Trying to save money while eating healthy may seem like a Catch-22, especially when it’s the holiday season, but it’s easier than you might think.
With planning, by adding more plant-based options and with a few ideas to stock your fridge, you can cut down on your grocery bill and trips to the store.
Neal Barnard, author of “The Vegan Starter Kit” and founder of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says that eating cheap and healthy food is one of the best things you can do as plant-based foods are both healthy and usually the most affordable.
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Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Atlanta and former employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that once you get comfortable with planning meals and building a regular routine, eating healthy can be affordable.
“Convenience often costs more. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, it just takes a little time and planning,” Moore said.
Barnard suggests shopping in bulk and meal planning to avoid wasting food.
We asked Barnard and Moore to help us compile a few affordable healthy food items to stock your fridge.
Note: Although the term healthy differs from person to person and depends on your specific dietary needs, for the purposes of these recommendations, healthy foods are whole foods that are low in unhealthy fats, packed with vitamins and minerals and offer significant nutritional benefits.
Try these budget-friendly foods:
One serving of rice can cost you as little as 9 cents and is rich with B vitamins and other healthy nutrients, Barnard said. Brown rice can be eaten alone, or you can use it as a base for other foods – get creative with some day-old rice by adding some frozen vegetables and an egg for protein, and now you have fried rice.
A pound of chicken averages $1.28 a pound, and Moore says you can use this as your main protein source for meals. You can shred the chicken for a salad or have it with a side of your brown rice.
Sweet potatoes can go for about a dollar a pound if purchased in bulk, Barnard said. You can use them to make sweet potato fries in the oven, mashed sweet potatoes or even roasted sweet potatoes. Other than being full of beta carotene, which helps fight disease and boost your immune system, sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate and low on the glycemic index, so they won’t spike your blood sugar.
More: 10 great sweet potato recipes
Throw in your brown rice and beans and chop up some vegetables and you have a hearty and healthy sweet potato bowl.
Ground turkey or chicken
Ground turkey can cost as little as $3. Some change per pound, and the options for meals are endless. Add some ground turkey to your sweet potato bowl or make chili, tacos or lettuce wraps.
A bag of dry beans, pinto, black, kidney or even lentils can give you 11 servings for about $1.39 or less. Beans are also very versatile and can be used in making salads, tacos, bean burgers and chili. The legumes are filled with protein and are full of fiber Barnard says.
You can get 13 servings of oats for about $2.50. Oatmeal doesn’t just have to be a breakfast food either; you can make sweet and savory oats. Barnard suggests getting creative by adding different fruits or other toppings and spices.
Fruits and vegetables
Both Moore and Bernard suggest buying fruit and vegetables that are in season, as they will be cheaper than those that aren’t. Picking up frozen fruits and veggies is also a great idea and just as healthy as the nonfrozen kind. Fruits and veggies can be eaten as a snack or added into meals such as oatmeal or burritos to spice them up.