A Complete Guide to Healthy Eating on a Budget

When you’re on a tight budget, eating healthy meals on a regular basis can be a difficult task. We often get stuck in a rut, eating the same meals over and over. It can also be tempting to snap up grocery deals when out shopping, even if they’re not the healthiest options. With a little creativity and organization, however, you can have a healthy eating plan and save money. Following is a guide to help you lower your food costs without sacrificing your health.

Shopping Strategies

The best way to cut down on food waste and boost your health is to plan your weekly meals. A shopping list is crucial if you want to stay on track and only purchase the foods you know are good for you. It will help you avoid impulse shopping and keep you focused on the healthy stuff. Also remember to eat a healthy meal before you visit the grocery store – this way you won’t be tempted by all the unhealthy snacks on offer.

If you spot any special deals at the store, see if you can fit them into your healthy meal plan. Try to substitute one item on your list for the discounted item. Cheap cuts of meat are great for casseroles, and reduced tins of tomatoes or beans can help bulk out soups and stews. Don’t forget that many natural food stores run specials too. Get to know when your local store makes price reductions on old stock- evenings are usually a good time for bargains.

When scanning the shelves in the store, look high and low. Smaller manufacturers can’t compete with the big brands when it comes to in-store positioning. Look on the bottom shelves and you’ll usually find the cheapest brands, and the nutritional values of these are often similar to the more expensive alternatives.

Understanding Low-Cost, Healthy Food Options

It’s pointless filling your fridge with tons of fruits and vegetables if you’re going to throw half of them away. Instead, focus on purchasing non-perishable items. Choose root vegetables like carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes. These can be kept for weeks without refrigeration. When it comes to long-lasting fresh fruit, apples and bananas are a good choice.

Remember to support your local farmers markets when you can. With plenty of fresh and affordable produce, markets are perfect for healthy eating on a budget. Check your local grocery stores too – they often have specials on fresh, organic produce.

A popular misconception is that all frozen foods are less nutritious than fresh foods. This is not always the case. Frozen foods maintain much of their nutritional value. With a longer shelf life, they are often cheaper too. As part of a low-cost healthy eating plan, frozen foods are the perfect choice if the fresh version is not available or too expensive.

Another cheaper, healthier option is to cut down on your meat consumption. Instead of red meat that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, try eating more protein-rich beans. Add them to soups, stews, and rice dishes. Beans and lentils are cheap, free of cholesterol, and rich in fiber. They can also be stored for a long time – perfect for healthy eating on a budget.

Meal Preparation Strategies

Many people forget about the importance of portion control. Every time you prepare a meal, try to reduce the portion size a little. This will not only reduce your calorie intake, it will also save you money. To help you stick to serving smaller portions, buy some slightly smaller plates.

To save money and time, batch cooking should play a consistent part in your healthy eating plan. The more meals you cook from scratch, the more money you will save. For example, when you make a casserole, make twice the amount and freeze half.

Look around any food store and you’ll see many pre-prepared food items. Do you really need to spend more money on pre-sliced carrots, pre-washed salad greens, and pre-grated cheese? Is the convenience really worth it? Purchase whole fruits and vegetables when you can and prepare them at home.

Long-Term Strategies

Buying food in bulk is a smart long-term strategy, as long as the food can be stored. Natural food stores are great places for buying nutrient-rich foods in bulk. Foods such as beans, dried fruits, nuts, and healthy snacks are ideal for bulk buying. Don’t be afraid of cooking dried beans from scratch – it’s easier than most people realize.

When possible, buy locally grown fruits and vegetables that are in season. You’ll bypass the added distribution costs and enjoy tastier and more nutritious food. According to one study in Japan, spinach harvested in season contained at least twice the amount of vitamin C.

Fast food outlets and many restaurants still don’t promote healthy food options enough, creating menus high in saturated fat, salt, and calories. Try to limit the amount of times you dine out. The money you save can go toward homemade meals where you control the ingredients.

If you haven’t tried it yet, consider growing your own food to save money and boost your health. More and more people are harnessing the nourishing power of homegrown vegetables and herbs. Leafy greens like kale and mustard greens are relatively easy to grow, and you only need pots and a windowsill to grow fresh herbs like rosemary, mint, and basil.

The Bottom Line

Follow some of these healthy eating suggestions and like many others on a tight budget, you can still eat healthy meals without sacrificing quality. With a little creativity and organization, you’ll soon be reaping the rewards. If you think of the benefits – better health and more money – isn’t it worth the effort?

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