Good Nutrition on a Budget

Markus Hagenlocher CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated 2005

It can be tough to maintain a healthy diet of nutritious foods when you are on a tight budget with limited funds.  Food prices fluctuate, but mostly they continue to increase. The good news is that you can still find nutritious foods at cheap prices. The easiest way to cut your food expenses is to eat meals that you prepare at home. Skip the restaurants for dinner and avoid fast food for lunch. You will save money and feel better by cutting out extra fat, sodium and carbohydrates that are typically found in restaurant and fast foods. You will save money when you buy in bulk and avoid buying pre-packaged processed meals.

Dried beans and peas are a healthy, nutritious food that costs less $2 per 16 ounce package. Beans and dried peas are an ideal side dish, a main dish and add flavor to soups, salads and stews. Beans and peas contain an abundant source of protein and fiber. Dry beans and peas will double in size when cooked, so a little goes a long way. Soak dry beans in cold water and cook on low-to-medium heat at a simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. .

Whole grain oats are a superb value and can be used in many different dishes. Oats can be cooked and eaten as a hot breakfast cereal or used as a topping for yogurt. Oats can also be eaten in muffins and low-sugar cookies. One serving of oats costs less than $0.15. Oats provide plenty of protein and fiber, which makes it a perfect heart-healthy food.

Vegetables remain a good buy and are an essential part of a healthy diet. You can save money by purchasing frozen vegetables instead of fresh produce. Frozen corn, green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli and Brussel sprouts are usually available in large and medium-sized bags priced from around $2 to $4 per bag. A 24-ounce bag of frozen vegetables contains about 8 cups of vegetables. Vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, protein, potassium and Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

Rice is a stable food for millions of people around the world. Brown rice is delicious alone or as a side dish. Cook brown rice until tender and use it in soups, casseroles or salads. Brown rice costs less than $0.20 cents per serving and a small bag that contains 10-1/2 cup servings costs less than $2. Brown rice is packed with protein and fiber making it a healthy food choice. Whole wheat pasta costs around $0.25 per serving. Use whole wheat pasta for cold pasta salad dishes or as a main dish. Whole wheat pasta is rich in nutrients and fiber.

Buy in bulk when you can to cut your grocery bill without sacrificing nutrition. If you have the space, grow some vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers and beans can be grown in a small area or in patio containers. Join a community garden where you can grow carrots, corn and potatoes. If you are a city-dweller and don’t have space or there is no community garden in your area, start a community garden. Shop at a farmer’s market for fresh vegetables grown in your area.

For more information about eating better meals for less money, see:

MSNBC, Eat Better for Less Money, 2009

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