Healthy Food That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune? Yes, Please.

by in Healthy Tips, May 5, 2014


Healthy eating can stir up images of six-dollar pints of organic strawberries or another day of steamed vegetables. But the truth is, you can eat well without breaking the bank by implementing a few strategies.

Buy in Bulk
Want to have nutritious meals all week long and save money in the process? You can accomplish both by either creating a list of your favorite meal staples or selecting a couple of recipes to prepare and then hitting the grocery store or warehouse (i.e. Costco, BJ’s, etc.) to stock up. This list of Ten Wholesome Foods for Under $3 is a great starting point. I would add canned fish (sardines, tuna, etc.) to the list.

Don’t Forget the Freezer
Frozen vegetables and fruits provide fresh, nutritious produce for less. Even proteins such as fish and shellfish can be purchased in bulk frozen. And once you buy and cook, store the leftovers in the freezer for easy go-to meals that cost nothing, since you already made them.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Frozen Corn
chicken stir-fry

Embrace the Season
When choosing fresh produce, let the season be your guide — you’ll win in both price and taste. Local produce usually tastes better because shorter shipping times allow it to grow more in the ground or ripen better on the tree. And the prices are lower thanks to a surge in supply (picking/harvesting season). My wife and I love to stock up on and freeze fresh berries during the summer so we have delicious tasting berries in the winter for half the price. Another trick is to pick one of your favorite vegetables or fruits that is in season and make it the focus of your meal. If you love asparagus, pair it with another budget-friendly ingredient, eggs, for a flavorful frittata. If it’s the fall and you’re a fan of apples and cabbage, pair them with a low-cost heartier cut of meat like skirt steak or pork.

Pork Chops with Apple-Cabbage Slaw
pork chops

Use It All
Buying certain foods in bulk — especially meats and produce — can lead to not only multiple servings of the same dish, but multiple dishes. Two great examples are bananas and whole chickens. You can eat fresh bananas as a snack, add them to yogurt, or pair them with some peanut butter and whole-grain bread. But sometimes you can’t eat them fast enough and some get bruised or overripe. When that happens, don’t throw them away. Instead, you can freeze them and to use as a base for smoothies or you can mash them up and bake some delicious banana bread. For chicken, you can enjoy the meat from a roast chicken one night and use the bones and leftover meat to start the base of a chicken and vegetable soup. Alternatively, you can start with the soup (using lots of affordable root veggies), and reserve some of the meat for another chicken dish.

For 10 Healthy Dinners for About $10, including the roast chicken and other recipes above, see here.

Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet, Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit.

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Comments (4)

  1. [...] Embrace the Season When choosing fresh produce, let the season be your guide — you’ll win in both price and taste. Local produce usually tastes better because shorter shipping times …read more [...]

  2. Elwyn says:

    I've got another suggestion: embrace your inner peasant. Or, since we Americans are lucky enough to live in a multi-ethnic country, everybody else's inner peasant, too.

    'Peasant' or 'rustic' cuisines usually developed to feed people when resources were meager and money to buy anything you couldn't grow was lacking. So many of them are light on meat, heavy on complementary vegetable proteins, low on (often monopolized) salt, and flavored strongly with (locally-grown, in their home territory) herbs and spices.

    When I lost my job about a year and a half ago, I had no choice but to add lots of rice, beans (and other legumes), frozen vegetables, and so forth to my menus, to make my own bread, and to quit buying meat and (I must admit) a lot of fresh produce. But, since I can take essentially the same dish (say, lentil sloppy Joes) and flavor it as though it were barbecue, Indian, middle Eastern, Italian, Mexican, Thai or whatever, it's anything but boring.

    And do you know want to know a funny thing? I've lost 60 lbs, my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are down, and I'm off all my meds. After fighting with my weight all my life, I've finally found an eating plan – yes, it's not a 'diet' – that works for me. File that under the 'ill wind' heading…

    Now that I have money again, I'm still eating the same way, but have added back the fresh produce. And I'm totally enjoying my food and not feeling in the least deprived. I've even had guests over, who complemented my cooking – and had no idea they were eating stuff I learned to cook when I was broke…

    • TheniceAshley says:

      I am just now learning to cook while my husband supports our family of 6. Talk about pressure lol. I am enjoying learning to cook these great tasting recipes but some how I end up spending at least $40 on exotic ingredients. I can't continue to do this every night. I would love some of your recipes, if you ever have time to share..theniceashley84@yahoo

  3. kary says:

    I love this. I'm gonna try all of these at home. no need to buy anything from the store. It's all in our fridge. I'm so excited learning to cook these menus.

    Maybe you could also try to visit my site. Thanks! :)
    kary jane

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