There are plenty of ways to keep costs down and be healthy on a budget. From making meal plans to growing your own garden, follow a few of our tips!
For many families, “budget” is a dreaded word. The idea of having to tighten the purse strings when it comes to finances and budgeting can seem pretty difficult. The same goes for the dreaded grocery list! Fortunately, there are ways that you can keep calories down and stay healthy on a budget. Whether you meal plan or buy items offering more bang for your buck, there are many ways to get healthy!
What to Buy to Eat Healthy on a Budget
It can be hard to know where to begin at the grocery store for a budget-friendly diet. The following foods are a good place to start when it comes to cheap but healthy eating:
- Alternative Grains– Traditional foods like white rice and pasta may be cheap, but they don’t have much nutritional value other than empty carbohydrates. There are great alternatives to these foods, though! Whether you choose quinoa, millet, farro, barley, or buckwheat, you can make a healthy dinner with plenty of whole grains to keep you full. Luckily, these foods are easy on the wallet, too. So share your finds with others on your favorite family app!
- Frozen Vegetables –Frozen veggies can be a lifesaver if you’re having a problem with produce going bad! You can make plenty of soups and stews with them and still maintain a healthy diet. Vegetables are also an important part of any healthy shopping list on a budget.
- Beans, Beans, Beans – It can be hard to steer the avid meat eater away from their favorite source of protein, but beans such as black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), and pinto beans are truly beneficial! Whether you choose canned beans or dried beans, they’re a protein-rich and inexpensive, healthy eating option. There are also many recipes perfect for the whole family with this ingredient!
The Key to Eating Healthy on a Budget
The key to eating healthy on a budget is finding filling foods that pack plenty of nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, and fiber. It also doesn’t mean that you have to be “dieting” with a measly meal plan filled with cabbage soup and celery. Nutritious foods require balance and adequate calories. Traditional budget-friendly recipes can often be packed with sodium, empty carbs, and non-healthy fats that won’t keep you feeling your best. While spaghetti and meat sauce or ramen noodles can be a life-saver in a pinch, you don’t make a habit of serving it too often for family dinner. Or, you can add some extra veggies to the sauce to boost the nutritional value.
What Are Some Easy Ideas for a Healthy Diet on a Budget?
Many people think that eating healthy food costs a bundle. But there are actually plenty of ways to keep costs down and still be kind to your body. Share these tips with other budget-minded parents on FamilyApp!
- Meal Plan in Advance– It’s important to plan meals so you can be prepared in advance and don’t have to splurge on something indulgent. However, advance planning makes it easier to stick to a healthy diet on a budget meal plan. If you know what ingredients are in your food, you won’t have to wonder how healthy it is!
- Follow the List– It can be easy to get sidetracked by all the tempting snack foods at the grocery store. However, if you stick to your list, you can stay healthy and economical! You should certainly let yourself indulge here and there, but make a rule about how much and how often!
- Buy in Bulk!– Eating healthy on a budget grocery list can seem like a daunting task. However, bigger portions mean you can make food and freeze leftovers, and save money while you’re doing it! You can also take advantage of sales and coupons to get special deals on your favorite items.
- Coupon Wisely– The key to couponing is spending only as much time and effort as your plan on getting out of it. Also, don’t buy things you wouldn’t buy or eat just because they’re on sale. Do your research, coupon wisely, and only buy foods you know you and your family will eat.
- Start a Garden– Growing produce might seem like a lot of effort, but more and more people are getting in on gardening! Whether you want to grow cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, beans, or herbs, seeds are inexpensive and provide high yields. This can save you money and will force you to be creative with recipes so you can incorporate your fresh-grown ingredients.
Healthy Eating on a Budget: Dinner Ideas and Recipes
There are plenty of healthy, budget-friendly recipes that are more satisfying than plain salad and carrot sticks. Here are some of my favorite recipes for healthy meals on a budget:
One of my favorite ways to save money and eat well with a quick recipe is to make “bowls” that I can modify to switch things up. They always have four components: A grain, vegetable, protein, and sauce. Here are some ideas for things you can put into your homemade, protein-rich savory bowls:
- Grain: brown rice, jasmine rice, white rice, orzo, quinoa, whole grain pasta
- Vegetables: green beans, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower (or cauliflower rice), carrots, corn, edamame, lima beans, kale, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives (actually a fruit), avocado (again, a fruit)
- Protein: black beans, tofu, ground turkey, chicken breast, beef, pork, tuna, rotisserie chicken, salmon, chickpeas
- Sauce: Teriyaki, cilantro-lime tahini, chipotle, green goddess, Thai peanut sauce, sesame-ginger vinaigrette, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, basil pesto
Sheet Pan Fajita Roasted Vegetables
Roast bell peppers, cauliflower, onion, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots with fajita seasoning. Whether you’re growing produce in your own vegetable garden or finding vegetables on sale at the grocery store, nothing will ever be healthier than fresh, unprocessed veggies. With a scoop of brown rice, this becomes a hearty and nutritious vegan meal. If you do eat meat, try adding ground turkey or your favorite lean meat.
