7 Constructive Tips For Eating Healthy Food on a Budget
Being on a budget doesn't have to translate to making poor food choices. We know ordering a pepperoni pizza for the whole family is fast and inexpensive, but it doesn't exactly fall on this side of healthy. Chinese take-out may be your partner's way of "making dinner," but those cheap pints of fried rice are a far cry from healthy eating.
Eating better doesn't require an unlimited budget. But you do have to understand what healthy food is and have a working knowledge of it going forward. Armed with the right info, your next trip to the grocery store will be a breeze. And once you start making healthy food you can enjoy at home on a budget, you'll be better prepared to make nutritious, cost-friendly choices when dining out.
Here's what you need to know:
1) Plan ahead. Don't succumb to ordering greasy takeout because you have nothing to cook at home. Choose your groceries in large part based on what's on sale--and then double up where possible. If it's not chicken breasts, it's chicken thighs. If it's not black beans, it's cannelini. You get the idea. Supermarkets are always "specialing" something, and if you can be creative with your meals, then you can be flexible with your shopping.
2) Cut out cold cereal products. Truth is, they're all expensive, and the unhealthy, super sugary ones are just as pricey as the organic variety. So, for now, while you're watching your purse strings, take a temporary break from boxed cereals. Instead, buy oats in bulk (for hot oatmeal) and farina (the generic Cream of Wheat hot cereal). Both are healthy choices for breakfast, and they'll each last a lot longer than the few bowls of cereal your kids'll get out of traditional boxes.
3) Have a well-stocked pantry. Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat couscous are inexpensive whole grains that can form the base of most of your meals. WebMD notes that you get about seven servings of pasta from one typical box of dried pasta, and at approximately $1.75 for that box, you're totally honoring your budget.
4) Go plain. If you are going to order take-out, save money (and calories) by going easy on the pizza toppings. Order a pie with cheese only, and dress it up at home. Pantry staples like olives or roasted red peppers will do wonders for your pizza. These items, while not dirt cheap, go a long way; you only need a little for a burst of flavor. And supplement those slices with a salad, which will even out the health factor. (A bag of red leaf lettuce costs about $1.99 on average.)
5) Love those leftovers. Nothing is tastier (or cheaper) than a big bowl of lentil soup--served with a couple of slices of buttered toast, it's a meal. And it's a meal again the next day. Wherever possible, make large batches. Soups, stews, and casseroles are obvious choices, but you can do it with rice or bean salads as well. Speaking of rice, don't even think about tossing that white rice (the afterthought of your last-minute Chinese take-out meal) in the trash. Add it to soup the next day for a more substantial meal or toss a hard-boiled egg and a drizzle of sesame oil on top for a quick and healthy lunch.
6) Use everything; waste nothing. Sounds simple, but how often do you really abide by this rule? When your bananas turn to mush, do you toss them, or do you make banana bread (a cheap and nutritious snack)? When a recipe calls for egg yolks, do you freeze the whites to use in a quick breakfast scramble another day?
7) Cook from scratch. The ingredients for homemade pancakes per serving are a whole lot cheaper--and healthier-- than buying pancake mix. Salad dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper far outshines any supermarket vinaigrette in both nutritional value and cost.
Pay attention to these seven ideas about healthy food on a budget and get inspired to start cooking and planning ahead with the make-ahead recipes featured in the slideshow above.
By Stacey Gawronski