Written by Stacy Mitchell, R.D., L.D.
Healthy and inexpensive? Many people don’t think these words belong in the same sentence. Simple, smart planning with your food can make it happen every week. Prioritize the foods in your diet, and go for nutrient-dense foods first, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Cut the junk out of the grocery cart, as you get the biggest bang for your buck with healthier foods.
Eating healthy won’t cost a fortune if you follow these ten simple tips:
1. Shop the weekly ad.
Shopping the sale advertisement from your local grocery store is the first step to stretching the food dollar the healthy way. Take some time to plan weekly meals using healthier ad items.
2. Embrace seasonal fresh produce.
Fresh fruits and vegetables in season are not only a great buy in the weekly ad but they are also at their peak flavor. Pick a new fruit or vegetable each week to add some variety.
3. Plan a meatless Monday.
The largest food dollar in the meal comes from the protein source. Substituting a lower-cost protein can save $10 to $20 per week. Try beans, eggs, nut butters or even cheese in your Monday meal.
4. Stretch your meat with beans.
Another way to save some money in the protein department is to substitute a can of beans, or two cups of dried beans, for every half pound of ground meat. For example, add one can of mashed black beans to a half pound of ground beef. Add taco seasoning and sauce to the dish, and your family will never know your little secret!
5. Go for store brands.
Private labels can save you an average of 15-25 percent over the national name brand. Find some especially great savings in the grain group with private labels—go for 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain for best nutrition.
6. Find fruits and veggies at the salad bar.
The goal is always adding more fruits and vegetables to daily meals, but it can be difficult to keep produce fresh if you are buying for just one or two people. To avoid wasting food, take a look at the salad bar and buy per pound. Pick up your favorite veggies, and purchase only what you will actually eat. Some stores even have some pre-packaged veggies in snack-size bags for less than one dollar! These are perfect for a lunch bag or snack.
7. Don’t forget frozen veggies.
Frozen vegetables are a staple to any meal. From broccoli to spinach, frozen veggies are loaded with antioxidants and essential nutrients, and they can be added to your favorite pasta dish or soup in a snap. Look for private labels for only a few dollars per large bag.
8. Get back to basics.
Skip the packaged meal kits, and make your meal from scratch! Don’t worry—it can still be simple to put a meal together. Instead of buying a box of Hamburger Helper, purchase whole grain noodles, sauce and a can of fire-roasted, low-sodium diced tomatoes. You’ll save up to a dollar per serving and up to 500 milligrams of sodium. Packaged items are loaded with sodium—watch out!
9. Reduce fat in ground beef.
Eighty-five percent lean ground beef can still be a part of the grocery list, but make sure you drain excess fat from the beef crumbles for a healthier option. One study by the American Dietetic Association found that simply rinsing cooked beef crumbles with hot water and patting excess fat with a paper towel can reduce the fat content of cooked ground beef by as much as 50 percent! (If you have to follow a low-fat diet, 90 percent lean beef is still recommended.)
10. Eat more meals from home.
Something as simple as eating at home can really add up to big savings. Plus, you can cook once and serve twice by using leftover ingredients for lunch the next day.
Don’t let your budget be a barrier to eating healthy. These ten simple steps are just a few ways that you can eat healthy on a budget.
View the full spring 2011 issue of the ACSM Fit Society® Page supported by Liberty Mutual online.