Healthy Eating on a Budget 101

21 02 2014

There is a common thought that eating healthy food costs too much money. It always surprises me that people eat out every day for lunch, and yet tell me that fruits and vegetables are too expensive. I think that

Cathy Shaw

Cathy Shaw

equation is a bit unbalanced, don’t you?

The truth is, eating healthfully CAN fit into your budget, it just takes a little thought and planning (something that people often don’t like to do!). Many people think healthy food consists of only fresh fruits and vegetables, grains that you buy at the “health food store”, tofu, and soy milk. The fact of the matter is, you can find healthy choices in almost every aisle of your local grocery store.

Here are some tips to keep your body and your wallet happy and full:

Plan ahead:

  • Look through sale ads for your favorite store in the paper and on line. Plan meals and recipes around good sales on lean meats, produce, whole grains and dairy.
  • Look for deals on common healthy staples like low sodium broths, beans, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats, barley, canned vegetables without added salt and canned fruits without added sugar. These are shelf stable, so a deal on price can go a long way.
  • When buying meat on sale, separate into 1-2lb portions (depending on the size of your family) and freeze for future meals.
  • Check sales on frozen foods as well. Frozen vegetables without added sauces and fruit without added sugars are great for meals and recipes. They are easy to prep, and will keep a long time in the freezer.
  • Shop in season. Vegetables and fruits are always cheaper and taste better when they are in season.
    • Fall/winter: Look for broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, beets, brussel sprouts , celery, kale, endive, potatoes and winter squash. Also look for apples, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, pears and kiwi.
    • Spring/summer: Look for asparagus, artichokes, peas, green beans, corn, tomatoes, squash, sweet onions and peppers. Also look for cherries, berries (strawberries, black berries, blueberries, raspberries), peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon.
  • Always use a shopping list and stick to it! Don’t let end cap displays derail your mission. These are strategically placed to entice you to buy extra things you don’t need.
  • Don’t shop hungry! You are more likely to impulse-buy and overspend.
  • Look around. Grocery stores place all of their top sellers at eye level, and these are not necessarily healthy choices. Look up and down on the shelving. You may find healthier items that are less expensive.
  • Clip coupons, but only for foods you will actually need. A big coupon discount on 4 boxes of cake mix is not a good idea.
  • Avoid check out impulses. These increase your costs and are usually items loaded with sugar, salt and fat- things your waistline and your wallet don’t need.

So the next time you head out to the grocery store, remember you are on a healthy, budget friendly mission! Good luck!

Pick up the budget worthy items for this recipe this weekend:

Mexican Chicken Skillet

Makes 8 servings

Time: 15 minutes prep; total 30 minutes


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5oz each)

1 can (15oz) reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cans (15oz each) no salt added whole kernel corn, drained

1 jar salsa (16oz), any heat you like

1c chopped onion

1c chopped bell pepper

1tsp olive oil

4c instant brown rice

3c water


Cut chicken into bite size chunks. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and stir fry until starting to get tender (about 2 min). Add chicken to skillet and cook until no longer pink. Add beans,corn and 12oz of the salsa. Cook until heated through and chicken is completely done.

While chicken dish is cooking, measure out 3c water and 4oz of salsa into a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add 4 cups instant brown rice to boiling water and stir. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed and then fluff with a fork.

Serve chicken dish over 2/3c of the rice mixture. May sprinkle with shredded 2% milk cheddar cheese and top with fat free sour cream.

Nutrition facts and cost per serving:

357 calories, 57g carbohydrate, 7.5g fat, 23g protein, 600mg sodium

Cost per serving:  $1.26 (when chicken bought on sale and using store brands)




2 responses

21 02 2014
Cindy Gay

Nice job Cathy! Eating smaller portions, on smaller plates helps the budget too!

21 02 2014

You are right about that Cindy!

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