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Eating healthfully can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If there ever was a time to eat well, now would be it. A lack of time and/or income can hinder making nutritious choices. The most effective way to eat healthier on a budget is to cook at home – this is perhaps one advantage of our current situation. Here are some budget-friendly shopping and cooking tips to cut food costs without compromising your health.
- Take inventory. Check in the back of your cupboards and refrigerator to see what you already have on hand.
2. Plan your meals. This step has probably become essential as trips to grocery store are already weekly ventures. Plan your meals for the upcoming week and then, make a grocery list of what you need. Stick to your list and only buy what you know you will eat, so you don’t end up throwing out food.
3. Make the best food choices you can. Make your food choices count, focus on variety, amount and nutrition. This is probably not the best time to adopt a highly restrictive or specialized diet plan. Healthy but inexpensive food options include canned meats, whole grains, frozen fruits & vegetables (almost as nutritious as fresh), and canned/dried legumes.
4. Cook larger portions and use your leftovers. Use inexpensive ingredients to make larger portions and either freeze your leftovers or use them on subsequent days when you might be feeling more pinched for time. A big pot of lentil soup can go a long way. Having prepared foods in the freezer for busy days also reduces the frequency of needing to order in food, which can add up quickly.
5. Ditch processed foods and buy whole foods instead. Though it might not seem always obvious, processed food costs you more than food you cook and make yourself. Use real ingredients to make your own dips, sauces, marinades, salad dressings, soups and spreads. There are numerous resources online for do-it-yourself seasoning mixes and dressings from basic ingredients. Save yourself unhealthy additives, calories and food costs while reducing food waste for better and fresher tasting food.
6. Buy cheaper cuts of meat or substitute meat with other vegetarian protein options. Beans, legumes and eggs are very good protein sources and a lot cheaper than meat or fish. Stretch one pot dishes by adding in legumes as an additional protein source. Canned meat/fish also serve as an inexpensive source of protein. Cheaper cuts of beef like beef brisket or skirt steak can take longer to cook but can be prepared to be equally nutritious and delicious.
7. Buy staples in bulk. It is a lot cheaper to buy a large bag of rice or beans, than it is to buy them in smaller quantities. Use this to your advantage where it makes sense for your household.