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,
Have questions or comments about this post? Please feel free to comment on MyNetDiary's Community Forum or Facebook page – We would love to hear from you. And consider visiting our new Pinterest page!

Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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

Related Posts:

This article can be found at