Tag Archives: Vegetables

10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

When people are asked why they do not eat healthier foods, a frequent answer is, “Because healthy foods cost a lot more.”  If that is your reason, I encourage you to reconsider because there is no reason to think that way. Many people are eating healthy on a budget.

Yes, some organic produce and other “health foods” can be more expensive; but,  it is not mandatory that you buy organic, etc., in order to eat clean, healthy meals. There are ways to stay on a food budget and still feed your family fresh, healthy foods on a regular basis.

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables in-season.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables will be less expensive that those out of season. You can educate yourself through online sources to make decisions about when to buy different types of produce. If you watch the prices in the groceries stores, that will be a fairly good indication, as well. Out of season produce is usually more expensive; don’t buy those.

Buying at your local Farmer’s Market or finding a good store that stocks fresh, local produce like SPROUTS, helps you buy fresh fruits and veggies at the best prices.  When you find good prices, buy in bulk and freeze the excess for later.

In the past year or so, Safeway has been making a huge shift by providing organic and local produce. Just be sure to read the signs and watch the price points.

  1. Plan Meals Ahead

When you plan ahead (preferably a week at a time), grocery shopping becomes much easier. You buy exactly what you need and can avoid impulse buying.  When you are not sure what you are going to prepare, you pick up a lot of random ingredients that you never use – a terrible waste of money and very hard on the budget.  Plan, shop with a list, and stick to it.

  1. Shop the Perimeter of the Market
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by monkey_business

It is not necessary to buy a lot of fancy foods with exotic names just to eat healthy. The majority of the food you need will be around the perimeter of the market, so limit your time in the middle aisles – go there for specific items and leave quickly.

When you are on a budget, start by making a list of the most basic items you need, such as lean protein, produce, and whole grains. The rest of the food is only chosen, based on what you need for your planned meals or on occasion when you have a little extra money.

  1. DO NOT BUY Processed Foods

Processed foods may seem less expensive, but in reality, you get much less food for your dollars, it has been stripped of nutrients, and it is filled with additives.

For example:  think about the price for a box of instant brown rice, which is good for one meal, compared to a big bag of uncooked brown rice and the number of meals you would serve from the bag.  Yes, it does take a little more time to soak and cook the rice yourself, but you get a lot more for your money, more nutrient-rich food and no harmful additives.

  1. Learn to Cook with Inexpensive Protein Sources

Protein is a vital component of a healthy diet, but that does not mean you have to eat a large serving of meat at every meal.  There are a number of protein sources that are less expensive and good for your body.

For fish, instead of always serving salmon, try tilapia, tuna, or mackerel – all much lower in cost.  Chicken breast, hard cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are also low-cost protein options.

  1. Buy Grains and Beans in Bulk

The American way of life has become so dependent on prepared foods that what I am going to suggest may seem like a real stretch for some.  But, if you are living on a strict budget and want to eat better, try the following . . .

Instead of buying refried beans from a can, buy pinto beans in the bag, soak them, cook them, and add spices as needed. You can buy many grains and other legumes in bulk, which allows you prepare many meals for just a few dollars – and it is real, unadulterated food – so nice!

  1. Be Creative with Leftovers

In addition to lower cost, another reason for buying in bulk is that it saves time.  You can cook larger portions for each meal, and use the leftovers to prepare additional healthy meals.

Instead of buying a small package of two chicken breasts, buy a package of 8-10 chicken breasts and bake them all at the same time. Use two or three for dinner, use two more for chicken sandwiches the next day for lunch, and another one or two the following day for a chicken casserole.  If there are any left, freeze and use for other meals. One package could give you dinner for a week or longer, depending on the size of your family and types of meals you prepare.

  1. Organize Your Pantry and Fridge
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by olesiabilkei

This may seem like a silly tip, but when you pantry and fridge are organized, you can see what you have and use items in a timely manner. It also prevents you from buying duplicate items that you do not need.  Food waste is a major factor in overspending on groceries.

You may have fruit and vegetables in the crisper drawer that are still good but you forgot you had them; or meat in the back of the freezer that could create a nice meal. Keeping your kitchen organized will help you stay within your budget.

Another tip closely related to this, is to always check your pantry and fridge for items on your grocery list before you go shopping.

  1. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Are Acceptable Alternatives

There is nothing wrong with quick frozen produce. It is extremely convenient, saves money and also helps eliminate waste – because it doesn’t go bad as quickly as fresh produce – and it is great when you are in a hurry. Just be sure that you are buying frozen produce that has NOTHING added – including sugar and salt – pure fruits and veggies.

You can buy these year round – seasons do not affect the price and you can use partial packages and save the rest for latter.  So, when the items that your family enjoys are on sale – or specials – stock up.

Freezers should be set at 0° or colder. Eating frozen foods past suggested deadlines is not dangerous as long as the temperature has been stable, but flavors and textures will begin to deteriorate.

  1. Try Off-Brands

You do not have to buy brand names to eat healthy.  Learn to read labels and buy foods with no additives, salt, or sugar.  Buy a small amount and test them for taste, texture, etc. If they work for you and meet the “clean” criteria, there is no reason not to stick with the new lesser-known brand.

There are specific “organic” brands, but there are also generic brands offering the same nutritious ingredients. The main key is to ALWAYS read labels!

Food manufacturers play games with labels – and have no qualms about misleading the public. It is up to you to make sure you are eating the kinds of foods you want – that are good for your family’s health.

You and your family can start eating healthy on a budget today. It takes a little planning, but it can be done – and well worth the effort.

I challenge you to take care of yourself and your family by changing the way you think about food and healthy eating. 

Add More Veggies to Your Meals

Healthy Veggie Basket
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It is a well-known fact that almost everyone should add more veggies to their meals. In fact, the recommended amount is  four to six servings (½ cup each) of vegetables every day.  Many people continuously fall short of that amount.

Veggies are low in fat (and calories) and filled with nutrients – especially vitamins and minerals. They also contain antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant stress, disease and cancer by boosting immunity. All of which helps the human body stay fit and disease free.

If vegetables have never been your family’s favorite foods, eating enough of them can be a problem. One solution is to learn how to incorporate vegetables in attractive and delicious ways into your meals.

Since many people avoid vegetables completely, trying to eat two to three cups of vegetables each day may seem impossible.   But . . . it does not have to be!

Ideas to Make It Easier

Below are some ideas that you can use to successfully incorporate more vegetables into your diet. They will also increase the daily nutrients that you and your family need

  • Casseroles

Adding diced or chopped veggies to casseroles add color, flavor, and texture to the dish without being obvious. You can start with one or two vegetables in small amounts and gradually increase them over time. For example, adding chopped broccoli, diced onions and tomatoes to a chicken and rice casserole offers a delicious blend of flavors and is usually eaten with great gusto.

  • Salads

Salads are the perfect accompaniment to meals such as pizza, lasagna, hot dogs, hamburgers and a variety of oth

Diced Fresh Vegetables
Image by Clare Brosman

er dishes.  Make it a fun adventure by allowing each person to create his/her own salad. Serve a big bowl of fresh crisp greens and bowls of extras that can be added:  tomatoes, avocados, diced onions, grated cheese, feta cheese, diced bell pepper, sliced bananas, sliced beets, chopped eggs, bacon pieces, etc.  Offer a variety of dressings including some “light” dressing for fewer calories.  You may want to encourage them to experiment with dressing combinations such as Ranch and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

  • Stir fry

This is a great way to serve vegetables and will be enjoyed by almost everyone. Use mostly vegetables that are cut (diced) in small pieces.  Some good basics are: onions, garlic and diced chicken, shrimp or lean beef. Serve the stir fry alone or over steamed brown Basmati rice. Add soy sauce or teriyaki for a more authentic Asian flavor.

