Healthy Eating on a Budget: Is It Possible? 8 October 2013

A few weeks ago, I posted the discussion question, “Healthy Eating on a Budget: Is it possible?” to my on-line weight loss class students at a local community college. Who better to ask than college students living paycheck to paycheck?

Even though the students concluded that healthy eating on a budget is possible, a lifestyle change and planning are required.

How To Eat Healthy on a Budget

Step One: Consult Your Calendar.

The activities that you plan each week dictate the types of meals you will be cooking.

Step Two: Print and fill out this Meal Planning and Grocery List Chart

Decide what time you want to eat and work backwards. For example, if I want to eat at 6:30, but I am the 5:45 carpool mom for volleyball on Mondays, I prepare an oven meal. Lasagna, with grated carrots mixed into the hamburger tomato sauce, is a family favorite! On Tuesdays, I am the 4:00 carpool mom for dance; I can plan a meal that requires some prep time before eating, such as stir-fry.

On days, when we eat at different times, a big pot of soup served with multi-grain bread with 3 grams of fiber or more per serving is a healthy filling meal.

How to Shop Smart within Each of the Five Food Groups

Remember that healthy foods are available in a variety of ways; fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. Shop the sales and use coupons!

Fruits and Vegetables: Great sources of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber!

  • When items are cheap, buy in bulk and preserve them by canning, drying or freezing. In the fall, I make large quantities of Miriam's Oven Applesauce and freeze individual containers for winter meals.
  • Since frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness for optimal nutrition and ripeness, at $1.00 a bag on sale, you can't go wrong!
  • Yes, salsa is a vegetable and helps make bland food taste better.

Hint from Martha:

Since there are four people in my family, I buy 4 of every fruit and vegetable on sale that week. Since there are different sales each week, I buy a variety. Moderation and variety are keys to healthy eating.

Protein Group: Meats/Beans/Nuts - Great sources of iron!

  • Buy nuts and dried beans in bulk. Remember for weight loss that 1/4 cup of nuts is approximately 200 calories and 1/4 cup of beans is about 50 calories.
  • Buy canned tuna (packed in water), eggs, and frozen fish.

Hint from Martha:

When hamburger or chicken is less than $2.00 per pound, I buy at least 10 pounds and cook it in the oven in my roaster pan with the lid on, for at least 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, until there is no pink and the meat is done. Then, I measure two cups of cooked meat, put it in freezer bags and store in the freezer. Later for a quick meal, such as tacos, chili, burritos, or chicken quesadillas, I just thaw the two cups of cooked meat in the microwave and have a meal ready in less than 15 minutes.

Grains/Cereals: Great sources of B-vitamins and fiber, if whole grain!

Buy bulk multi-grain rice, quinoa, oatmeal, wheat berries, brown rice and whole-grain cereals, which contain 3 or more grams of fiber per serving.

Advantage of Portion Control:

One weight loss student who was focusing on portion control noted, “A box of cereal used to last in my home 3 days tops, but now that I am consuming 3/4 of a cup, not the 1 1/2 cups my bowls hold, I have noticed I do not need to buy cereal as often.”

Dairy and Dairy Alternatives: Good sources of calcium and vitamin D!

Buy large containers of low fat yogurt, 0% fat Greek yogurt or low fat and dip out individual portions!

Happy and Healthy Planning and Shopping

As my students and I can assure you, the more you plan, the easier it will be to make a healthy meal and stick to your food budget. Cook once, then eat two or three times, by freezing planned-overs to prevent impulse fast food meals!

Martha Henze, MS, RD, Traveling Taste Buds, LLC, marthahenze@gmail.com
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Healthy Eating Meal Planning & Diets/"Plan, Shop, Prep, and Cook"

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