4 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Shoestring Budget
Who says you have to be wealthy to eat right?! While fast food companies would love nothing more than to perpetuate the idea that a burger is cheaper than a filling, home-cooked, colorful meal, it's a flat-out lie. With a little planning and some time, you can make beautiful, healthy meals for much cheaper than going out.
Read on for tips on how to get lean and mean while you watch your wallet get fat and happy.
- Stock up in season.
In-season produce is a better decision for a lot of reasons: it's cheaper, for one thing. But also, when you're buying at peak season, the fruit is more likely to be grown on this side of the equator—so it's fresher, requires less resources to get to your grocery store shelves, and is at peak nutrition!
If you find a great deal, buy extra and preserve it. Freezing is by far the easiest option, and is nutritionally very similar to fresh produce. Otherwise, it's a bit retro, but canning is a great way to store food that would otherwise be long-spoiled. Dehydrating is great if you want to make your own fruit leather or jerky, too.
- Plan, prep, and portion in advance.
Set aside time each week after grocery shopping to prepare whole foods in advance. This may mean dicing onions, prewashing lettuce, divvying up one-ounce portions of nuts, or baking some sweet potatoes so they're ready to go. Having ingredients ready to go makes cooking a snap no matter the recipe
, and decreases your chances on running to the local fast food place when laziness strikes.
- Don't be scared of cheaper meats.
If you're bulking on a budget, a Crock Pot might be your new best friend. You can throw just about any combination of meat + liquid + spices into the slow cooker, let it do its thing for a few hours, and open the lid to find a delicious meal waiting for you. Bone-in, skin-on, organ meats are all usually more flavorful than other meats and are almost always cheaper, too. The so-called pork butt (which is actually shoulder) can be tossed into a slow cooker with some barbecue sauce and then shredded into sandwich meat for as little as $2 per pound.
- Eat your leftovers.
The average American wastes 25 percent of food and drinks they purchase. For a family of four, this could mean throwing anywhere from $1,365 to $2,275 directly into the garbage every year.
Leftovers don't have to be dreary! Gone are the days of Jello-mold salads or mystery casseroles. Repurpose leftovers into new meals by giving them new life. Doubling or tripling recipes is an awesome way to use up all your fresh ingredients in one go, and saves you time on having to cook again.
One of our reader's favorite leftover is rotisserie chicken. Linda writes, “I live alone and can't eat a whole chicken by myself, but it's such a cheap option that I hate to waste it. I realized that the chicken is fantastic the next day shredded into taco meat, thrown into a breakfast scramble, or topping a spinach salad. My creativity has saved me a mint!” `
This is part one of a series on eating great, healthy meals for as little as possible. To read the rest, find part two here. For even more information, check out our blog