Eating Healthy on a Budget
Before you head to the grocery store, take 15-20 minutes to plan out meals. You can make your list of what and how much to buy based on what you’re cooking for the week – after all, wasted food is wasted money. Also think about, and even plan for, leftovers. When making your grocery list, be sure to include foods and drinks from the five food groups on your list. This will help you get the nutrients you need.
Know Your Food Groups
Make sure you’re getting a variety of food and drinks from each of the food groups for a well-rounded diet. Here are some tips on what to aim for:
- Fruits: Try to focus on eating whole fruits—fresh, frozen, canned or dried are all good options—rather than 100 percent fruit juices.
- Vegetables: Vary your veggies by choosing from each of the five subgroups—dark-green, red & orange, legumes (or beans & peas), starchy and others.
- Grains: There are two types of grains, whole grains and refined, enriched grains. Try to choose whole grains more often.
- Proteins: Eat a variety of lean proteins from both plant (nuts, beans and peas, seeds, soy products) and animal (seafood, meat, poultry and eggs) sources.
- Dairy: Move toward choosing low-fat (1%) or fat free (skim) dairy foods.
- Oils: Choose the right amount of oil for your daily calorie needs.
When meal planning, lay out every meal you’ll be having for the week. A worksheet calendar can be quite helpful to map everything out.
Create a list of recipes that are low-cost and healthy. What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl has a tool that helps with healthy meal planning, cooking and shopping. You can even search recipes by ingredients. You should also take a look at what you’ve got already at home as this may help save money by using what you already have.
Another tip is to try turning your favorite meals into cheaper versions. For example, remove meat from a dish or use lower-cost proteins like eggs, beans and lentils to save you money and still create a delicious meal! You can also consider using canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, which can be a cheaper option.
Now is also a great time to start couponing if you don’t already. You can look for coupons in your local newspaper, store coupon walls/bulletin boards, store flyers, coupon websites or coupon apps. But keep in mind, don’t buy items just because there is a coupon—only buy what you need!
Comparison shopping is helpful if you’re looking to save money on groceries. Different retailers often offer different prices on items. Saving money may be as simple as driving a block or two farther down the street. Keep in mind using coupons, sales and specials in your favor. Many stores also have loyalty cards, which can give you access to more savings. You may even be able to double up on savings by using a manufacturer’s coupon during a store sale. Once you’re at the store, make sure to compare unit prices listed on shelves to make sure you’re getting the best price. It is also a good idea to buy in bulk if you can. Items like flour, cereal, spices and pasta can be stored for longer periods of time and can save you money in the long run if bought in larger amounts.
Once you’ve planned all your meals and bought all your ingredients, it’s time to prepare your meals! Double up your recipes and freeze the leftovers for meals later in the week. You can also try using leftovers in a completely new meal! For instance, if you have chicken for your protein one night, you can use the leftovers to make a quick and delicious soup.
By following these three steps, you can prepare healthy and budget-friendly meals that your family will love!