Many inexpensive meals can be eaten in fast food restaurants but they do come at a price. These meals are easy and convenient but they are also high in calories, fat and sodium and can contribute to poor health.
Eating healthy does not have to cost more. Staying on a food budget may seem impossible, however, with a little thought and planning it can be done.
Here are some tips to help you prepare low cost, nutritious meals.
• Before grocery shopping create a list and check local food ads online or at the store, and clip coupons.
• Seasonal produce is typically less expensive than non-seasonal and buying foods in bulk can save both time and money.
• You can buy family-sized packages of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables and freeze them for however long you need.
• Convenience foods, like frozen dinners, cost more unless you buy them on sale. So stock up when you can.
• Stock up on important protein-rich foods that stretch your food dollar. These include eggs, peanut butter, canned salmon and tuna, beans and legumes.
• Turkey chili or a hearty bean soup can be prepared on a weekend and eaten during the week.
• Adding a slice of whole grain bread or salad can complete any meal and add an important healthy component.
• Casseroles that include canned salmon or tuna and vegetables can also be nutritious and will feed more for less.
• Eggs or vegetable frittatas can be served for dinner and stir fry meals can be prepared with less chicken, beef or pork when served with vegetables and brown rice.
• Snack foods can also add to the cost of your food bill. Making your own hummus from no-salt-added garbanzo beans, eaten with cut up carrots or celery, or peanut butter crackers can keep costs down.
Eating healthy requires you to make good food choices and develop useful shopping and planning skills. It doesn’t have to mean that it costs more to do so.
For more information, visit www.choosemyplate.gov
Fran Burke, MS, RD, is an Advanced Practice Clinical Dietitian in the Preventive Cardiovascular Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1994 she has specialized in the nutritional management and treatment of lipid disorders in the Preventive Cardiology Program at HUP.