Eating healthy is super easy when you have a personal shopper and an in-home chef.
When you have to make all the decisions yourself and fork over the cash, it can be a bit more of a chore. If money is tight, well-balanced meals sometimes feel a little out of reach.
Eating right doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and doing it on a budget might be easier than you think. A little planning and creativity can yield delicious, healthy meals that don’t strain your wallet.
Here are a few strategies that can help you eat well on a budget:
Planning your meals seems like a no-brainer, but how often do you find yourself wondering what to make late in the afternoon? As the saying goes, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Planning your meals is essential for healthy eating, and it helps reduce food waste by working leftovers into your rotation. Knowing exactly what you are going to eat each meal takes last-minute bad decisions — like going out to eat — out of the equation. You can also plan your meals to take advantage of weekly sales for even more savings.
Eat less meat
Becoming a vegetarian — at least part-time — is a great way to save some cash. Meat is usually one of the most expensive parts of any dish, whether you like fish or a T-bone steak. Removing meat from your diet won’t leave you wanting for nutrients, if you do it right. Your meatless menu can include plenty of protein with the addition of beans, lentils and other plant sources. A reduction in red meat can benefit your heart health, and your waistline might notice a difference as well.
Buy produce in season
Eating fruits and vegetables is great for your health, but you have to be selective with your timing to eat your favorites. Strawberries are delicious, high in nutrients and low in calories. But, you may end up paying double if you buy them out of season. Buying produce in season is much cheaper and tastier as well. If fresh produce is out of reach for your pocketbook, canned and frozen options have the same nutritional value. Just watch out for added sugar or salt. It is also easier to avoid food waste with the long-lasting frozen and canned produce.
Buy in bulk
Buying foods in large quantities requires a lot of upfront cost, but it can save you a bundle in the long run. Many foods are a lot cheaper if you buy them in bulk. This goes hand-in-hand with your meal planning. As you get to know your needs and what you use consistently, you can buy more of your staples.
There are some caveats to this strategy: Although some things are cheaper in bulk, this isn’t always the case — so watch prices carefully and make sure you are really getting a good deal. It can also be difficult to use it all, so make sure you can really get through your supply. A giant case of canned carrots won’t do you much good if your kids would rather starve than eat them. Keep an eye on the ”sell by” date for what you are buying to be sure you can finish what you buy before it goes bad.
“Your nutrition does not have to suffer just because funds are low,” says Scott Morely, dietary manager at Cedar Crest Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “Focus on foods that give you a lot of bang for your buck, including whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables.”
Plan ahead and shop wisely to fill your pantry and refrigerator with wholesome foods. You can feed yourself and your family well-balanced, nutritious meals — even on a tight budget.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.