Knowing what to eat is only the first step to healthy eating. You also need to know how to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. This can be hard when you are living on a tight budget. These tips will help you include healthy foods in your diet without putting a strain on your wallet!
Make Lists and Purchase With a Plan!
Have a plan before you go grocery shopping. This will limit those impulse buys and make it easier to stick to your budget.
- Avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry, tired, or stressed. Early in the day after you’ve eaten is the best time to go to the store or place an online order.
- Make an outline of your planned meals and snacks for the whole week.
- Have a plan for every food item you buy — especially perishable items.
- Shop only for the foods on the plan. You’ll be more likely to stick with it!
- Be realistic about your time. Consider how much prep each meal and snack will take.
- Use coupons wisely. Save money on healthy foods you know you’ll eat. Skip the coupons for less healthy options.
Pre-prep, Pre-prep, Pre-prep!
Pre-prepping your food helps you stick to healthy eating habits throughout the week.
- Process your produce before putting it away. Wash, cut, and store in organized containers.
- Pencil in prep time just like you would schedule an appointment.
- Set aside time to portion, bag, and sort lunch foods for the whole week. This will keep you on track for healthy lunches the rest of the week.
- Try to work one day ahead. For example, prep for Tuesday’s meal on Monday night before you go to sleep.
- Plan for leftovers. Eat them alone as a second meal or stretch them with other ingredients for your next meal.
Stock the Freezer
Fresh isn’t always best. Frozen fruits and veggies are often more nutritious. They’re blanched, which locks in all the nutrition and flavor goodness. That means they’re boiled quickly and then plunged into ice to halt the cooking process.
- Buy bags of frozen veggies in bulk. Keep lots on hand so you are less likely to run out.
- Frozen fruit + banana + a splash of milk or Greek yogurt = fast and easy smoothie
- Freeze portions of veggie lasagna, soup, whole grain waffles, and more. This makes for quick, nutritious meals when other plans fall through.
- Use ice cube trays to freeze extra portions of tomato paste, broth, lemon juice, and fresh herbs so you always have healthy seasonings on hand.
Stock Up on “Healthier” Canned Goods
Canned goods can be a healthy alternative to fresh food. They are shelf-stable and budget-friendly, and can help you make a balanced meal or snack in a pinch.
- Choose low-sodium or no-salt options for beans, veggies, and soups.
- Rinse vegetables and beans to lower sodium.
- Choose fruits packed in water, not syrup, for no added sugar.
- Canned meats like tuna, salmon, and chicken are a great protein source to add to salads and soups.
- Canned veggies and beans can be added to salads, casseroles, wraps, and soups. You can also eat them on their own or with other veggies or grains to add protein, fiber, and flavor.
Create Dinner Out, In
Instead of going out to eat or ordering takeout, concoct your own cheaper and healthier version. You’ll save on added sugar, fat, calories, carbs, and money.
- Pizza: Use whole wheat English muffins or whole grain tortillas, chopped veggies, pasta sauce, and part-skim mozzarella.
- Mexican: Create your own nachos or have a “make your own taco” night. Use baked tortilla chips or whole grain corn taco shells. Add sautéed veggies, beans, lean ground turkey or beef, cheese, and salsa.
- Asian: Steam brown rice and sauté chopped stir-fry veggies or use a frozen stir-fry meal mix.
These tips will help you make healthy eating on a budget a reality. Use some or all of them to save money and stick with your wellness goals.