We've all heard that packing lunches & snacks and eating dinner at home help you save money and eat healthier. But if you're making multiple trips to the grocery store and buying pricey packaged or pre-made goods, your budget is probably suffering, not recovering. Eating healthy on a budget is possible. It just takes proper planning.
To make it easier, here are some low-cost grocery store items and healthy-on-a-budget recipes, all great to include in your weekly meal plan. Again the key is to plan ahead. Look online for grocery store sales, clip coupons and plan multiple meals around one ingredient. For more tips and recipes, check out the USDA webpage on healthy eating on a budget.
An excellent pantry stable, full of fiber and protein, beans are a great alternative to meat. Buy dried beans in bulk and make a batch each week for quick lunches or dinners. My favorite bean recipes are stir-fries with brown rice and any fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand. Garnish with fresh herbs from a farmer's market or spices you have in your pantry.
Suggested Recipe: Fitness Magazine Simple Black Bean Soup
A great source of protein, eggs often are locked in the breakfast category and overlooked for lunch and dinner. At two to four dollars per dozen, they are extremely cost-effective for any meal, even quick dinners. Make an omelet with fresh tomatoes and spinach or make a "clean out the fridge" quiche ahead of time with any ingredients you have on hand.
Suggested Recipe: Yummly Crustless Spinach Quiche
Cans of tuna are easy to keep on hand as a convenient source of protein in salads or sandwiches. A can costs about a dollar, so tuna is a budget-conscious nutrient-dense food. I like to mix it with lemon juice and olive oil and toss it on a bed of greens or a sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Suggested Recipe: Tuna Salad with Avocado
This hearty starch is full of antioxidants and flavor and is wonderful as the main part of your next meal. I like to top cooked sweet potatoes with an egg and spinach scramble, or a serving of peanut butter, for added protein and healthy fats. Sweet potatoes also make a great base for those leftover cooked beans.
Suggested Recipe: Sweet Potato with Spinach and Egg Scramble
This whole grain is a terrific option for breakfast, especially when purchased in bulk. Grind oats to make flour, soak them in milk or yogurt overnight to make "overnight oats," or add them to muffin batter for a hearty crunch and a dose of whole grains.
Suggested Recipe: Overnight Oats
Low-sodium diced tomatoes are an excellent base for many meals. Use in soups, chilis or stews with whatever vegetables or protein sources you have on hand. Rather than buying processed tomato sauces, dress whole wheat pasta with diced tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Suggested Recipe: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
For snacking purposes, skip the bags of baby carrots ($1.50). Buy whole carrots ($0.66) and cut them yourself. Carrots also make a cheap, healthy side dish.
Suggested Recipe: Carrot Fries
Peanut butter is such a versatile food, and it comes in at around 15 cents per serving. In place of more expensive meat sandwiches, PB&Js are a cheaper alternative. Peanut butter is also a great addition to sauces, smoothies and pancake batter.
Suggested Recipe: Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookie