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I try to eat healthy and stay away from anything that comes out from a box as much as possible. Unfortunately, healthy foods tend to cost a lot more where I live. For example, low fat granola breakfast bars are about twice as expensive as the regular ones. I'm just wondering how can I eat healthy and still eat cheaply? – Charlotte, Seattle.

 

10 Ridiculously Cheap and Healthy Foods

 

Hi Charlotte,

Not just food, everything is getting significantly more expensive with inflation. While I totally agree that healthy foods, particularly organic produce, don't come cheap but eating well doesn't have to break the bank. It's possible to create fresh, nutritious meals and eat healthy even on the tightest budget.

One of the best (and most often overlooked) way to spend less money on food is to plan ahead and use what you already have in your pantry.

According to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American family throws away 14% of their food. You may not realize it, but you could be wasting hundreds of dollars on food when you cook too much and forget about leftovers in the refrigerator/freezer, buy too much food and not using it, or not storing them properly.

So before you go grocery shopping again, check your freezer, cupboards, and fridge. Write down the items you need on your grocery list and stick to it. Not only will this help you save money by avoiding costly impulse purchases, but also save you heaps of calories from unplanned eating and drinking.

 

How to Eat Cheap and Healthy?

1. When I think of healthy foods on a low budget, eggs come to mind. I like eggs for their high-quality protein content and it doesn't hurt to enjoy them in any style – poached, boiled, scrambled or fried – and any time of the day.

A poached egg on multigrain toast, or a whole wheat tortilla wrapped around scrambled eggs makes an inexpensive and healthy breakfast that can fill you right up until lunch time.

 

2. If eggs aren't your favorite breakfast item, consider a healthy bowl of oatmeal porridge. Oats are a lot cheaper than most packaged breakfast cereals and they're really good for you. Eating oats regularly offers a wide variety of proven health benefits ranging from lowering high cholesterol levels to weight loss.

Oatmeal made from old-fashioned rolled oats flavored with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg will keep you comfortably full on the cheap. Stir 1-2 tablespoons oats into low fat Greek yogurt for crunch and added nutrition.

 

3. Meat can be a huge expense especially if you've a big family to feed. I'd suggest you look at other non-meat protein sources that are healthy yet easy on a tight food budget, such as dried beans (black beans, chickpeas, navy beans) and dried lentils.

A pound of lentils, for example, costs less than a dollar and you can get almost 10 meals out of it. Lentils are not only jam-packed with protein, iron and fiber, but are also limitlessly versatile and cook quickly without pre-soaking. You can add lentils to all sorts of dishes, from hummus to salads, to casseroles and soups. I love throwing a handful of lentils in stews as they bulk up the meal and make my food dollars really stretch.

 

4. Another cheap and healthy food is tofu. Try adding small soft tofu cubes in chicken broth or vegetable soup to make it a one-dish meal. You can also cut a box of extra firm tofu into quarters, lightly dust both sides with cornstarch and pan-fry in a non-stick skillet until golden brown and crispy. Complete your cheap meal with a mixed salad.

 

5. If going meatless is not the thing for you, you can still have meat but make your meals go further by incorporating more beans and whole grains into meat dishes. For example, add kidney beans to Bolognese sauce, or brown rice or quinoa to chicken salad for more substance.

 

6. Reduce food waste and ease up on your wallet by choosing longer lasting produce such as cabbage, peppers, carrots, broccoli and apples.

Drizzle a bit of rice vinegar and olive oil over shredded cabbage. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and grated ginger for an Asian-inspired summer slaw.

Dip carrot sticks in hummus or low-fat ranch dressing, or apple slices in yogurt next time you want to curl up with a movie and nibble on something crunchy.

 

7. Store brand frozen vegetables and legumes are also a great way to slash your food bills. Frozen edamame is incredibly simple to prepare – steam or roast – and makes a healthy side dish or great low fat movie night snack. A bag of potato chips can't beat that.

 

8. Save all your vegetable cuttings to make your own soup stock for soups, stews and stir-fries. Turn leftover slices of bread into croutons, leftover rotisserie chicken breast can be magically transformed into a nutritious curried chicken salad for lunch. Mix shredded chicken with a little low-fat mayo, a pinch of curry powder, some diced celery and tomatoes.

 

9. Always buy in-season fruits and veggies, and shop at farmers' markets for cheaper local produce. Alternatively, grow your own organic herbs and vegetables to save big on food. Tomatoes and eggplants do well in summer while lettuces, kale as well as mustard greens flourish in winter. Rosemary, thyme, sage and basil can be easily grown in a windowsill garden.

 

10. When it comes to hydrating your body, nothing is cheaper and healthier than water. So swap overpriced lattes and calorie dense carbonated beverages for good old tap water. Consider getting a a water filter pitcher like Brita and Pur.

 

 

 

 

 

By Diane Hanson

 

how can i eat healthy and still eat cheaply

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