If you’d like to clean up your diet without spending a fortune, here are six tips you can try.
1. Identify key ingredients:
Let’s talk strategy. By choosing a few main ingredients to use in meals all week long, you’ll save yourself from buying dozens of different things and having inevitable leftovers that go to waste. Plan your meals in advance. Say it’s chicken week: Buy a big bag of chicken breast and use it to make chicken tacos, chicken salad, chicken and veggies etc. You can also bake up a big spaghetti squash, and use that as the base for your lunches and dinners. It’s great hot or chilled. If you can buy your key ingredients in bulk – they’re often less expensive this way, and with your menu laid out, nothing will go to waste. Now that’s a win win!
2. Try the less expensive cuts of meat:
Look for cheaper cuts of meat you love. For example, if you’re into steak, go for lean beef sirloin. Which is less expensive than other cuts. And ground meat tends to be cheaper than cutlets and filets. Try extra-lean ground beef and lean ground turkey. Bone-in pork chops are another smart choice. Also, butchers get the entire animal, so ask them what cuts they have leftover and can sell to you for a good deal. Just check that the meat isn’t too fatty before they wrap it up!
3. Cook up big batches:
If you pick a recipe that makes multiple servings, you can prepare several meals all at once. This will cost you less money than going out and buying the ingredients for a slew of different recipes. And, it saves you a lot of time. (Who doesn’t love that?) Slow cookers are great for this. If you whip up some delicious and healthy slow cooker recipes, you’ll be happy to have the leftovers.
4. Go vegetarian a few days a week:
Save money by ditching the meat! Done right, vegetarian food can be tasty, low in calories, and a fraction of the price of meat-based meals. Just focus on veggies and plant-based proteins, not empty carbs like pasta and pizza! Eating this way a few days a week can be really cost effective.
5. Take home restaurant leftovers:
Restaurants are notorious for serving extra-large portions. You can save cash and calories by turning in your membership card to the clean-your plate club and splitting that meal in two. Before the server even brings out your food, ask that they wrap up half of your entrée. Save it for lunch or dinner the next day. You’re basically getting two meals for the price of one! Genius! And that’s just one of my tips for navigating restaurants
6. Watch for sales on pantry staples:
Grab your supermarket’s circular, and scan it for deals on shelf-stable items that you use regularly. Things we always keep in our pantry. Nonstick spray, old-fashioned oats, pouched tuna, and canned pumpkin, to name a few. Being in the know can save some serious bucks. And having a well stocked pantry will make your regular grocery shopping so much simpler.
For more information on money saving tips for healthy eaters, contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office at 910-592-7161, or email Lethia_Lee@ncsu.edu.
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Lethia Lee is a contributing columnist for The Sampson Independent.