In order to eat healthy on a budget, the best place to start is to learn how to cook with healthy ingredients. Those that build health and can heal or alleviate symptoms of allergies or disease.
In this manner, you fill up on foods essential for your well-being and take advantage of their ability to keep you fuller for longer and their cooking versatility. Ultimately you will eat less, eat more healthfully and save money in the long run.
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Not only do the foods and ingredients affect your grocery budget. Meal planning and your meal-prepping techniques have an impact on it too.
Designing or having one created for you should be based on using cheaper ingredients that do not compromise on taste and nutritional value. It must also contain versatile foods for a variety of dishes and must freeze well. If it can be stored in the fridge or pantry, it should not be varieties that perish more quickly than others.
The idea is to make your meal plans robust with as little food waste as possible while maximizing nutritional value.
And this is where smart meal prep techniques come in. Understanding your foods and ingredients first and then using culinary nutrition knowledge to guide your meal-prepping technique is crucial.
It will guide you in choosing the correct prepping technique for the right foods so it lasts as long as possible and has the most nutrition.
It must also save you time and effort, and reduce food spoilage. By going ‘zero food waste’ – because you’ve prepped smartly – you’ll see improvements in your grocery spending month after month. And that’s the key to eat healthy on a budget.
How to eat healthy on a budget?
1. Home cooking helps you eat healthy on a budget
- Learn to cook with nutritional ingredients, it’s cheaper than ordering healthy/vegan take-out.
- Once you get the hang of healthy cooking, you’ll be inspired to experiment with ingredients and have more and more options for your meal plan.
- By eating this way you can save on travel costs to restaurants and service costs.
Rather tip the cook in your kitchen!
2. It’s cheaper to eat leftovers for work lunch
- When cooking yourself, it’s easy to scale your recipes to include a little extra for leftovers.
- These are perfect for work lunches be it at home or the office.
- Why spend your hard-earned money on a brand-new meal during lunch hours?
You will save lots here!
3. Use canned foods – think canned tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and beans
- When pressed for time and trying to save money, there has to be room for flexibility.
- Canned foods are not entirely unhealthy. Some of the juices left in the can are full of nutrients.
- One great example is canned chickpeas. The drained liquid can be made into ‘Aquafaba’. It’s an egg white replacement made from this liquid once whipped. Use it as a vegan option to meringue any batter.
Transform your baking into healthy Patisserie!
4. Grow your healthy food – indoor and balcony gardens count too!
- If you love gardening and plant life, you’ll love growing your food.
- Urban homesteading is seeing a steady uptick and we don’t need to ask why. How convenient to have your favorite herbs, vegetables, and fruits right in your home?
- It’s an excuse to go organic which is better for your health. And you’re saving so much money by having these foods readily available even on a small scale.
- Once you run out of herbs, you don’t need to buy a whole new punnet. It contributes to food spoilage because you end up with more than required.
- And if it’s only a little extra you need, it’s as easy as picking it straight off the branch.
Don’t run to the store last minute, save on fuel costs by harvesting your food right at home.
5. Use budget-friendly frozen produce
- Frozen foods are not all bad.
- Try frozen fruits, especially for smoothies, it’s a real time-saver.
- Frozen vegetables like chopped onions, stir-fry mixes, peas, and corn are fine to use if you consume them immediately.
- I recommend not meal-prepping with these because you’ll have to defrost first and then cook them. Never refreeze once defrosted – that’s the health & safety standards rule – one that all professional chefs adhere to.
Balance you recipes with fresh and frozen produce, and save some money!
5. Freeze your freshly cooked meal
- Cook your recipes in larger batches and portion them out for the rest of the week.
- You can easily scale your recipes using my Recipe Workflow Sheet.
- Make the recipes you know you eat plenty of. Only make recipes that are firm favorites and are not unhealthy.
- Stick to ingredients that freeze well.
- Use freezer-friendly containers that are silicon and BPA-free instead of plastic freezer bags.
If you can afford to invest in it, you’ll save money on disposable plastic bags every month.
STOP CREATING FOOD WASTE and SAVE MONEY
Have you ever used a chef’s Mise-en-Place? Well you don’t need to go to culinary school to do. I highly recommend you use my FREE version or Recipe Workflow Sheet as it’s also known.
Download it here. It will help you scale your recipe up or down, so you don’t create food waste and most of all, you SAVE MONEY.
6. Buy good quality, cheap seasonal produce
- It’s cheaper to buy fresh produce in the season because they grow abundantly at certain times of the year.
- So, because there is more of it to go around, prices will be lower.
- Take advantage of this by using recipes that contain these foods when they are in season.
7. Replace animal protein with plant-based
- Plant-based protein is cheaper to cook with than animal protein.
- Some, like red lentils, have the equivalent amount of protein to red meat (depending on the portion size). Take advantage of this when your budget is tight or over-extended.
- It’s healthier to eat vegan protein if you have heart disease. It lowers LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) which plays a role in the muscular contraction of blood vessels.
Lentils have the same amount of protein as red meat, so it’s the perfect vegan swap.
