruit is good for a quick nutritious snack.
  • Meat and fish can be kept on hand also for last-minute meals— try the newer tuna and salmon pouches, and shop for inexpensive cuts of meat that work well in stews and casseroles.
  • Condiments add flavor and interest to your dishes. Keep a selection of dried herbs, spices, curry powder, marinades, vinegars, tomato and soy sauces, along with stock cubes, in your cupboard. Experiment with the new, such as Japanese miso, an aged salty condiment made from soybeans and various other ingredients (found in the natural foods section, usually refrigerated).
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

    ........ - 2/3/2015 9:02:24 AM
    These articles have got absolute sense devoid of confusing the readers.
    - 11/24/2014 11:47:59 PM
  • All these articles say to eat rice. Now it has been shown that rice has dangerous amounts of arsenic in it. If you have rice it says to boil it in 6 parts water to 1 part rice and then drain all the water off. It's pretty bad when it is always recommended for people who have a very limited budget to eat things that are not healthy. - 11/18/2014 7:26:22 PM
  • My tip is to be flexible and alway always check prices! I will eat most anything. My favorite grocery store has some of the best deals on produce if you can luck into them. I can get produce dirt cheap by looking at the prices and I check every time! (today scored brussel sprouts 40 cents/lbs, green onion for a quarter and organic leafy greens for 99 cents, usually costs three or four times as much!). I also bought 2lbs boxes of chicken breast for $1.99 because they were discontinued (usually $12). I have a place where meat is always cheap. I only buy yogurt if it's half off and/or have coupons to make it cheaper.

    I also like to make soup a lot by using up my veggies that are starting to get to end of life. it is always an interesting concoction but cram packed with nutrition. I like to add a pouch of Knorr tomato vegetable soup as a base but a big pot makes about 10 servings so it goes a long way.

    I don't eat canned food at all. I buy tomato soup for the kids and jarred pasta sauce and that's it. Beans are cheaper dried and don't take long to cook if soaked properly. I do buy big bags of frozen veggies as they are often on sale. - 6/7/2014 2:36:37 PM
  • I can't vote for any ONE of these choices, because use ALL of them, And coupons. Utilizing leftovers, and stretching them into other meals helps. It takes a little research into recipes and tweaking them to suit your needs and tastes, and make them seem new, but to me that's the fun part. I think utilizing a well stocked pantry and freezer can benefit ANY sized family. - 12/20/2013 8:21:50 AM
  • I agree with NTAR2200 - 10/16/2013 9:14:43 AM
    I find that shopping late evening in supermarkets you can get food thats greatly marked down in price. Thats in England anyhow. I have sometimes stood over the staff whilst they price stuff down then get it if I want it! Mainly, where veg is concerned, I buy stuff in season then freeze it before its out, so that through winter months I can still have choices of veg. ��! - 5/28/2013 9:09:44 AM
  • When making stocks and other things that have long cooking times I've wondered how much the cost of gas or electricity might add to the cost of the meal. Anyone have any insight into this? - 5/2/2013 12:47:57 PM
  • don't think batch cooking works well for one person you get tired of it before you eat it all and it often get lost in the freezer. buying in large amounts is not a good plan this would work for a family I am sure. - 5/2/2013 1:13:38 AM
    What they do not address here is how to eat healthy on a budget when you have different food allergies in your house. Trying to eat dairy-free, with one person needing a high-fiber diet (more raw veggies), and another needing a much lower-fiber (more cooked/processed veggies, less beans) makes it very hard. Grocery stores have figured out that it is very hard to make soy milk or rice milk, and adjust prices accordingly, even when bought in bulk. And when you make almost all of your own food, you have to have that stuff, even if you water it down with milk. This article did not give me any new information or ideas. I was very disappointed. - 5/1/2013 7:45:19 PM
    The dry mixes, hamburger/chicken helper--- though not healthy, can be stretched by adding additonal plain pasta or plain rice. This at least dilutes the sodium, and for me, I like the taste better this way. I also dilute the sodium of canned soups by adding an "extra" can of sodium free broth. You can toss in extra ingredients (added chicken, vegies, pasta) and make it hearty soup. - 5/1/2013 1:01:54 PM
  • A huge money saver that isn't listed is to limit your meat intake! It's so simple. Just cut down 1 meal per week, you will be saving money, helping the environment AND saving hundreds of animals per year! - 5/1/2013 12:02:31 PM
  • We buy fruit when it is at it's cheapest and in bulk and rather than let the strawberries and blueberries go bad we freeze them. - 5/1/2013 8:47:02 AM
  • Most canned soups have way too much sodium. Not really a good option, cheap or not. - 5/1/2013 8:45:20 AM
    The easiest way to eat healthy on a budget is a well-stocked pantry. Keep dried lentils (they cook quickly and don't require soaking) cans of beans, canned fish (especially sardines) and vegetables in your cupboard at all times. If you can add whole grains like oatmeal and brown or converted rice, that's even better.

    I have a lentil soup recipe that can be made entirely from pantry ingredients, and takes only 10 minutes to make: http://www.chicag
    roject-potage-esau-red-lentil-soup/ - 1/5/2013 3:34:36 PM

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