Eating well isn’t always easy, especially when you need to stick to a tight budget. Any frequent grocery shopper knows that many of those healthy food options often cost a lot more than their less nutritious counterparts. If you’re looking to clean up your diet with some healthier options but don’t want to break the bank, we’ve put together some tips for creating balanced, healthy meals on a budget:
Get into meal planning
Planning ahead each meal for every night of the week can seem impossible, especially when you have a big family and a hectic schedule. However, it’s much easier to stick to a budget when you plan ahead. Make a habit of sitting down once a week and writing down what meals you plan on cooking the next 7 days. Do some research on what ingredients are on sale at your local grocery store that week and adjust the recipe accordingly (maybe use ground turkey instead of ground meat, for example). Make a list of all ingredients you will need for those meals and make one shopping trip to pick them up. When planning ahead, try not to choose overly complicated recipes that you won’t have the time or energy to put together at the end of a busy day.
Cook large portions that will make leftovers
Cooking large portion sizes may seem counterintuitive when it comes to eating healthy, but when done correctly can actually help you save time and money while still eating a nutritious, balanced diet. Often times, the cost of cooking a meal for two or three people does not differ drastically from cooking for twice the amount. Leftover grilled vegetables can be added to stir-fries and wraps. Leftover chicken breasts can be thrown in a soup to add extra protein. Just be sure to store your leftovers correctly in airtight containers and throw them out if you don’t use them before they expire!
Don’t be afraid of the generic brands
Buying healthy food options doesn’t have to mean you get the most expensive, prestigious name brands. In fact, many grocery store chains carry their own generic brand names of the same products of similar quality for far less. Basic staple ingredients such as baking supplies, frozen produce, canned vegetables and beans, and seasonings are nearly identical in generic form to their brand name counterparts. Read the label before purchasing, but always look out for lower cost, non-name brand alternatives at the grocery store.
Buy some things in bulk
There are many benefits to buying bulk, from not having to go grocery shopping as often to the lower cost per weight of many bulk items. Buying large quantities of meats, beans, rice, and pastas will save you money when meal planning week to week. Keep in mind, you won’t save any money if you don’t store your bulk ingredients correctly and have to throw them out. Invest in quality airtight bags and containers. Be sure to label all of them with the product and the date you stored them, too. It may take longer, but even those bulk products can go bad after a while.
Shop seasonal produce and freeze it
Produce is a staple of healthy eating, but staying stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables can rack up your grocery bill. Freezing your own produce one of the best options for those who enjoy eating fruits and veggies regularly but not paying the high cost. Many fruits such as berries, peaches, melons, and pineapples are significantly cheaper during their peak season. You can stock up on these fresh fruits when the price is low and follow these instructions to correctly freeze them for the offseasons. You can even save money on certain vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and peas by buying large quantities when on sale and freezing for later consumption.