6 Ways to eat healthy on a budget
You don't have to break the bank to eat healthy. With a little bit of planning and creativity, you can buy the freshest foods and create the healthiest meals -- all while saving money.
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper, says registered dietician Meghan Martorana. "Wholesale stores such as Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club are great for buying in bulk."
Latham Thomas, healthy lifestyle expert and chef, agrees: "Whether you buy from a health food store, supermarket or food co-op, buying from the bulk bins is a great way to stretch your dollar. Many stores have bulk sections where they store whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, dried fruits and spices." Stocking up on bulk foods also saves on packaging (good for the environment!) and gives you control over how much you purchase and how often to restock.
Choose seasonal produce
"Fresh fruits and vegetables can be costly," says Martorana. Choose fresh produce when it's in season -- it'll be cheaper and more nutritious, and it will taste better, too. "For example, purchase strawberries in the summer months and butternut squash in the fall and winter months," continues Martorana.
"You can talk farmers down on their prices," adds Thomas. "If you end up with more produce than you need, you can always freeze, can, pickle or share it."
Make it once, use it twice (or more!)
"When you make a meal," says Martorana, "double the recipe to make extra and freeze it." Or use it later in the week as leftovers or as ingredients in other recipes.
"Freeze leftover veggies to toss into your next soup, pasta or marinara sauce," recommends Holly Clegg of The Healthy Cooking Blog. "And if you don't want the same meal twice, take leftover chicken and turn it into another meal with a quick chicken lasagna or chicken tortilla soup." Even leftover steak can take center stage, continues Clegg, in a Chinese beef stir-fry or as a pizza topping!
Don't shop on an empty stomach
Make a grocery list and stick to it. Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to buying less-healthy, easy-to-make foods that will satisfy your immediate hunger. "Try resisting temptation by eating a snack or meal prior to shopping," suggests Martorana.
Buy cheaper meat to slow cook
Use less-expensive cuts of meat for slow-cooked meals such as casseroles or stews. Add extra vegetables and beans to make the meals stretch with more servings, says Martorana.
"Low-priced cuts of meat like chuck and sirloin contain more marbling," adds Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education for Atkins. "This makes them flavorful, tender and juicy -- best for slow cooking soups, roasts and braises."
Eat vegetarian at least once a week
Eating one meatless meal a week saves money and encourages more vegetable proteins and grains like beans and brown rice, says Sarah Ludmer, senior nutritionist for Del Monte.
"Vegetarian proteins such as beans, tofu, eggs and cheese can be far less expensive than meat," explains Martarano. "Try beans in a pasta and vegetable dish, add tofu to a stir-fry, use eggs in a baked frittata or try low-fat cheese and fat-free refried beans in tacos."
More on bulk shopping
Buying in bulk tips
Here are some tips to help you save time and money by buying in bulk.