Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to settle for inexpensive, processed junk food. Healthy, fresh produce, meat and dairy can be bought without causing your grocery bill to skyrocket, if you know some secrets. Here are five tips for healthy eating on a budget:
- Use frozen produce
Buying fresh produce is great when it’s affordable, but depending on the season certain staples can boast hefty price tags. Generally it’s more cost-effective to buy frozen fruits and veggies. You can buy bags in bulk and keep them in your freezer, and it’s great because frozen produce has around the same amount of nutrients as fresh. Some works-for-nearly everything frozen produce to have on hand are corn, peas, chopped spinach, berries and pineapple. You can incorporate them into meals or toss them into smoothies for an easy way to get a vitamin dose in the morning.
Alternatively, another way to save money is to buy in large quantities produce that’s in-season and inexpensive and then freeze it yourself, The Kitchn suggests. If there’s a great deal, buy extra!
Buy fruit that’s in season and freeze it yourself.
- Buy items in bulk
It may feel a bit imposing to add five jars of peanut butter or 10 pounds of rice to your shopping cart, but buying staple foods in bulk is often cheaper than constantly replenishing your stock. Strong Lifts notes that you should buy bulk especially when there are sales and promotions going on, which can garner you even more savings while filling out your pantry. One area where buying in bulk can especially pay off is in the meat department – the source cited the example of buying a side of beef, which secures you 100 pounds of meat at just $3.60 a pound. Keep it in a large freezer and use it to add a protein boost to stews, casseroles, stir-fries and other easy dishes.
- Choose beans
Beans are a fantastic source of fiber, protein, magnesium and iron, and you can often buy large bags or cans of them for a low price. As Greatist noted, black beans, pinto beans and garbanzo beans, for example, are priced at just $0.30 per half cup, and are delicious in soups, tossed onto salads or incorporated into burritos or rice bowls. Lentils are also a useful food to have on hand, as they have a high antioxidant content, taste delicious and cost just $0.12 per half cup.
- Look to the top and bottom shelves
This tip comes from dietician and author Mary Abbott Hess, who shared her expertise with Food Network. When in the grocery store, Hess recommends checking out the items on the top and bottom shelves, as the higher-priced, name brand items are typically at eye level to entice you to buy.
- Meal prep
Planning out and preparing your meals for the week ahead of time enables you to scour flyers and ads for bargains, Healthline recommends. This way, hitting the grocery store after work doesn’t result in you grabbing any items you see due to being rushed for time. In addition, planning your meals out gives you time to check your pantry and refrigerator to verify what items you actually need to buy to avoid purchasing wasteful duplicates or excess amounts, the site noted.
At the start of the week, perhaps on Sunday, clear a few hours to prepare lunches and dinners for the week ahead using the healthy ingredients you’ve bought. Package them in Fit & Fresh containers and store in the fridge to have easy access to nutritious meals.