Make-ahead meals allow you to eat healthy on a budget
1. Healthy Budget-friendly Soups
- 1 Batch (5 cups worth) will keep in the freezer for 6 days.
- You can make one basic healthy soup base and add nutritional toppings and ingredients, for eg. Beans, Quinoa, toasted Nuts and Seeds, Kale, beetroot, and many more.
- Soup ingredients are cheap and there are amazing food prep hacks that can make fresh produce last longer.
Smart meal prep will save you money and allow you to eat healthy on a budget.
2. Healthy Granola
- It’s perfect for meal prep – 1 batch will last up to a month and the ingredients can be mixed and matched.
- You can use it in gluten-free oats, eat with greek or vegan yogurt, make granola bars or oat bars for breakfast, sprinkle onto smoothie bowls.
Maximise flavours, so you use less and save money!
3. Healthy Smoothie Freezer packs
- Portion your favorite smoothie combination, or portion them out according to nutritional benefits.
- Combine nutritional ingredients in way that promotes gut health, heart health, high fiber or weight loss, etc.
- Vegetables, fruits, superfoods, and adaptogens can be shopped in bulk so that you spread out the portion in a way that suits your budget.
Sometimes you don’t need as much as you think to maximise taste.
Nutritional benefits of eating cheaper, healthy foods
- Start by learning what foods have nutritional content relevant to your needs and that of your family.
- Do you want to stay healthy for fitness, general well-being, or alleviate symptoms of an allergy or disease?
- If it’s all of the above, that’s fine.
- Start by ensuring you’re getting all of the macronutrients in most of your meals ie, Fats, Carbs, and Protein.
- Then work your way down to targeting specific micronutrients that you want to get more of.
Reasons you should eat healthy even if you’re on a budget:
1. You need to get a mood boost
- Include more Omega Fatty Acids. So in this instance, you’ll need to eat more oily fish, nuts, and seeds. Eg. Salmon, Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds and Walnuts.
2. You have an iron deficiency
- You can eat foods that contain more iron.
- Eat foods that have lots of Vitamin C as this helps with iron absorption. Eg. Lentils or Spinach (Iron) and then supplement with Carrots or Kale (Vitamin C).
3. You want to alleviate symptoms
- If you have allergies or chronic inflammation, you can eat foods that help reduce this. Eg. Red/Purple Cabbage is excellent for reducing inflammation.
- Your health needs will be very specific to you, these are just examples.
Benefits of a low-carb, high-fiber, plant-based protein – budget eating plan
I recommend you start with a low-carb, high-fiber, and (mostly) plant-based eating plan.
- Plant-based protein is less costly than animal-based, especially if you opt for a healthier grass-fed or pasture-fed type.
- Experimenting with plant-based is worth the effort. The more options you have in your cooking repertoire, the more flexibility you have to go cheaper.
- Protein snacks also prevent overeating, so you consume less and save.
Here is a list of cheap, low-carb, high-fiber, and plant-based protein-rich foods:
“For optimal health, ensure 50% of your plate consists of RAW food”
- Salad leaves
- Bell Pepper
- Oats (Gluten-free)
- Cooked Cabbage
- Cooked Kale
“Eat two servings of fruit per day to control the intake of natural sugar.”
Apples you can keep in the fridge for a long. Buy small apples – it’s more economical than cutting up a large apple and letting some go to waste. Bananas can also be frozen and used in smoothies and healthy baking.
- Red Lentils
- Chicken Strips
- Tinned Tuna
- Goat’s Cheese
Dairy protein – cheaper and low-fat
- Low-fat or fat-free Yoghurt
- Low-fat or fat-free Cottage Cheese
You can make your own at home.
“Our bodies don’t produce Vitamin D, so ensure you get 15 minutes of sunshine every day. It costs you nothing!”
Spices and Seasoning
- Chilli powder
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Maple Syrup/Stevia
- Black Pepper
- Sea Salt / Rock Salt
- Low sodium Soy sauce / Tamari
Soy Sauce contains Gluten as well as other packaged foods.
Fats and Oils
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Organic (unprocessed) Coconut Oil
- Fresh Lemons
- Filtered Water
- Plant-based milk
Lemon water is cheaper than fruit-flavored water. Plus, it cleanses and detoxes.
When making plant-based milk, use the seed or nut pulp for baking, smoothies, or healthy pancakes.
Get comfortable with meal rotation. Know what your ingredients can do best and how to maximize it in recipes so you can eat healthy on a budget.
You can maintain a healthy eating plan and stay inspired by it, even if your budget is limited.
Given our current financial climate, this applies to most people now anyway, so don’t be shy about maximising everything.
Plan your cooking and eating around zero food waste. Meal prepping smartly is the best strategy for putting this into action.
Lastly, learn healthy cooking at home – instead of buying out or ordering in catered meals – you’ll be empowered in the kitchen and with your finances too.
*cravenutritionalcooking.com does not give medical advice. Where there is reference to it, the phrasing is merely used to illustrate a point or give context to food and cooking for nutrition information. It is not related to a specific condition or to any specific individual. Always consult your healthcare professional for medical and dietetic advice before embarking on any type of eating plan or ingesting nutritional supplements.
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