Guest post from Steph of StephShares.com
Do you struggle to find ways that you eat healthy on a budget? Do you want to eat healthily but can’t afford it? Here are several ideas to help you eat healthy on a budget.
Eating healthy on a budget can be a challenge, even at the best of times. Food can be expensive, finding the time to meal plan and prep food can cause unneeded stress.
There’s so much information out there on what to do and how to do it, there are schools of thought on how to eat healthy that completely contradict each other!
I have spent years trying to eat healthier, my diet history spans decades. Yet, there are some tried and true habits I have picked up that I still do on a regular basis.
I will confess that I VERY often preach the importance of meal planning and prep, as I do here, yet the reality is some weeks and months it just doesn’t happen. Not in the true sense of the idea, anyway.
With that being said, there are some things I do weekly to help my week run smooth.(THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. YOU CAN READ OUR DISCLOSURE POLICY HERE.)
- I CHOP VEGGIES FOR SNACKS
I slice 2-3 bell peppers and put them in single-serve baggies. I cut cucumbers and baggy them as well. I rinse my cherry tomatoes and put them in baggies too. These are grab and go snacks for me and my kids. My husband snags these to make the kids lunches during the week. It’s a simple, but an incredibly helpful timesaving trick.
- I COOK UP A BATCH OF RICE FOR THE WEEK
- I COOK UP A LARGE BATCH OF STEEL CUT OATS
- I COOK SEVERAL SWEET POTATOES FOR MY WEEK
Whether you create a small herb garden in a window pot or have a backyard to accommodate some size of garden, this can be therapeutic and save some money.
- STICK TO YOUR SHOPPING LIST
Don’t veer off your list and don’t go shopping hungry.
- LEARN PRICES
Knowing what your staple, go to weekly grocery items cost can be an amazing budget helper.
- CHECK THE STORE ADS EACH WEEK
When you see your items hit a good sale, stock up! This is great for canned items such as broth, tomatoes, etc
- PICK ONE DINNER THAT YOU CAN DOUBLE UP AND EITHER COOK AND FREEZE IT OR PREP AND FREEZE IT FOR LATER.
- DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES
For years we only had water and milk in our house. Now that we have a little breathing room in our food budget, I add in flavored water.
Spending the upfront cost on a soda stream WILL save money in the long term ONLY if you use it. I’ve had to get real about what I will spend time doing and what I won’t. I won’t make my own sparkling water. Yes, I know it’s not hard, not time-consuming, but it’s just too many steps for me when I’m already stretched for time.
I’ve come to terms with it, sold my soda stream and now add sparkling water into my food budget.
- BE REAL
Just like I mentioned above, be real with what you can and will do and what you won’t do.
Do you know how much money I’ve wasted with good intentions?! A TON! I used to plan these over the top healthy meals and during the week, they rarely happened. We were busier than I thought and I was tired and just didn’t care.
Food went to waste.
Now, I meal plan just 4 days or so ahead, I double up a SIMPLE recipe if possible, and I make sure the meals I am cooking are EASY.
I LOVE LOVE Skinnytaste – she has healthy recipes and many are quick and my kids have only disliked one in all the ones I’ve made so far. Which, if you have kids, complaining about one is almost a miracle.
Inexpensive Healthy Foods
To keep costs down, there are also several foods I regularly turn to in order to keep my food budget as low as possible.
Dry beans are a great budget buy to begin with and if you can pick them up in the bulk section of your local grocery store, you can save even more money!
Beans are a nutrient dense food and also deliver a great source of protein. Beans are such a flexible food source and can be used in many different ways.
Stand alone as a side dish
- REFRY COOKED BEANS
Or to save on fat – I use an immersion blender to blend pinto beans into ‘refried’ beans.
Use refried beans in burritos, tacos, taco salad, quesadillas, under over medium eggs, etc.
Use them in a green salad
Make a dip such as black bean dip or hummus
As a side salad – perfect for summer beans, chopped veggies, and a tangy vinaigrette! Yumm!
Sweets – black beans can be used in some brownie recipes to help make a delicious treat healthier.
Skinnytaste has a GREAT recipe on her website.
- FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
There are tips and tricks to making sure you aren’t spending a premium buying fruits and vegetables.
The number one key is to buy what is in season! You will pay WAY more for strawberries in winter and they won’t taste as good.
Also, farmer’s markets are a great place to visit to pick up produce for a bit less. To stretch your dollar even further, go right as they are getting ready to close. Many vendors will bag up a lot of their produce, and offer bag sales at the end. These can be a gold mine!
During the heart of summer, I’ll buy several bags of tomatoes and make a giant pot of fresh spaghetti sauce and freeze it in dinner size portions.
If you can, this is a fantastic time to pick up produce.
Some of the more inexpensive fruits and vegetables are bananas, broccoli, carrots, and kale.
Buying frozen fruits and vegetables are also a great option to save money as they are frozen soon after being picked and hold on to their flavor much better than canned!
- LARGE CUTS OF MEAT
Chuck roasts are one of my favorite things to buy and cook! As you might be able to tell at this point, I LOVE foods that can provide me options. I’ve had to stretch my food budget for years and variety is important to me.
Nowadays, I eat a lot of protein on a daily basis, so I need cost-effective protein options. I can sear off a chuck roast, toss it in the crockpot with a bit of beef broth and let it cook all day long.
With a chuck roast or even a pork shoulder – I eat it one night just out of the crockpot with a salad and some beans or potatoes. After that, I have unlimited options:
Throw it over some greens for a hearty salad
It can be a filling for burritos, tacos, taco salad, and quesadillas.
Toss it with barbecue sauce and make sandwiches for my kids or toss it on to some rolled out pizza dough for quick pizzas or over flat taco shells for tostadas.
Turn it into a shepherd’s pie
Fajitas – cook up some bell peppers and onions
Make a French dip. No, it’s not the EXACT same thing, but leftover meat from a roast will make an AMAZING sandwich the next day!
- POTATOES AND RICE
Many will argue that rice and potatoes are not healthy and if you are following a strict low carb diet, these might not fit in with what you choose to eat. Here’s the thing though, all carbs aren’t evil.
Potatoes and rice are both extremely economical and can easily fit into a healthy diet.
Brown rice might be a healthier alternative but the price point isn’t that big of a difference.
I LOVE sweet potatoes but nobody else is a big fan in my house, so I have red potatoes or russet for them.
At the end of the day, eating healthy doesn’t always have to mean spending more money, but it might mean planning ahead.
In the long run, you can save money, eat healthier, and maybe even have more time on your hands if you can add in a block of time for meal planning and prep!