Healthy Meals On A Budget
Eating healthy meals on a budget isn’t as hard as most people make it out to be. In fact, with the right knowledge and strategy it can actually be cheaper to eat healthy meals than unhealthy meals and snacks. This is in large part due to the fact that when you’re eating a healthier diet you are less likely to spend money on frivolous foods such as: snacks, fast food, restaurant meals, and other varieties of junk. You are also less likely to waste food when you buy and eat nutritiously. This could be directly related to the heavy prevalence of meal prepping among healthy eaters. Meal prepping is strongly associated with pre-planning meals, shopping specifically for those meals ingredients, bulk cooking sessions, and the storage of those cooked foods for future consumption.
Buying frozen vegetables is a good idea when you’re trying to save money because they are often less expensive than the ‘fresh’ varieties in the produce section. Bonus: Frozen veggies are frozen at the peak of their freshness so you don’t have to sacrifice freshness or quality for cost.
Avoid processed foods. They may seem cheap but buying the whole ingredients and making the food yourself will often actually come with a lower price tag when you factor in the amount of food that you are able to make. Bonus: When you buy whole ingredients you can make many different recipes for the same price, if not cheaper, than that bag of frozen burritos.
Many coupons are for processed foods which we’ve just discussed staying away from, but you can find coupons from your local grocer for meat, dairy, and seafood which can come in handy, since these are often the most expensive items on grocery lists.
Swap Beans for Meat
Meat is expensive and although you definitely need protein in your diet there are less expensive ways to accomplish that than splurging on high end meats. Swap in beans for meat in your favorite dishes once or twice per week, or if you’re feeling adventurous you could try to cut out meat altogether opting instead for beans and lentils.
Eat More Soup
Soup is an inexpensive, nutritional, and convenient option for lunches and dinners. The beauty with soup is that it can be made with all fresh ingredients or mostly from leftovers. If you know you’re not going to finish your leftovers before they go bad, try tossing them into a soup to create a new and interesting flavor for your pallet.
Shop Farmer’s Markets
You can get the best local foods by shopping at your local farmer’s market, and often you can get them for much less than at your local grocery store. By shopping the farmer’s market you will also force yourself to buy ‘in-season’ which translates to an even tastier and healthier meal for you.
Make a menu of meals that you’ll cook for the week and then make a list of ingredients that you’ll need to buy in order to prepare these meals. When you go to shopping, buy only what is on your list so that you won’t waste anything.
If you have an extra freezer or refrigerator don’t be afraid to stock up on frequently used ingredients when they go on sale. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale though, make sure that it is in fact something that you will cook and eat before it goes bad.
Don’t Eat Out
Or at the very least, eat out less. Aim for once a week as a maximum! When you go out to eat you generally spend between 25-80% more on your food than you would have, had you cooked it yourself at home. (Those numbers are based on average restaurant prices and the cost of the raw ingredients from a grocery store.)
Start A Garden
If you have the space then you can make the time, and if you have the time then you can make the space. Basically there is no excuse not to have your own garden. Whether you only grow herbs, or you have the time and space to grow all of your own fruits and vegetables, by growing anything yourself you’ll be saving yourself money.
This is one of the easiest ways to make sure that you maintain your food budget for the entire week. You can grow your own veggies, and stock up on all the deals, make a meal menu and only buy those ingredients, use coupons, shop at the farmer’s market, and swap meat out of your diet and yet if you don’t meal prep you set yourself up for financial failure. If you don’t have quick easy grab meals on hand at all times you’re more likely to skip cooking and opt for quick food out.
There is no special secret to planning or creating healthy meals on a budget. There are only techniques that will make the process both easier and more enjoyable. Imagine having an extra $100 in your pocket every week to save for vacations, or spend on fun activities. It’s possible when you set and maintain a reasonable food budget. And the best part about all of it is that you’ll be eating healthier so you’ll feel more energetic so you’ll want to go out and enjoy yourself with your newly saved cash.
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