Healthy eating may have a reputation for being expensive, but there are ways to make nutritious meals on a tight budget. It’s all about planning ahead and using high-flavor ingredients that don’t break the bank.
Avoid buying junk food, which costs more than it tastes and can damage your health. Stick to a shopping list and buy local produce in season. Try going meatless 1 or 2 days per week and use inexpensive proteins like beans, eggs, and canned fish.
1. Make a Meal Plan
One of the best ways to cut food costs is by planning meals ahead. This will help you avoid spending money on items you don’t need and it will also reduce waste, which is a big deal for your wallet (and the environment).
Before shopping, look through your pantry and fridge to see what you already have on hand. This will help you create a list of only the things that you need, so you don’t end up buying extra items that could get thrown away at the end of the week.
Another tip is to check out local op shops and online marketplaces for deals on kitchen equipment. You can often find quality, like-new appliances and gadgets for a fraction of the retail cost.
Another way to save on food is by choosing plant-based foods over animal proteins. You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but adding a few meatless meals a week can significantly cut your food costs. Try swapping out a few meat dishes with ones made with beans, lentils, tofu, seitan or jackfruit to start.
2. Stock Up on Meat
Meat is one of the most expensive foods in your menu, so it’s a good idea to make sure you get the best deals when shopping. Buying in bulk when meat is on sale can save you money and ensure that you have enough to last until the next sale cycle.
Try experimenting with cheaper cuts of meat to find out which are more flavorful than their more popular counterparts. For example, chicken thighs are far cheaper than boneless skinless breasts, and when cooked low and slow in the oven they can be just as tender.
Also consider incorporating more plant-based meals into your menu to reduce your meat costs (it’s better for the environment too!). Having at least one meat-free day each week is a great way to cut your costs. Moreover, it will help to reduce your food waste. Research shows that wasting food is the leading cause of poor restaurant profits. Hence, reducing food waste should be the top priority for any restaurateur. Luckily, there are many ways to do this.
3. Make the Most of Leftovers
Often, leftovers get shoved into the back of the refrigerator to be dealt with later, but if they are treated properly, they can be turned into tasty and filling meals. Using one-pot dishes, such as soups and stews, can also help save money by cutting down on preparation time and dishwashing.
Dining out less often is another great way to cut costs. While eating out is fun and social, it adds up quickly. Try to eat at home a few times each week, and bring your lunch (or brown bag it) to work so you don’t have to spend extra on expensive midday snacks.
Taking control of your expenses doesn’t need to involve an overhaul of your lifestyle. You can make small changes and still save a bit each month by focusing on your recurring expenses, reducing waste, shopping with a list, and steering clear of impulse buys. There are even apps available that can help you keep track of your budget and food expenses. By revising your spending habits, limiting waste and saving on grocery bills, you can easily afford to eat well and live well.
4. Eat Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Eating well does not have to cost a fortune. With careful meal planning, smart shopping and some creativity in storage and preparation techniques, you can make healthy meals even on a tight budget. It’s also important to remember that highly processed foods can often cost you twice as much in the long run, since they can lead to health conditions that require expensive medications or care services.
In addition to planning meals based on inexpensive yet healthy whole foods, you can save by shopping the weekly grocery store sales. Be sure to look for foods that are in season and shop the lower priced options, such as produce in its most natural state or canned fruits and vegetables without added sauces.
You can also consider buying frozen veggies and fruits, which are just as healthy and last much longer. Just be sure to read the ingredient label and check for added sodium or sugar. Finally, don’t forget to consider buying bulk foods online, which are often up to 50% cheaper and delivered straight to your door.
5. Go for the Ground Meat
Although it is common to think that healthy foods cost more than unhealthy snacks and packaged convenience meals, whole foods are often cheaper than processed foods. It is important to know what is best value for your dollar and avoid buying food items that are high in salt, sugar or added fats.
When it comes to meat, lean ground beef is your best bet from a nutritional standpoint, as it contains only 95 percent protein and 5 percent fat. It is a great source of B vitamins and iron. However, if you are looking to save money, eat less red meat and opt for beans, seeds, tofu or tempeh instead.
Also, be sure to use coupons and buy items that you will use in bulk. This will help you save even more money on groceries. Ultimately, if you are looking to cut costs on your grocery bill, consider signing up for a meal-planning service like PlateJoy to get delicious recipes and nutritious meal plans that will save you money and time. This will help you eat more healthfully and bring your shopping cart in line with the USDA’s Thrifty or Low-Cost Plan.