Want to eat healthier and save more money? Contrary to popular belief, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. It's possible to make better food choices without spending a fortune; you just have to know where to look.
First things first. Start by cooking more at home, because it hits two birds with one stone. Home cooked meals are both more nutritious and more affordable than getting takeout or eating in restaurants. And according to Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst from DealNews, there are several simple steps you can take to eat (and buy) healthier ingredients when you’re on a budget, too. Here are her top recommendations.
1. Stock up on cheaper protein sources.
In addition to injecting some variety into your diet, cheaper protein sources offer you a chance to be creative with your meals. Yes, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a healthy option—but if you opt for a whole chicken instead, it’s both cheaper and gives you more cuts to work with. You can turn the breasts into a salad, use the thigh meat for a healthy soup, and throw the drumsticks on the grill.
And if you want more than meat, dried beans and lentils are excellent sources of protein and an easy way to bulk up soups and other dishes without spending more. While you’re at it, make eggs part of your regular grocery list. They’re decently versatile, and not just in choosing between scrambled and fried: they make a great addition to salads, healthy snacks and easy dinners, like omelets, frittatas, huevos rancheros or quiche.
2. Buy healthy staples in bulk.
Warehouse clubs are a great way to stock up on canned goods, dry goods and frozen produce — and having a solid stock of shelf-stable items at home means you’ll always have healthy options on hand. “And if you need to buy healthy grains in bulk, stores like Whole Foods and Earth Fare are great options,” explains Ramhold. “Though other items there might be pricy, their bulk bins tend to be comparably priced.” Amazon Prime Pantry is another smart place to go when looking for items in bulk.
3. Meal prep.
Meal planning may seem like one more thing to add to your already-busy schedule, but we promise it makes healthy eating (and eating in general) significantly easier. Start by formulating a menu to turn to during the week — a clear plan of action (shopping list included) makes grocery shopping and cooking at home a lot easier, so you’ll start to rely on fast food and takeout less. Once you’ve gotten into the swing of organizing your meal schedules in advance, you can jump into prepping batches of grains, veggies and protein ahead.
4. Shop at specialty food stores (and aisles).
Many home cooks might think ethnic markets and aisles are just a great place to find ingredients that other stores might not carry, but it goes far beyond that. “Spices can be ridiculously expensive for a small amount, but by buying packages and bottles at specialty food stores, you’ll get way more bang for your buck,” Ramhold says. “They’re also an excellent place to shop for pantry staples in bigger sizes, like rice and beans, and often stock delicious produce at super-affordable prices, like fresh jalapeños, bok choy, cilantro, Thai basil,and more for way less.”
(Real Simple magazine provides smart, realistic solutions to everyday challenges. Online at www.realsimple.com.)
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