Dieting on a budget? Tips and tricks to cut the calories and the costs

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Eat better, spend less

Can you be healthy even when you don’t have a lot of money? Yes! Dieting on a budget is easy when you opt for affordable, healthy foods without excess calories.

Woman grocery shopping

It can seem hard to be healthy when you don't have a lot of money. Frankly, unhealthy foods are cheap and can seem like a better use of your food budget, but the truth is that you can have a healthy diet on a budget, cutting calories and cost. How? By sticking to affordable, healthy foods.

Check out the must-have healthy foods for 2011 >>

We asked the experts for tips and tricks to help you navigate the grocery store aisles for better deals and healthier buys. Here's what they said:

1

Read the flyers

Everyone -- whether they are dieting or not -- should be reading the store flyers every week. Why? Because they are a treasure trove of deals. And using those flyers will help you pick the best and healthiest foods to buy on a budget. "Grocers put produce on sale every week. Buy whatever fruit and vegetable that is on special. Do the same for meats -- look at the specials of the day or week, and shop wisely. If possible, stock up on whatever is on sale, and freeze into freezer bags when you get home," says registered dietitian and nutrition consultant Rosanne Rust.

Don't miss these smart steps to saving money on groceries >>

2Go big!

Buying in bulk is a fantastic way to save money on healthy foods -- and we aren't even talking about hitting the big warehouse stores. You can do this at your local supermarket. Rust suggests buying larger packages of plain white or brown rice, and learning to season them yourself. "The plain white or brown rice is cheaper than a boxed rice with seasoning. Adding your own seasoning saves money and sodium," says Rust.

The same goes for yogurt, she says, which is cheaper to buy in a quart than to buy individual cups. You can add fruit and granola for flavor. And when nonperishables like healthy cereals go on sale, stock up. You can store them until you are ready to eat 'em.

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3Buy frozen veggies

Look, we are all for fresh fruits and veggies. When they are in season, nothing compares. (Bonus points if you buy locally from a farm -- the flavor is so much better). But buying fresh can be super pricey in the off-season. "Buy frozen varieties of fruits and vegetables if the ones you like aren't in season," says Brian Zehetner, health director for Anytime Fitness. Also, he says, avoid pre-cut and prepared foods, which will cost you more.

4Eat less meat

Popular diets, such as the Clean Eating Diet and the Mediterranean Diet, urge people to eat more vegetable-based foods and less meat … and dietitians agree. "The meat, cut back on your portion sizes … Use fruits and vegetables to augment what's on your plate," says Ann Dunaway Teh, a registered dietitian. Protein can come in other forms, such as beans. "Dried beans are super cheap and are great sources of nutrition -- a pound costs about $1," says Dunaway Teh.

Not only are there fewer calories in fruits and veggies, you will also save money by doing this.

More tips for healthy eating

Healthy grocery shopping made easy
Tips for choosing healthy foods
The healthy eater's guide to grocery shopping

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