The Budget Diet: How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
By Heather Logue
It’s tough when the healthy groceries you crave seem to come with an unreasonably high price tag; that juicy, organic produce and free-range or grass-fed meat seem a bit out of reach, and it can feel as though you’re trapped in a world of packaged noodles and microwave dinners. But not to fear! We come bearing helpful tips and advice for eating healthy on a budget with the help of Amber Ketchum, registered dietitian at Shane Diet, Weight-Loss & Fitness Resorts in San Antonio, Texas.
Set aside time to plan meals
Your journey begins with how you shop for food—yes, we’re talking technique. Meal planning is essential not only when trying to eat healthy, but when working on a budget as well, Ketchum tells us.
Ketchum recommends setting aside a certain time each week to plan out all meals and snacks for the following week. She also advises looking around the kitchen and pantry to brainstorm meal ideas based on what’s already there—and try a new recipe each week to keep things interesting!
Also try to shop locally as much as possible. This means visiting farmers’ markets in your area and getting to know local, independent food providers. You often get discounts if you buy in bulk, or if you hit the market around closing time when they’re about to pack up for the day.
There are also certain healthy foods that you can buy in bulk (making life cheaper for you)—generally these are grains, pastas, dried fruit, nuts, and other goods.
Know what’s worth buying organic
Be picky about your organic produce. Though we all dream of purchasing nothing but organic, that can be pricey in reality. The Environmental Working Group has identified the fruits and veggies with the highest levels of pesticides (including apples, cherries, celery, and lettuce), so you can focus on buying those from the organic bin.
And remember, it sounds simple, but cook things yourself. Not only is this exponentially cheaper than eating out—it’s also an opportunity to be adventurous, try new recipes and get a little messy. You can also take the DIY approach and grow some of your own produce. There are tons of resources out there to help you with everything from fire escape herb gardens to planting in raised beds and community plots. Also, bring back grandma’s finely honed art of canning – an excellent way to preserve some seasonal goods for later!
Here are some budget-friendly and healthy foods to stock up on during your next trip to the grocery store:
- Seasonal foods are just better—they’re tasty and nutritious because they’re in, well, season, which means they’re going to be cheaper than other foods as well.
- Meat can be a bit pricey, so check out the grains and legumes! There are plenty of fun and hearty recipes (you can even have beans for breakfast) that will keep you full and energized.
- Frozen fruits and veggies are budget-friendly, nutrient-packed and last for a long time. It’s so easy, just warm them up and add them to your favorite breakfast of oatmeal or cottage cheese, voila! Ketchum also suggests investing in canned meat like tuna fish—cheap, filling, and packed with heart-healthy fats.