How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

With food prices on the rise, that $11.99 Little Caesar’s 3,700-Calorie meal deal is probably looking better and better. After all, for a family of four, a large pizza with Crazy Bread and 2-liter soda costs just $3 per person.

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying pizza on occasion, there is something wrong with the “healthy foods cost too much” logic. Because it’s not entirely true. There are more options than many people realize.

If you’re trying to eat nutritious foods while on a budget, consider some of these strategies.

Choose affordable whole foods.

Despite what some might think, many minimally-processed whole foods cost less than their more processed cousins.

Take the potato. A medium potato costs about a dollar less than small fries. That potato also has a fraction of the calories (161 vs. 220)— and provides more nutrients. The humble potato is just one example of many minimally-processed whole foods that are STILL quite affordable. 

Other nutrient-rich, relatively low-cost all stars include…

Proteins: eggs, whole chicken, tofu, canned fish, flank/tri-tip steak

Smart carbs: bulk brown rice, bulk lentils and beans, potatoes, oats

Veggies: cabbage, carrots, beets, Romaine lettuce, frozen spinach

Fruit: bananas, whole watermelon, in-season apples, oranges, frozen berries

Healthy fats: sunflower seeds, peanuts, extra-virgin olive oil 

Aim for progress, not perfection.

So-called “superfoods” like quinoa can be super pricey.

Brown rice, on the other hand, is about as affordable as it’s ever been, especially if you buy it in bulk. It’s the same with most varieties of beans and lentils.  You don’t have to pick the ‘best’ in each category to improve your nutrition—even a small improvement in food quality can go a long way. Choose what proteins, smart carbs, healthy fats, fruits, and veggies work for your budget, aim for just a little better than where you’re at right now.

Make the most of your freezer.

Save 1 to 2 servings of whatever you cook and place it in the freezer, a.k.a. the “treasure chest.” Think of this as a gift that your current self is giving to your future self. Then, on those busy days when cooking feels impossible, you always have something you can pull from your frozen chest of edible treasures. 

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