Healthy eating on a budget

A few simple steps can save you money and time – and get your family eating healthier. Turn grocery trips, meal planning and preparation, and dinnertime into family activities!

 

Planning Ahead

Just 10 minutes of planning can ensure that you have easy, low-cost, healthy meals and snacks ready for your family.

  • Look at your local store’s weekly ad and check for coupons in the mail or the newspaper to see what you can save on. You can also find store’s weekly promotions and special coupons on their websites, such as stopandshop.com and shaws.com.
  • Pick a few meals to make over the next several days so you’ll know exactly what to buy and you’re ready to cook when it’s convenient. Keep recipes simple – you’ll be more likely to make them! Try to use ingredients on sale or that you have coupons for.
  • Make the most of your fruits and veggies! Try to pick recipes that use similar fruits and vegetables, prepared in different ways.  For example, buy tomatoes to make a pasta sauce and then use the leftovers for salsa.

 

Shop Smarter

Shopping within a budget sometimes just requires “shopping smarter.”

  • First things first: never shop on an empty stomach! You may be tempted to buy items you don’t need.
  • Consider buying store or generic brands. They usually taste just as good and have the same ingredients as the other brands – and they’re cheaper.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables while they are in season. They’re often on sale, and they taste better!
  • If fresh fruits and vegetables are still too expensive, or you need them to last longer, consider buying frozen or canned. Just remember, frozen produce is usually healthier than canned, with more vitamins and less salt – but canned vegetables are good for you, too.
  • Pre-cut fruits and vegetables usually cost more. If you can, cut your produce at home. Do a bunch at once and save time!

 

Ideas to Keep your Wallet and Waistline in Balance

Here are some extra money-saving tips that will also keep your family healthy!

  • Spend a few dollars on reusable plastic containers.  Not only are containers great to use for storing leftovers, but you can also use it for meals and snacks on the go. You might even be able to reuse take-out containers!
  • Pack extra fruits and vegetables in your bag or kids’ backpacks before leaving the house. It’ll be cheaper than buying a snack from a vending machine or convenience store.
  • If you know one evening is going to be too hectic to make dinner, plan ahead and make extra food on a night that won’t be so busy. Put the leftovers in containers and store in the fridge (NIH). Some recipes are easy to make in large batches and freeze, like soups and casseroles.
  • Make Friday nights “homemade pizza night”! Buy ready-made dough and make pizza at home. Everyone can make their own pizza and choose from healthy toppings, like veggies or cooked chicken. Use part-skim mozzarella cheese, and use just enough to add some flavor. Have the kids help with flattening the dough and adding the toppings.
  • Make your meals with protein sources other than meat. Beans and lentils are often cheaper  than meat, and are especially easy to use when you buy them canned. Try bean soups, black bean tacos, or veggie stir fry with tofu.
  • Have your kids help you make a large batch of trail mix at home using seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. Store trail mix in small bags or containers so you can take them on the go.
  • Always be sure you and your family eat breakfast. It’ll help keep your children focused at school, and eating breakfast helps to prevent overeating later on in the day. Oatmeal makes a good breakfast and your kids can put in their favorite fruits (frozen or fresh) to add flavor.
  • Save money on beverages by keeping water pitchers in the fridge and on the kitchen table.
  • Get everyone in the family a reusable water bottle, and save money on buying beverages while you’re on the go. You can add flavor by adding slices of lemon, orange, or lime – and even cucumber! It’s good for your wallet, and especially good for your family to limit the sugar they might get from soda or juice.

The CDC also has a list of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Stretch Your Fruit and Vegetable Budget. Check it out here!

Image courtesy of Brandy Augustine.

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