Healthy On A Budget

If you’re trying to eat healthy without breaking the bank, don’t worry: It can be done.

No one should have to spend their whole paycheck on a cart of groceries, despite the reputation healthy food has for being out of reach. We have some recommendations for saving money while eating nutritiously.

  • One of the simplest ways to stay healthy on a budget is by using a shopping list. Not only do they help you make healthier food choices, they help you stick to what’s planned for the week ahead and keep you on track with how much you’re spending.
  • Grocery shop when your belly is full. Hunger can make it tempting to add unhealthy snacks to the cart. Consider shopping after a balanced breakfast or right after dinner or lunch.
  • When fruits and veggies are on sale, stock up. Buy extra, and freeze them for future meals.
  • Look for seasonal produce. Due to the accessibility of it, it’s usually much cheaper.
  • Frozen and canned (make sure to get low-sodium!) vegetables typically cost less than fresh. Consumers even benefit from a higher intake of key nutrients in frozen items because they are preserved within hours of harvest. Items such as chopped onions, spinach, bell peppers, carrots, and peas make it easy to toss into any meal without the time constraints of cutting and prepping fresh vegetables.
  • Stock up on whole grains, like brown rice, farro, barley, and oats, and beans or lentils. These are inexpensive items that add substance and nutritious benefits to many different kinds of meals. Loaded with fiber and protein, these will keep you and the family full longer.
  • Diversify the cuts of meat you buy, and stock up on the sale meats, which can be frozen for later use. Some of the healthiest animal proteins to get are fish, turkey, and skinless white meat chicken. Remember to add seasonings, such as chili powder, garlic, or cumin, to really bring out the flavor.
  • Try eating well-balanced vegetarian meals more frequently. Meat is more expensive than proteins like eggs, beans, and legumes.
  • Don’t let anything go to waste. The average household wastes between 20-30% of their food. Re-purpose leftovers, and make sure to always use your produce (starting with the oldest first). Cooking vegetables on their way out in a “kitchen sink” meal, like soup, chili, or stir fry, is a great way to use up your produce and make the most of dollars you spent.

The Low-Down on Organic

Organic food is often more expensive than non-organic food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat “cleaner.” Select certain organic items to purchase, while others you can buy conventional.

The Environmental Working Group has a list of produce they call the “Clean Fifteen,” which are the least pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen peas, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, cauliflower and broccoli.

Their Dirty Dozen, or non-organic produce with the most pesticides, are: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and hot peppers.

Compare to what’s one your shopping list and consider purchasing accordingly.

Eating Together

Sitting down to eat as a family at home with your kids costs less than eating out and also helps create healthy eating habits. It introduces more quality time together, especially if you get kids involved with cooking or food prep. Eating as a family causes everyone to slow down, and as a result of slowing down, we tend to be more conscious of what we are consuming.

It can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness. When you sit down to eat (with the TV off and cell phones away) talk to your child about their day. You then allow more time for your brain to communicate with your stomach to tell you when you’ve had enough to eat, which reduces overeating. Plus, it’s an opportunity to model nutritious eating habits for your children.

You Can Grow Your Own Way

Planting a home garden is a cost-effective way to grow your own food. Added bonus? Gardening is a fantastic and educational way to get kids interested in healthy eating (and a new hobby).

  • Keeping a pot or two of herbs in your kitchen is far cheaper than buying fresh herbs at the store. You can also freeze them for future use.
  • You don’t need a lot of yard space to have a small vegetable garden. Use that space wisely by growing these plants that tend to produce the most abundant vegetables: tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash/zucchini, cucumbers, okra, pole beans, peppers, peas, and potatoes.
  • Community food sharing is another sustainable way to save on produce and encourage locally-sourced, organic food.

Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Public Health