Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Have you ever thought to yourself, “boy, healthy eating is expensive?” While sometimes it may cost a bit more than the processed and less healthy options, with a little planning it doesn’t have to be!
Here are my key tips to eat well while keeping it budget friendly (which I’m sure many of us will appreciate at this time)! 
1. Cook at Home
It’s no secret that preparing more meals at home can help you save on $$$. And since you are likely spending more time at home, now is the perfect time to work on your meal prep skills and get into a routine. 
Start with making a menu for the week to keep you on track. 
2. Make a Weekly Menu

Avoid going in to your week blindly! Set out a time each week to make a menu plan for the week ahead. When you have your meals panned out and options ready, you are much more likely to stick to them (and less likely to resort to take-out or quick/ processed options). 
Map out your breakfast, lunch and dinner meals for the week. Plan to cook 2-3 times, and make sure of the leftovers for the following lunch or dinner meals. Use this menu to guide your grocery shop for the week. 

Tips for making your menu:

  • Try out a digital meal planner template such as THIS ONE.
  • Use a whiteboard meal planner (check out some HERE on Etsy) and put it in your kitchen to keep you organized each week.

3. Mind Your Pantry

When planning your weekly meals, look at the expiry dates of the foods and ingredients you already have on hand. Ever heard the saying “First in, First out”? Use up what you’ve had around for a while, before buying more. Because food waste = wasted money. 
Open your cupboards.. What do you need to use up? Try to make some recipes that use up those foods and ingredients. 

Some examples:  

  • Stale bread: try out this healthy French toast – healthy French toast
  • Veggies close to going bad? Use them up in a frittata 
  • Rice and veggies: use make a buddha bowl – check out this link for a step-by-step guide

For more ideas on using pantry staples, see my previous blog post HERE on the topic: 

4. Make Leftovers Your Friend 

Make extra portions of your meals to have for the next day’s lunch or dinner. Get bored of leftovers? Try combining them in a different way using different spice mixes, condiments and sauces. Chicken and rice can be combined as a burrito bowl with shredded lettuce, chopped peppers & onion, guacamole & cheddar cheese. The same base ingredients (chicken and rice) can be made into a Mediterranean bowl with roasted chickpeas, hummus, & olives. 
5. Don’t Overpay on Groceries

I’d suggest grocery shopping smart if you want to make the most of your budget. 

1-2 times per month: do a pantry / freezer stock up. Go to your budget grocer store and shop for these items where they are likely to cost much less than the premium stores (Loblaws, longos). Stock up on canned proteins like tuna and salmon, dried and canned beans, frozen fruits and vegetables, grains, pasta. Purchase a few plant-based milks if you consume them, they generally keep for a few weeks at a time. No sense in overpaying for the same brand name items if you don’t need to. 

For weekly shops: focus on fresh produce and proteins. For these items, you may choose to go to a higher end supermarket to get better quality. For fruits & veggies, I’d also suggest doing a weekly delivery box to save on money and support your local farmers. Here are some options (that are still serving during these times! )

6. Shop the Flyers

Plan your meals around foods that are on sale. Check store flyers & use this to make your menu and grocery list for the week. Choose fresh foods (like meats, fish, fruits & vegetables) on sale that you will use up for the week before it goes bad. Stock up on pantry staples like canned fish, beans, grains and frozen foods on sale to have to make quick meals in a pinch. 
Get overwhelmed by the flyers? If you are shopping for 1 or 2, I would suggest circling 2 fresh proteins, 1-2 starches (squash, sweet potatoes, plantains and/or a grain), 2-3 each fresh fruits and 4-5 different vegetables for the week ahead. 
7. Have More Meatless Meals

Plant proteins are often cheaper than meats and fish. Beans, lentils and chickpeas can be used to make a one-pot meals and stews. Tofu is a lean protein that can be grilled, baked or stir-fried as a meatless alternative to beef or chicken. Eggs are another great option – try an omelet or fried eggs on a veggie-rice bowl for a quick dinner meal. 
8. Try Frozen 

Frozen vegetables and fruits are often cheaper than fresh, and are just as nutritious as fresh. What’s better is that they do not go bad quickly. Stock up on 3-4 different types of frozen fruits like berries, pomegranates, mango & vegetables like okra, green peas, cauliflower & Brussel sprouts. 

​My favorite uses for frozen fruits & veggies: 

  • Greek yogurt or overnight oats topped with frozen berries, cherries & pomegranate seeds
  • Steaming the veggie mix & dressing with lemon, olive juice, salt & pepper
  • Adding frozen spinach and kale to a smoothie

Screen shot the image below, save it in your phone & share it with a friend!

Which one are you going to implement next week?
​I’m starting with #3!

Blog Written By:
Leigh Merotto
​Food for 6S Registered Dietitian
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