By Rachel Wharton
You don’t need to spend a fortune to eat healthy meals. Here are some simple rules-of-thumb that match good nutrition with tight budgets—for a double win.
1. Plan Meals Ahead Our grandmothers strategized for the week with a detailed shopping list, says Faye Griffiths-Smith, a family economist with the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension. Try it, and you’ll see why: Not only can you save money, but you can avoid high-calorie impulse buys, too. One idea: Roast a lower-cost whole chicken; use leftovers in sandwiches.
2. Use Meat as a Seasoning “We eat too much meat,” says Lisa Sasson, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University, noting that meat can be more expensive per ounce and higher in calories than vegetable proteins. Instead of making meat the focal point of a dish, “use it more as a condiment,” she says.
3. Bring on the Beans Beans and whole grains like barley “are super-duper healthy and very cheap,” Sasson says. She adds these protein-packed extras to her salads, soups, and pasta to make them more filling.
4. Be Your Own Sous Chef Many people buy precut and preseasoned side dishes to save time, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet. But portioning and flavoring food yourself instead of buying premade mixes is cheaper. Not only that, the homemade version will have fewer calories, less salt and fat, and no additives.
5. Buy Seasonally and Locally What’s in season and grown closer to home is fresher and healthier, says Jackson Blatner—but that doesn’t mean you need a farmer’s market. Even grocery chains and superstores get deals on the fruits and vegetables in their area, and they pass on the savings in the produce aisles. Ask your produce manager for tips.
6. Rethink the Drinks What’s the easiest way to cut calories and costs? Don’t buy beverages, Sasson says. Make your own iced tea at home, or drink water, adding a wedge of fruit.