Recently, I was asked for tips on how to eat healthy on a budget. As a mom of four, three who are teenage boys, and living on a strict budget, here are some of my tips. You may recognize some of these from magazine article and some may be new. Either way, you can eat healthy on a budget.
1)At the Grocery Store, shop on a full stomach
When you go grocery shopping, make sure you are full. If you are hungry when you enter the store, you are more likely to grab food that is quick and not so good for you like chips and cookies. Always eat a snack or meal before heading to the store.
2)Plan a menu for the week
Knowing what you will eat for each meal and snack during the week will accomplish two things, you will stick to your diet better and you will save money because you didn’t buy things you don’t need. After you create your menu, go through your fridge and cupboards and decide what things you need. Then stick to your grocery list.
Head to the frozen food section. I am not talking about the ice cream and frozen lasagna, but the frozen fruits and veggies. These are more healthy than fresh because more of the vitamins are maintained. As fruits and veggies sit out, they loose some of their healthy vitamins. Frozen are better than canned because there isn’t as much salt or sugar in them. Read labels carefully. Look for fruits without added sugar and veggies without added salt.
4)Buy meat in bulk
I love the bulk meat section. I usually do my shopping on a weekend, so I grab a large package of boneless chicken breasts. When I get home, I put them in the oven at about 325 degrees for about an hour. They come out juicy and tender. I then cut up the meat into bite size chunks and freeze it. Then I have meat for salads, Chinese stir fry or even taco salad. This is a much better value than the precooked and diced chicken with all the additives.
5)Avoid simple starches
Keep away from the bread, pasta and chips isle. These are simple carbs and you don’t really need them to eat healthy. If you must buy bread or pasta, this is where I recommend you splurge. Get the bread with no high fructose corn syrup and the pasta with added protein. Both of these are healthier alternatives to the high starch versions.
6)Make your own
I make my own taco seasoning and salad dressing. When I started reading the labels on these items at the store, I was shocked to see high fructose corn syrup in almost everything! If you are trying to eat healthy, you just don’t need the extra sugar and calories! If I want to make my own seasoning, sauce or dressing, Google is a great resource. You can find the recipe for just about anything on the internet.
When you are snacking at home measure out a portion. Whether you are snacking on a healthy bowl of plain popcorn or those salt and vinegar chips put them in a small bowl. By measuring out a portion, you restrict your calorie intake and make that food last longer. This saves you money.
When the server brings your plate, immediately ask for a “to go” box. Put half of your entre and veggies in the box. This does two things, again it limits your calories and you get two meals for the price of one. Just remember to put it in the refrigerator as soon as you get home.
9)Take your lunch
Most places you may go for lunch will cost you between $5 and $10 dollars for lunch. That can add up pretty quickly! Plan your menu for the week to include a lunch of meat and veggies or a salad. My favorite lunch is to take a bowl and fill it 3/4ths of the way with mixed Chinese veggies. I throw some of my precooked chicken on the top and add some garlic, onion, sesame, and low sodium soy sauce. I cook it in the microwave at work and my coworkers start coming out to see the delicious meal I’m eating.
10)Finally, Avoid fast food
Any of these places are not healthy! Frequently, the “healthy” salad has more fat and calories than the burger. These places are expensive for what you get and saturated with salt and fat. I recently read that McDonalds adds twice as much salt to their foods in the US than they do overseas. Keep a bag of almonds with you for a quick snack to help you make it home to that healthy meal.
Do you have a tip for eating healthy on a budget? I would love for you to leave a comment either here or on my Facebook page.