Ever head to the grocery store, excited to fill your kitchen and pantry with healthy items, only to leave feeling deflated and shocked after seeing the hefty price tag that accompanied your good-for-you groceries? You’re not alone. In fact, many people think that trying to eat a healthy diet on a shoestring budget is a farfetched dream. The good news is that it’s possible to purchase wholesome food and drastically slash your bills. It just takes a little advanced planning and knowing where to save. With that in mind, here are six ways to eat healthy on a shoestring budget:
Swap fresh veggies for frozen ones.
As huge veggie advocates, we often hear our clients say that, although they realize vegetables are healthy, they don’t want to waste money because the veggies often end up spoiling before they get to eat them. The solution: Opt for frozen veggies.
Not only are frozen vegetables just as nutritious as fresh ones, they’re typically a third of the price. Plus, you'll have no excuse not to cover half of your plate with the lower-calorie fare as it won’t have gone bad in your refrigerator. Keep frozen veggies on hand so you can mix them right into whatever you’re making for the main meal. And if you’re on a budget and trying to prevent feeling hungry, the fiber keeps you feeling full because it takes longer to digest than simple carbohydrates, so you wind up eating less.
Practice Meatless Monday several meals of the week.
Protein foods, particularly meat, are among the most expensive grocery items, so simply swap out meat for pulses (protein-packed, affordable and earth-friendly foods you know as beans, chickpeas, lentils and dry peas). Try replacing the meat or poultry you would normally add to a favorite casserole, pasta, burrito or stew with kidney beans or chickpeas. If you’re not ready for a complete swap, you can start by mixing half meat and half beans. You can even swap out half of the meat for mushrooms, which have a meaty mouthfeel and texture, but are less pricey than meat. Plus, the mushrooms and beans will boost fiber and cut calories, too, which is a bonus if you’re looking to lose weight.
Make a schedule for your healthy meals for the week and create a grocery list—and stick to it! This sounds trite, and you’ve heard it before, but it makes a huge difference and really saves a lot of money. Don’t shop hungry or get tempted by items that aren’t on your list—it gets pricey and impulse buys are typically less-than-healthy calorie bombs.
Save dining out for special occasions.
Research has shown that people who eat out may get as much as double the amount of fat and calories as those who eat at home. Plus, eating out costs significantly more money. Try these easy, make-at-home meals:
Pizza: Use a whole-wheat pita pocket, whole-wheat English muffin, or whole grain you have on hand. Simply spread it with your favorite tomato sauce, layer on your favorite veggies and sprinkle with low-fat cheese. Place in the oven and voila!
Open-faced burrito: Top a whole-wheat tortilla with black beans, chopped tomato, lettuce and peppers (or any of your favorite veggies—frozen included, just let them thaw for about five minutes first to release the moisture) and top with low-fat cheese. Heat it up in the oven and enjoy!
Buy in bulk.
Even if you live alone or with a roommate, buying in bulk can be much cheaper. And you can always cook a whole recipe and freeze the leftovers for later. Buying healthy, wholesome and even weight-loss friendly foods like frozen vegetables, fruits and whole grains in bulk saves a lot of money and it keeps you stocked with lower-calorie foods so you’re surrounded by options that are good for you. You can also make your own portion-controlled treats rather than buying the small-sized items. For example, buy a larger container of nuts and divide it up into little bags rather than purchase the 100-calorie packs, which are more costly.
Choose eggs for a protein punch.
Eggs are relatively cheap, a good source of protein and versatile—they boost protein and nutrients in both salads and breakfasts (omelets, frittatas and egg muffins). You can get a large carton of eggs for around $3. Using just the whites equals three 20-gram servings of protein at about $1 per serving.