Healthy Eating on a Lean Budget
by Tracey Pollack
A diet full of processed foods and take-out comes at a cost to your health, your waistline and your wallet. You can’t afford to ignore your health, but many people go for grab-and-go meals or reach for sugary snacks because they think that healthy eating is more expensive and less convenient. But healthy eating doesn’t need to eat up your budget with these tips to satisfy your appetite for affordable, healthy meals.
- Shop for a Healthy Sale – Don’t discount the weekly discounts when doing your grocery shopping. By checking your market circulars and clipping coupons in weekly inserts, you’re able to plan healthy meals around what’s on sale each week. As long as you’re flexible, this can add up to substantial savings on flavorful, wholesome meals. Remember, it pays to spend a little extra to stock up on favorite foods and frequently-used ingredients whenever they go on sale. This makes it easy and economical to put healthy meals on the table by reaching into the freezer or pantry.
- Fit Less Expensive Cuts of Meat into Your Diet–Cut costs without cutting nutrients or flavor by choosing affordable cuts of meat, such as flank steak and chicken thighs. See, bone-in and skin-on cuts cost less than trimmed filets and boneless breasts, but they’re packed with protein and flavor. Yet with less expensive cuts, it’s best to use different cooking techniques to make them tender, such as slow cooking, braising and roasting. To keep both costs and calories down, try using meat as an accent instead of the main meal by adding chunks of roasted chicken into a stir-fry or a few ounces of braised beef into a veggie-packed pasta sauce.
- Lean on Protein Alternatives – Protein and healthy eating go hand in hand, but a diet of steak, poultry and seafood can take a big bite out of your budget. Luckily, you can enjoy the healthy benefits of a protein-packed diet by choosing more affordable protein sources, such as beans, eggs, nuts, tofu and whole grains. Beans are a low-fat, low-cost alternative that give you a nutritional bang for your buck. And while eggs aren’t quite a dime a dozen, each gives you six grams of protein without breaking the bank. Nuts and tofu also provide plenty of meatless protein, while whole grains like quinoa and brown rice can help bulk up your meals without bulking up your waistline.
- Go Fishing for Smarter Seafood – Yes, you can afford to eat seafood on a budget by reaching for frozen or canned varieties. Both have as much lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids as pricier fresh fillets, but at a much lower price. With bags of fish in the freezer and cans of seafood in the pantry, you’ll always be able to make a healthy, economical meal. Try popping open a can of tuna for a salad, flaking canned salmon into an omelet or defrosting frozen shrimp for a stir-fry. Choosing fresh and canned seafood makes it easier to catch healthy meals at a low price.
- Cook Once, Eat Twice – Look over your leftovers for healthy, affordable meals. By cooking up extra servings, you can make two or more meals at once and get the savings of buying in bulk. Get creative by roasting a big batch of veggies and freezing individual portions for dinners on other days. Or prepare a large pot of quinoa and divide the extra servings into a week’s worth of grain-based salads. When you start leaning on leftovers, you’re always prepared for an affordable, healthy meal.
With a little planning and creativity, there will always be room in your budget for healthy eating.