Eating healthy on a budget can be a real challenge. However, with a little planning and some smart shopping, it is possible to fill the plate without breaking the bank.
In this blog series, we will take a look at some simple tips for preparing healthy meals affordably.
1. Keep Healthy Staples On Hand
Normally, it is a good idea to shop with a particular plan of meals in mind, but there are a few basics it is a good idea to have on hand at all times. Having these staples gives you the makings of a healthy meal ready to go any time:
Grains: Foods like rice, pasta, quinoa, and barley are affordable and versatile, working in many different dishes. Keep in mind, though, they can be high in calories, so be careful with portion size. Also, less processed grains are generally a better choice than more highly processed versions. For example, wild rice is usually a better choice than pasta, which is typically more processed.
Beans: Beans are a very affordable source of protein, and canned beans are easy to prepare very quickly. Rinsing canned beans before cooking them can help reduce the amount of sodium that ends up in the final meal.
Oil: If you have a little oil and some vegetables, you have all you need for a healthy and delicious meal. Oil can also be used as the basis for homemade salad dressings. Making your own dressing, instead of buying it premade from the store, can be a fun, quick, and tasty way to trim your food budget.
Garlic: Garlic is relatively inexpensive; it keeps for a long time; and it can be added to all sorts of recipes. Often just the smell of garlic sautéing in oil as you begin your recipe is enough to make people ask, “What are you cooking? It smells delicious!”
Seasonings and Spices: While a fully stocked spice collection can be pricy, keeping just a few of your favorites on hand is a great way to add flavor and variety to your diet.
Canned or Jarred Tomatoes: Canned or jarred tomatoes are less expensive than the fresh variety, and they will keep for much longer, so it makes sense to keep them on hand as a staple. In recipes that involve cooking your tomatoes, canned or jarred tomatoes substitute well for their more expensive cousins.
Canned Fish: Canned tuna, sardines, or salmon are a great way to quickly include some low-cost protein in a variety of meals.
Next time we will take a look at more tips. In the meantime, if you have any tips or tricks you use to help eat healthy and affordably, please leave them in the comments below. Until next week: Happy cooking!
Andrea Berez, MS, RD, CSP