Healthy Eating on a Budget

With rising food prices, preparing tasty, healthy meals on a regular basis can seem daunting. But eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more. You can find amazing items at the grocery store that offer quality nutrition for a fraction of the cost. With a little organization and creativity you can eat smart; you just need know what to look for.
To start, here’s a quick review of basic healthy eating tips:
• Limit your intake of junk food and alcohol
• Drink lots of water (at least 8 cups a day)
• Cut back on saturated fat, sugar and salt
• Eat more fish and lots of fruits and vegetables
• Make “variety” the watchword of your eating

Next, block out time to plan, purchase and prepare your meals. Include healthy snack ideas, as well as main menu items. These strategies will help you stay within your food budget and avoid being sucked in by grocery merchandising tricks. It can also prevent the mealtime rut, eating the same foods over and over. Here are some tips to help you as you navigate the grocery store aisles.

Before going to the grocery store, check to see what foods you already have. Once you know which foods you have, ask these questions:
• What meals and recipes can I make using the foods I have?
• Can I mix foods together to make a tasty and nutritious meal?
• Which foods does my family need for good health?
Then plan what recipes you will make using your list of foods. Here are some ideas to consider as you are building your menu plan.
• Find quick and easy recipes online.
• Build the main part of your meal around rice, noodles, or other grains. Use small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
• Use planned leftovers to save both time and money. For example, prepare a beef pot roast, serve half of it, and freeze the other half to use later.
• Check for sales and coupons in the local paper or online and consider discount stores.
As you decide your meals, write down the ingredients you will need to make a grocery list. As you hit the grocery store, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
• Buy groceries when you are not hungry and when you are not too rushed.
• Stick to the grocery list and stay out of the aisles that don’t contain items on your list.
• Buy store brands if cheaper. Locate the “unit price” on the shelf directly below the product. Use it to compare different brands and different sizes of the same brand to determine which one is the best deal.
• Choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are season. Frozen or canned can be a good option too.
o In the United States, the least expensive fresh vegetables are potatoes, lettuce, eggplant, greens, summer squash, carrots, and tomatillos. The least expensive fresh fruits were watermelon, bananas, apples, pears, pineapple, and peaches. According to a USDA study, opting for frozen or canned vegetables and fruits may also lower costs while still getting the nutrition. Lower sodium varieties are better for your health.
• Take advantage of specials on staples—broth, soups, pasta, rice, canned veggies, even bread and meat. Many of these items have a long shelf life or can be frozen for short periods of time.
• Try not to eat out as often, especially when it comes to fast food, since you’ll find yourself spending unnecessarily on items that are high in fat, salt, and calories, which short-change you in the nutrition department.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to eating healthy on a budget. Like anything else worthwhile in life, it takes a little planning, creativity, and work. But if you think of the rewards—better health and more money—you’ll find it’s worth the effort. Nutrition doesn’t have to be expensive.

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