chicken plate

Healthy eating can be expensive if you’re on a tight budget, but it can be done with a little thought and creativity.  Here are some easy tips for eating healthy on a budget:

Plan your meals. If you plan your meals, build a shopping list, and only buy what’s on the list, you’ll spend less on stuff you don’t need.  You can save even more if you take a look at what’s on sale at your grocery store and build your food plan around it. For example, this week, my grocery store is having a special on ground turkey, salad greens, grapefruit, pears, and whitefish—all items around which I can build a healthy meal plan.

Buy whole foods. A block of cheese is cheaper than a bag of shredded cheese. Buy it in bulk and shred it yourself to save money.  Buying processed foods like frozen meals or food helpers almost guarantees that you’ll have more salt, sugar and fat than you need, with less nutritional value.  If you find fresh vegetables too pricey, purchase frozen vegetables. They are just as nutritious, keep well, and can be re-purposed for other dishes easily. I keep some standby items like mushrooms, peppers and corn in my freezer for soups in the winter.

Never shop hungry.  Several things happen when you shop hungry. First, if you go to the grocery store hungry, you are more likely to stray from your grocery list and purchase impulsively. Second, when you’re hungry, you often crave foods that aren’t good for you or your budget. If you can, shop right after a meal.  If that’s not an option, have a healthy snack before you shop.

Cook large quantities.  If you buy a package of chicken breasts, prepare them all at one time and find creative ways to use them in several meals.  You might have grilled chicken for one meal and re-purpose the extra chicken for quesadillas, soup, or a casserole later in the week.

Shop in season.  Fruits and vegetables that are in season are sourced locally or at least regionally, while out-of-season foods are shipped from halfway across the world.  Shopping in season saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint.  If it’s practical, buy foods in bulk. You’ll save more money and you can freeze what you don’t use for future meals or incorporate it into next week’s menu.