Red Lentil Soup
Not too heavy but still hearty, this is a great recipe for any occasion. For this recipe, start by heating 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 diced carrot, 2 diced large stalks of celery, 1 diced small, yellow onion, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt and stir to combine. Cover and let the vegetables sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).
Add 1 cup of dried red lentils, 4 cups of low-sodium broth, and 1 bay leaf and bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer, covered until the lentils begin to fall apart (about 20 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice. Taste and season with salt as needed. Ladle into bowls and serve with toppings if desired. You’ll definitely want this to simmer on the stove for a cool fall night!. This coconut lentil soup is another delicious option if you’re looking for something extra creamy.
Sheet Pan Fried Rice With Tofu
One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it can use leftover rice! Because who among us hasn’t made a ridiculous amount of rice? Start by whisking together soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a medium bowl until just combined. Then combine the rice, tofu, and vegetables in a separate bowl. Add the sauce and gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the rice is fully coated. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until slightly browned, another 12 to 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve with hot sauce, if desired.
Nutritious Breakfast on a Budget
Pepper & Onion Frittata– A lot of people take eggs for granted, but they’re one of the most versatile foods in your kitchen. All you have to do is sauté veggies, add some eggs and cook it all in the oven for a satisfying, budget-friendly meal. You can even include all of your favorite fixings!
Colorful Pepper and Onion Frittata
- 4 large eggs
- 8 large egg whites
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh minced basil
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 2 cups sweet red peppers (chopped)
- 1 cup sweet yellow pepper (chopped)
- 1 cup sweet orange pepper (chopped)
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
Colorful Pepper and Onion Frittata
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Whisk together first four ingredients.
- Stir in mozzarella cheese and basil.
- In a 10-in. cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 2 minutes.
- Add peppers; cook and stir until tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute.
- Pour in egg mixture; remove from heat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, until eggs are completely set, 20-25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into wedges.
Overnight Oatmeal Breakfast Bowls
Oatmeal is one of the best affordable breakfasts meals. Be sure to buy the large container of steel-cut oats that’s much cheaper than smaller single-serving packets with added sugar. Combine your milk, oats, and mix-ins the night before and pop them in the fridge to avoid extra work in the morning. Top with bananas, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla, raisins, chopped almonds, chia seeds, or whatever toppings you want! With steel-cut oats, you can also make baked oatmeal if you want a hot dish in the morning.
English Muffin Fried Egg Sandwich
Eggs are one of the most affordable, nutritious ingredients you can buy. Whether you make an omelet with spinach and tomatoes, or a fried egg sandwich with whole-grain English muffin and a slice of cheddar cheese, eggs will always be a budget-friendly option for breakfast or even breakfast-for-dinner!
Chia Seed Pudding
With two simple ingredients, 1/2 cup of coconut milk and 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds, you can make a satisfying and tasty breakfast pudding that you can easily customize. Not only that, it’s high in fiber, high in protein, and contains lots of healthy fat. Add vanilla, sweetener, fruit, or nuts to your own taste! Pop them in the fridge overnight, and you’ll have a delicious breakfast, snack, or treat waiting for you the next day! Here are some more fantastic chia seed pudding options!
Staying Healthy and Staying On-Budget
It might seem like eating healthy and staying on a budget is difficult, but there are ways to make it work! By buying bulk and planning your meals, you’ll have plenty of favorite foods to work with and create a balanced diet. Do you have a favorite eating healthy on a budget app? Share it with other economical eaters in our comments! Whether you start a garden or clip for coupons, there’s no reason your food plan can’t be budget-friendly.
For more family money tips and advice, check out the Money-Saving Family category on FamilyApp.