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.
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.
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.
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.