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Eight Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget Plus Ten Healthy Low-Cost Meals

Natalie
Stein
February 7, 2023
Eight Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget Plus Ten Healthy Low-Cost Meals
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In this article:

  • Rising prices are making it harder to eat healthy on a budget, but there are ways to cope.
  • Some tips are to try store brands, take advantage of coupons and sales, and buy in bulk. 
  • Less processed and longer lasting foods can also be more cost-effective.
  • Lark can help you make healthier choices to lose weight and improve health.

Prices seem to be going up every day, but there are some tips and tricks that can help you stick to your health goals. Here are eight tips to eat healthy on a budget.

1. Try store brand versions

Store brand versions of foods are far less expensive than national brands, and they usually taste just as good. Sometimes, they are identical and just have a different label on them! Whole-grain cereal, reduced-fat dairy products, eggs, whole-grain bread, and frozen vegetables and fruit are examples of foods that you can buy in the store brand.

2. Long-lasting foods can be less expensive

Dried grains and legumes can be inexpensive and healthy. Dried beans, dried split peas, brown rice, store-brand rolled oats in a canister, and whole-wheat pasta are all shelf-stable, nutritious, and low in cost per serving. Canned tuna, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable oil are other low-cost choices.

3. Try non-meat meals and snacks

Foods other than meat or poultry often cost less per serving. For example, a sandwich with low-fat cheese or peanut butter tends to cost far less than a sandwich with turkey, ham, or chicken. The same is true with bean instead of beef burritos, a whole-grain breakfast burrito with eggs and cheese instead of bacon or sausage, and whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese instead of ground turkey.

4. Serve your own snacks

When you buy single-serve meals or snacks, you are paying for the manufacturer to package the food into smaller portions. Instead, it's cheaper to buy multi-serving packs and to make your own single-serve packages by putting a portion into a small bag or container. This works for all kinds of foods, such as value pack chicken breast, large blocks of cheese that you can cut into 1-ounce cubes or slices, and snacks such as whole-grain crackers, peanuts, and popcorn.

5. Take advantage of sales and coupons

Check weekly ads in the mail, and store or manufacturers’ coupons in newspapers, for healthy items that you can get at a discount. Then think about how you can use those items and whether you can stock up at a low price so you can use them in the future. It’s good to stock up on dried foods, canned goods, frozen vegetables and fruit, and other foods with a longer shelf life when they are discounted.

6. Be flexible

Prices of fruits and vegetables can vary by the day or week, and being flexible lets you save money and eat healthier. Buy large quantities of on-sale or low-cost produce and try to incorporate it into your meal plan in a variety of ways. For example, if spinach happens to be on sale, you can add it to eggs for breakfast, put it in sandwiches or use it to make a salad for lunch, and serve it as a side dish at dinner. Before it goes bad, you can cook extra spinach into egg muffin cups, soup, or pasta sauce and freeze it for another time.

7. Check cost per serving.

As you make your purchasing decision, be sure to calculate how much a serving of food will cost to avoid getting tricked into buying something more expensive than you thought. These are some of the fruits and vegetables that tend to have a lower cost per serving.

Vegetables

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Eggplant 
  • Mustard greens
  • Green beans
  • Radishes
  • Frozen vegetables 

Fruit

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Tangerines
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Nectarines (in season)
  • Peaches (in season)

8. Prepare your own

Prepared foods are more expensive. The more steps you can do yourself, the more you can save. For example, cutting up a head of lettuce or slicing celery can give you far more servings per dollar than using bagged salad or pre-cut vegetables or fruit. 

When it comes to entire meals, you can usually get healthier meals for a lower cost per serving if you make your own instead of buying something prepared. For example, a frozen dinner with meatloaf and mashed potatoes might be fatty and devoid of vegetables. For a lower cost per serving, you can make turkey meatloaf made with extra vegetables and whole-grain breadcrumbs, and serve it with sweet potato sticks.

Ten Low-Cost Healthy Meals

Are you stuck for ideas for low-cost, healthy meals? Here are few quick and easy meals to try.

  1. Chopped salad with canned tuna, cucumber, tomatoes, shredded low-fat cheddar cheese, diced apple, and vinaigrette.
  2. Whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce, cooked with frozen or fresh vegetables, and topped with low-fat parmesan cheese.
  3. Brown rice salad with chopped tomatoes, diced onion, and a dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and herbs.
  4. Onion and cabbage soup with beef bouillon, low-fat swiss cheese and croutons made with whole-wheat bread, olive oil, herbs, and garlic.
  5. Baked fresh fish served with baked carrot sticks (optional: sprinkled with parmesan cheese) and cooked brown rice.
  6. Whole-grain bagel with cottage cheese and diced apple or pear and cinnamon.
  7. Whole-wheat English muffin with cooked egg, low-fat cheese, and tomato slice, with 2 tangerines.
  8. Fat-free refried beans with diced tomato and chopped lettuce, served on a whole-wheat tortilla with low-fat cheese and salsa.
  9. Thai-inspired noodles made with whole-wheat spaghetti, peanut sauce made from creamy peanut butter, chopped vegetables, and cooked egg, chicken, or tofu.
  10. Whole-wheat pita pocket with chopped vegetables, feta cheese, and sliced avocado.

Eating on a budget is challenging, but there are always ways you can cut costs while still getting tons of nutrients. Lark can guide you in making healthy choices to lose weight and improve health. You may be eligible for Lark through your insurance provider.

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