Written by Andrea Hanson under the direction and review of Ann Schwader.
Eating healthy on a budget can seem like a difficult task if you do not have the right tools, tips and tricks. Purchasing and preparing tasty, affordable food can be easy! Just keep reading for some low-cost tips to eating healthy.
Before grocery shopping, create a shopping plan and enter the store with a list. Consider meals you plan to prepare and stick to your list. Check the sales at your local grocery store and plan meals accordingly, including fresh fruits and vegetables or meats that are on sale into your weekly plan to save some money.
Cut Coupons and Compare
Be on the lookout for coupons. Check online, in the local newspaper, and at the store for sales and coupons. You can also compare the “unit price” of products. Find it on the shelf near the product and use it to compare different brands and sizes to find the most affordable option.
Seasonal produce will vary depending on your location, but fruits and vegetables that are in season are easier to get and are less expensive. You can also try your local farmers market to purchase fresh products for more reasonable prices. Check out SNAP-Ed Connection’s Seasonal Produce Guide to try different fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
Don’t get too caught up on attractive labels and popular brand names. Store brand products are equally comparable in quality and will usually be the cheaper option.
Buy in Bulk
Almost always, buying in bulk is the cheaper option. Smart products to purchase in bulk include family packs of chicken or steak and larger bags of potatoes or frozen and canned vegetables. Purchasing whole foods is another way to save money at the store. Although purchasing pre-washed and pre-cut fruit and vegetables may be more convenient, it is often more expensive as well.
Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are equally nutritious and usually cheaper than fresh produce. When choosing canned fruits and vegetables, look for products packed in water to limit excess salt and added sugar intake. Additionally, these products also have a longer shelf-life, so there is no need to worry if you forget to eat them right away.
Finally, don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Hungry shopping can end in impulse purchases, causing you to spend more than you had planned for.
Try the following healthy recipes, they are easy to serve anytime.
Quick Black Bean Salsa
Courtesy: University of Iowa Extension
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1-½ cups frozen corn, thawed
- 1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
- Tortilla chips or flour tortillas
- Mix first three ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
- Serve as a dip for baked tortilla chips, or roll up into flour tortilla.
- Try other canned beans such as garbanzo, red, or pinto.
- Use canned corn instead of frozen corn.
- Add other fresh vegetables or herbs for additional flavor and texture. For example, onion, garlic, jalapeño, tomato, pepper or cilantro.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 60, Fat: 0 g, Carbohydrates: 11 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 3 g, Sodium: 320 mg. Serves 12 (1/4 cup) servings.
Cheesy Pasta with Summer Vegetables
Courtesy: University of Iowa Extension
- 4 cups assorted vegetables, sliced (zucchini, broccoli, peas, etc.)
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cups whole wheat pasta (any variety)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Wash and prepare vegetables and tomatoes.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain water from cooked pasta and save ¼ cup of water.
- Heat oil in a large skillet as pasta cooks. Add garlic and onion. Sauté over medium heat about 1-2 minutes, or until soft.
- Add vegetables and cook for 3 minutes. Add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Add tomatoes last and cook until warm.
- Add cooked pasta to the vegetables. Add ¼ cup pasta water if needed.
- Add cheese to mixture. Stir until cheese is mostly melted.
- Serve while warm.
- Add protein to this dish by stirring in cooked beans, meat, or fish.
- Use 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder instead of fresh garlic cloves if they are not available.
- Choose vegetables that are in season to save money. You can also use thawed frozen vegetables in this recipe to save money.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 230, Fat: 7 g, Carbohydrates: 35 g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 11 g, Sodium: 240 mg. Serves 6 (1-1/2 cup) servings.
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Spend Smart Eat Smart
- National Institute of Aging. 10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
- United States Department of Agriculture. 10 Tips: Eating Better on a Budget