Meal planning and food shopping can be challenging when you want to eat healthy on a tight budget. Unfortunately, rising food prices mean it’s not always possible to eat well. Chances are, your paycheck isn’t going up as quickly as food prices. In the worst-case scenario, you’re a student, which would make it even more difficult.
Here are 8 tips to eat healthy on a small budget.
1. Buy products that are in season
Fresh products are always great, but they can really put a dent on a limited budget. Get whatever is in season and stock up when you come across good prices.
Food that’s in season tastes better and is cheaper. Root vegetables in winter. Apples and squash in autumn. Broccoli and berries in summer.
2. Go to a farmers’ market
Depending on where you live, you may or may not save money at a farmers’ market during regular hours. Consider going to the market at the end of the day, when you’re more likely to get good deals.
Go to the public/farmers’ market an hour before closing and you’ll be able to get great discounts. This is because vendors want to sell off as much as possible before the end of the day.
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3. Broaden your culinary horizons
Cuisines like those from Mexico, Asia, and India use a variety of cheaper ingredients, like beans and noodles. Rice is also an inexpensive staple in these culinary traditions. If you like Mexican food, you can make burritos stuffed with whatever you’d like. Or you can make a version without a tortilla. It’s plentiful and has a lot of protein and fiber.
Think about checking out local ethnic markets. Not only are you likely to find a bargain on certain products, you’re also likely to find really interesting ingredients. You can buy a variety of noodles for little money in an Asian market. The same can be said for condiments/sauces for Asian food. Ethnic supermarkets (Chinese, Greek, Lebanese, etc.) are a great source of interesting ingredients that are a good value for money.
4. Buy cheaper cuts of meat
You can still enjoy meat, even on a low budget. Look for inexpensive cuts of meat, like chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. Learn to appreciate cheaper cuts. Organs and cuts of meat that come with bone, as well as the tougher ones are all very cheap, nutritious, and delicious! Conversely, chicken breast without skin and bones are expensive.
Look for cuts like lamb neck fillets, pork belly and cheeks, pork and veal hock, chicken liver and gizzards, whole chickens that provide plenty of leftovers, etc.
Keep the fillets and salmon for special occasions. Buy eggs, milk, buttermilk, tuna, veal liver, and cottage cheese.
5. Buy beans and whole grains
Beans and whole grains are an inexpensive and delicious way to stretch your meals and can even be a meal by themselves. Black beans are ideal for eating with a serving of meat. Mix cooked black beans with ground beef and make hamburgers.
Buy a package of wheat berries, cook and freeze them in individual portions to add to soups or salads when needed. What’s more, whole grains will keep you feeling full for longer.
6. Buy in bulk
Buy in bulk, especially when items are on sale. Food like pasta, rice, and oatmeal are easy to store. If they’re on sale, buy everything you can and store them.
Sometimes you can get free shipping and discounts for buying in bulk. You can order 4 months’ worth for you, your family, and your friends, and split the cost. Grocery stores often lower prices up to 70% when food is close to expiring. Buy several pounds and keep them in your freezer.
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7. Reuse leftovers
If you don’t like eating the same food over and over, consider using your leftovers to make a new and delicious meal. Ingredients from a meal can later be used in a sandwich (chicken, meatballs, meatloaf, pork, etc.). When whole chickens are on sale, buy two and cook both. Make roasted chicken the first night and you can then make soup, chicken pot pie, fried rice, sandwiches, etc. You’ll have so many options with a couple of prepared chickens.
8. Keep your refrigerator and pantry organized
Leftovers are always great but are completely useless if they just get lost in the back of your refrigerator. Label them and keep your refrigerator organized to keep food waste to a minimum.
Use adhesive tape and permanent marker to write the name and date of the food. Store and freeze food in quantities you’re likely to use, like two chicken pieces and individually wrapped hamburgers. When freezing food, it’s important to check your freezer regularly and eat what you’ve stored.