Nutrition Articles

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Save Money Without Sacrificing Quality

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Finally, a few more hints that can help you save a little green:
  • When cooking a big meal, make extra to freeze, or use later in the week for lunches or quick suppers. Double recipes, then freeze half.
  • Save your vegetable trimmings to make your own vegetable stock. Not only do you save money, but vegetable stock also makes a nutritious base for casseroles, soups, and Crockpot cooking.
  • Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper; you can freeze perishable items (such as meat, milk, and even bread) in smaller portions to use as needed. It’s always a good idea to buy non-perishable items in bulk (canned foods, dried beans and grains, etc.).
  • Use less expensive cuts of meat for casseroles that you slow cook; add extra vegetables and beans to make the meal go further.
  • Capitalize on one-pot dishes, which generally save prep time, money, and dishwashing, and often make great leftovers.
  • Look high and low (literally) to find the less expensive generic or store brands on grocery shelves, often very similar to higher-priced brand names though packaged under different labels. Stores deliberately place the highest-priced brand-name items at eye level, but if you compare the cost per unit, you’ll be able to figure out the most cost-effective purchase. You can even try your own taste tests— blind, of course— to see where you can save money without sacrificing flavor.
  • Take advantage of specials on staples—broth, soups, pasta, rice, canned veggies, even bread and meat. Many of these items have a long shelf life or can be frozen for short periods of time.
  • Limit your dining out, especially when it comes to fast food, since you’ll find yourself spending unnecessarily on items that are high in fat, salt, and calories, which short-change you in the nutrition department.
There’s no magic formula to cooking on a budget. Like anything else worthwhile in life, it takes a little planning, creativity, and work. But if you think of the rewards—better health and more money—you’ll find it’s worth the effort. No doubt you’ll still have days when you fall back on that quick-fix packaged food or the local burger drive-thru. But if you look at cooking as an adventure, you’ll also have days when you find yourself pleased at what you’ve accomplished—as you serve dinner to rave reviews from family and friends!
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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

  • 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
  • LIVERBIRD008
    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
  • SOLEIL_JAIE
    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
  • BAMAJAM
    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
  • QUIPSTRAVAILS
    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
    onow.com/quip
    s-travails-br
    aised-oxtails
    /2013/01/the-
    food-desert-p
    roject-potage-esau-red-lentil-soup/ - 1/5/2013 3:34:36 PM
  • FOODIEONABUDGET
    I really agree with the list of cheap and quick meal types, like soup and pastas. I use those all the time. I found that the hardest part of eating healthy on a budget was taking the time to plan meals and find recipes. That's why when my husband got laid off, I decided to start sharing our weekly menus and recipes on my blog. It takes the hard planning out of the equation. http://afoodieona
    budget.blogsp
    ot.com/ - 11/11/2012 3:53:51 PM
  • EDALZELL0669
    The problem that most people are not getting...there are many of us out there that can only afford to drive to the grocery once a month. Right now things are so bad, I'm going to try and go 2 months. It costs $3.00 in gas to go to and from the store once! Many of us are that budget conscious! So going to the store twice a week, every week or even every other week is out. Most fresh fruits and vegetables don't last that long...lucky if they are good for 3-5 days. So we must purchase foods that will keep for up to one month. Powdered milk and eggs are helpful. I freeze what I can for meats and fresh produce. And I freeze my bread. But there's only so much freezer space too. And "no" I can't afford to have a spare freezer...even if I could, I couldn't afford to run it. Please understand that we know how to eat/what to eat...but the economy is that bad for some of us. Also, I really don't eat that bad, but I wish I could have more fresh produce on a regular basis. Thank you for listening. - 8/21/2012 7:35:45 AM
  • KAYELLEBEE
    If you're living on a tight budget with a family, consider basing your meals on generic brand, filling frozen veggies: think green peas, carrots, etc. I'm lucky to have a WinCo in town where I can get a pound of frozen veggies for $0.88! It's really helped cut down my grocery bill. To pack in more protein, you can always add in beans, eggs, or canned fish for a reasonable price. And rice is a super healthy way to round out your starches and fiber. It's tough, but the extra time you put in searching for coupons and bargains will pay off. In the long run, I've found that I save money buying the most unprocessed foods! (dried beans, dozen eggs, frozen veggies, rice, quinoa, etc.)

    If you live in a small town with limited fresh options, again, frozen fruits/veggies are packaged at the peak of freshness and nutritional value - it's much better than buying a can of most likely-BPA lined canned fruits/veggies. Plus you avoid the added salt and sugar in those foods. Here's an article that talks about it:

    http://www.fitd
    ay.com/fitnes
    s-articles/nu
    trition/vitam
    ins-minerals/
    vitamins-in-v
    eggies-fresh-
    vs-canned-vs-frozen.html#b

    Basically, the heirarchy for produce is fresh, then frozen, then canned (in order of frequency of eating). I eat frozen vegetables fairly often, though (college student with a low-paying internship, paying two rents right now because of an out-of-state internship, living in California - it makes healthy living a challenge, but I feel good about making good choices!)

    I hope you can find reasonably priced frozen veggies at your grocery stores - I've found that generic brands are significantly cheaper than the name brand frozen veggies - again, at $0.88/lb, it's definitely a bargain!

    Hope this advice is helpful :) - 8/17/2012 9:17:46 AM

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