Eating Healthy for Less
with Elaine Hastings, RD
These days every penny counts. Unfortunately that leaves many people thinking that inexpensive fast foods are a good choice. After all, where else can you get a meal for a dollar? The answer is right in your own kitchen. Protect your health and you wallet by making meals from inexpensive, healthy ingredients. Just follow these three easy tips to give yourself more nutrition for less money.
#1 Plan Ahead – Establishing and sticking to a budget is essential. Grocery stores can be overwhelming. There are so many tempting options that can blow your budget. That’s why it is best to plan out a shopping list of the essentials that you need. You can also plan your purchases ahead of time by reviewing your grocery store’s flyer in advance (many are available online). This allows you to stock up on items when they are on sale.
Be especially careful about planning for snack purchases. Although chips and cookies may seem like inexpensive choices, their costs add up quickly and they offer very few nutrients.
#2 Look for Healthy Bargains – Using coupons, store savings cards, and shopping according to the weekly sales can offer significant savings. There are also nutritional bargains to be found throughout the supermarket:
o Canned or dried beans – They make economical replacement for meat, and serve as an excellent source of protein and iron.
o Seasonal fruits and vegetables – Buy them in season for extra savings. Many fruits and berries can also be frozen and used throughout the year
o Canned or frozen vegetables or fruit – They are just as nutritious as fresh options, but are often an economical choice year round. Look for canned fruits packed in juice vs. syrup, and choose canned vegetables that are unsalted, or rinse them before serving to reduce their sodium content.
o Non-fat dry milk powder – It is less expensive than fresh milk, yet offers the same vitamins and minerals. Experiment by mixing liquid milk with reconstituted powder milk to make your money go further.
o Whole grains – Purchase whole grains like brown rice, oats, grits or cream of wheat. They are a better deal than buying pre-packaged instant products (i.e. oatmeal in packets), provide more fiber, and they often take just a few minutes to cook.
o Meats – Opt for lean cuts of meat and buy in bulk when they are on sale to freeze for future meals. Use meat sparingly in meals by creating casseroles and stews.
o Fish – Choose canned tuna and salmon packed in water, and rinse to remove any excess salt.
o Eggs – An excellent source of protein, eggs make an inexpensive, quick meal. They can also be hard boiled for a nutrient-rich snack. Limit egg yolks to 3 per week, by making omelets and other egg dishes with egg whites or egg substitutes.
o Dairy – Look for store brand dairy products which tend to be less expensive. Buy plain, non-fat yogurt in large containers, and add your own fruit and toppings to save money and calories.
o Snacks – Try making your own popcorn from popping corn and an air popper. Or, stock up on unsalted nuts when they are on sale. They can be used in trail mixes or on their own for a filling snack. Avoid pre-packaged snacks. Instead pack your own whole grain crackers, animal crackers, or dried fruit in reusable containers. This not only saves money, but it helps the environment as well.
#3 Get Creative – Using your creativity will go a long way to increase the health in your meals, while lowering the cost. Think outside the box when it comes to meal times.
o Serve breakfast anytime. Breakfast foods tend to be less expensive, so why not serve eggs and whole grain toast for dinner? Or try a frozen fruit smoothie with berries and non-fat plain yogurt.
o Make a quick, filling casserole by mixing cooked brown rice with canned tomatoes, beans, and a sprinkle of cheese.
o Use meat as a side dish instead of the main entrée. Fill your plate with inexpensive rice, whole grain pasta, or sweet potatoes.
With a little effort you really can enjoy healthy meals on a budget. Not only will you save money on your grocery bill, you could also save money on your healthcare bills.