  • Sauces

Spaghetti or lasagna sauce is a perfect place to add vegetables. Either make your own (preferred) or buy a good brand (Newman’s Own™) of plain sauce (with herbs or cheese). Then, add a mix of finely diced onions, zucchini, tomatoes and even finely sliced or diced carrots. It gives your sauce extra flavor and also increases the vegetable servings.

  • Veggie Snacks

Fresh raw vegetables provide excellent nutritional value. For snacks, serve strips of carrot, jicama, zucchini, celery, and bell pepper, plus broccoli and cauliflower florets and chunks of tomatoes with a ranch dip, guacamole, or hummus.  Carrots and celery are often a welcome treat when spread with peanut or almond butter

  • Kebabs

If you enjoy outdoor grilling, learn to make kebabs, made by alternating chunks of lean meat with vegetables on grilling skewers. They can be cooked on a grill or broiled in your oven. Serve with a dipping sauce and steamed rice for a healthy light meal – perfect for spring and summer evenings.

  • Soup

You can hide a world of good food (vegetables) in a pot of soup. The traditional favorite, chicken soup, can be made using your favorite recipe and adding diced veggies to increase the nutrient value.

Minestrone is another excellent vegetable disguise that you should make occasionally.  Or, make cream of broccoli or squash soup – a creamy puréed soup that is so good, the vegetable factor is a non-issue.

NOTE: Regardless of the soup recipe you choose for this purpose, the notorious “bad guys from the world of vegetables” are not recognized as such. There is no one particular flavor that dominates the soup – all the flavors meld into one.

  • Wraps

Rolling up your vegetables in wraps is a great way to disguise them. Use flavored or plain whole wheat flour tortillas that allow you to serve your family’s favorite protein such as turkey, ham or beef together with peppers, lettuce, asparagus, tomato, avocado, spinach, onions, etc. These can also be grilled with a little butter on a hot pancake grill or heavy frying pan. The potential combinations are endless.

You can also create simple veggie wraps loaded with fresh veggies, finished with olive oil, salad dressing, or mustard. Try flattening, stuffing and rolling chicken breasts, boneless fish fillets or even fillets of beef with veggies and cheese for a surprise dinner. Insert spinach, tomato and/or roasted red peppers and onions combined with a small amount of feta, blue cheese, or mozzarella to enhance flavor.

  • Vegetable Buffet

There is a good chance that there are various vegetable preferences (and dislikes) among the members of your family – but everyone can benefit from the nutrients in any or all of them. It can be very effective to serve a vegetable buffet where you prepare three to five vegetables separately – incorporating seasonings such as garlic, rosemary, and thyme along with olive oil or a small amount of salt and pepper to spice them up.

It is a good idea to prepare them in different ways – experiment with steaming, grilling, sautéing, and/or roasting – each method offers its own particular flair to the taste.

For example . . . Grilled asparagus topped with melted butter seasoned with minced fresh garlic; green beans with sliced almonds tossed in Italian dressing; roasted squash pieces marinated in salad dressing and topped with Parmesan cheese; or sweet potato fries are all great ways to make veggies tasty and interesting.

Allow family members to spoon up their personal choices. The buffet makes vegetables more fun and gives each person control over what he/she chooses to eat. These two things together make healthy eating so much more fun and delicious.

Find Your Favorites

These are only a few of the many ways to successfully add vegetables to your meals.  Experiment with new and unique seasonal finds, plus try different forms of cooking them, and use a wide variety of seasonings and disguises.

Getting your family to eat more vegetables – without a struggle – can be your personal cooking challenge. Using the suggestions listed in this article is so much better than trying to coerce family members to “eat their vegetables.”

It is likely that your family will try the new “forms” of vegetables far more frequently and willingly than they have in the past.

We would love to hear how you do when you try some of our suggestions. 

*Stevia comes from a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods and has a negligible effect on blood glucose.