Does it sometimes feel like you have to take on a second mortgage to eat healthy? Is $10 a pound for organic meat out of your league? (it is for us :) If so, here are some guidelines on healthy eating on a budget.
If you’re trying to save money on food, don’t skip breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day because it revs up your metabolism. Try to eat by 10 a.m. to fuel your system. Buy the following items from a natural grocer (or even the healthy section of your regular store) and for less than $20 a week, you can have a healthy breakfast every day:
- Locally-grown eggs (large; $4-5 per dozen)
- Sprouted grain or rice flour bread ($4-$5 per sliced loaf)
- Organic spinach ($2 a bunch)
- Grass-fed cheese ($5 a pound; use cheese substitute if dairy intolerant)
- Avocado ($1-$2 per)
Getting tired of breakfast sandwiches? Oatmeal or quinoa cost up to $5-$6 per box and usually have 5 to 20 servings. Mix in a handful of fresh berries, a dab of cream (a little fat is good for you and will keep you full longer) and almond butter.
Time for lunch yet? Nutrient-dense salads are a perfect way to eat healthy on a budget. Organic spring mix salad, or spinach, or any other bunch of greens costs much less than a ticket to the movies. But eating greens alone won’t satisfy. If you ate oatmeal for breakfast, throw in one or two chopped hard-boiled eggs. Here are some other ingredients to make a satisfying, inexpensive, healthy salad:
- Raw sunflower seeds
- Feta cheese
- Canned tuna or sardines (if you like the smell and taste)
- Edamame (unprocessed soy beans)
All these healthy salad ingredients will last you for at least a week, keep you full for several hours and won’t break the bank.
Don’t have time to make a salad for lunch? Make one for dinner. Better yet, prepare your salad at night, after the kids have gone to bed. It will only take you about 5 minutes to prepare. Make sure you pack your salad with enough protein and natural fat so you won’t get hungry an hour after eating and then go to splurge at a restaurant.
You can, of course, also eat a salad for dinner. But to mix things up, try making a quinoa pasta dish. A box of quinoa spaghetti from Ancient Harvest (organic and gluten free) costs less than $3 from most natural markets. If you’re single and cooking for yourself, a box will last you at least a few days. Cooking for kids? Quinoa pasta comes in other varieties besides spaghetti, including vegetable medley spiral noodles. Alternate between the pastas and for about $15 a week, you should have enough for the whole family.
Add some veggies and spices and voila, a delicious, healthy budget-minded dinner.
The secret to eating healthy for cheap
The key to eating healthy on a budget is not to eat out. Sure, there are plenty of healthy options when eating out, but if you’re concerned with saving as much money as possible, cook at home.
Grill up a pound of wild sockeye salmon (about $10-$12 a pound) and cut into little pieces and mix in with the quinoa pasta to receive the mega-nutritious benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. This should make for several meals.
There are plenty of other ways to eat a healthy, budget-conscious dinner. Got a hankerin’ for some meat? Healthy, humanely raised meat is cost-prohibitive for most people on a budget. Explore food co-ops in your area or go in with some friends on home-delivered small-farm, grass-fed meats to reduce the cost.
It’s no wonder that many low-income families eat unhealthy foods. Buying all organic can be expensive. But for around the same price as a fast-food value meal, you can cook yourself something healthy. It might just save you money on health care in the long run.
Got any other healthy-eating-on-a-budget ideas? Please share them.
Judd Handler is a health coach and writer in Encinitas, Calif.