How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

The Tuesday 10

It can be frustrating to stick with a healthy diet when factors like cost and kids enter into the equation. Junior Apple Kathy Lee faces a challenge many moms are familiar with: how do you provide kid-friendly fare that is both nutritious and inexpensive?

10. Switch snacks to veggies

A large part of your grocery bill can be eliminated by avoiding the processed snacks and treats kids love. Parents know that Pop Tarts and Gushers are unhealthy, but there are plenty of seemingly healthy snacks – things that promise nutrition like “nutri-grain” crackers and “vitamin-enriched” gummy treats – that really rack up the total bill. The truth is, most of these processed “healthy” items are no better than candy, so as a parent, you don’t have to feel guilty for steering clear of them and heading for carrot sticks, apple slices and celery instead. An entire bag of fresh apples costs less than a single box of crackers, and is much healthier. Make the switch from boxed snacks to fruit and vegetables.

9. Eliminate soda, sports drinks and juice

These items are expensive and unhealthy (though they almost always carry tricky health claims). Many moms are tempted to buy juice – and 100% real juice is often the most expensive of all. But even “real” juice is really just sugar water. Have the kids drink water instead. They can have juice when they go to Grandma’s.

8. Going organic?

We all think of organic food as being more healthy – and generally, that’s true. But organic products are also much more pricey. Mark recommends making a choice to save yourself cash. While organic produce is a nice idea, it’s not the end of the world if you buy the regular tomatoes. Animal products like meat and cheese, however, are better when they’re organic. If you are going to spend a little extra money, spend it on the organic animal products and don’t worry about the lettuce. If you can’t afford organic foods, look for food that is at least produced in-state. Or, try to find out if there are local farms or butchers (bonus: they are often less expensive, too!).

7. Freeze!

Frozen berries, vegetables and meats are generally much cheaper than fresh foods, and the irony is that many times, these frozen items are actually “fresher” than the fresh stuff! At least one frozen vegetable is always on sale, and they tend to rotate, so your family can eat healthy and enjoy a nice variety for just a few bucks a day! Cooking for a family day in, day out can get tiresome, so whipping up nightly stir-fries or stews with varying veggies is a simple, cheap way to keep things healthy and interesting.

6. Watch the sales

Even that expensive European salad blend goes on sale at some point. Grocery stores tend to rotate the sales on spinach, romaine and other lettuce blends. Why pay 4 dollars for a bag of mesclun when you can get 2 bags of spinach for 5 bucks? Just keep an eye on the sales, and be sure to eat the greens within a few days so you’re staying fresh.

5. Avoid the middle aisles

Anything found in the middle aisles of the market – from crackers to cookies to cereal – is generally processed and unhealthy, not to mention outrageously expensive. The trick to watch for is the marketing: you’ll see “nutri-grain” and “whole grain” and “reduces heart disease” plastered on many sugary products. Don’t fall for the hype. Save your health and your bank account by sticking to the frozen and fresh sections as much as possible.

4. Check out the farmer’s market

Many towns have farmer’s markets on Saturday or Sunday, where you can purchase fresh, local produce for pennies on the dollar. Ask around!

3. Buy bone-in meat

An easy way to save money on chicken, a great lean protein source? Buy bone-in. It’s a little less convenient but will save you quite a bit of change. Tuna fish with oil instead of water is cheaper, and ironically, much healthier than the expensive white version.

2. Buy off-label or store brand

Olive oil, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, peanut butter and other healthy staples are just as healthy in the no-name variety.

1. Give beans a chance

Legumes are an incredibly cheap protein source. Even the pickiest kids love split pea soup and chickpeas on their salads. A typical bag of beans is under a dollar, and makes a perfect base for a soup, stew or vegetable bake. And kids typically enjoy beans.

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