Looking at your budget, monthly bills and unexpected expenses can lead you to find ways to stretch your dollars. Considering one of life’s most basic needs, you may be wondering if it is possible to eat healthily on a budget. The answer is yes, and the results will give you money to put back into more of your family’s needs.
To get started, take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Use this inventory to eliminate buying more of what you already have enough of and create a foundation for meals you can make. As part of your monthly budget, plan out a reasonable amount for food. Plan your meals out at least weekly, including at least three different food groups at each meal.
As you are planning, check out grocery store fliers and websites for weekly sales. Once you have your menu complete, make a shopping list to keep you focused while shopping and eliminate the need for extra trips during the week. When shopping avoids impulse buys, think about the nutritional value and if its something you really need.
Before picking up packaged or canned items, be sure to check out and compare the nutrition facts label to similar products. In addition, look at the unit price, compare nutrition and price to choose the best value for your family. Skip cubed, pre-seasoned or pounded meats, and choose leaner meats in large packages and separate for different meals. Other ways to save include making your own soup, pasta sauce, marinades, and salad dressing. Making your own lets you control the ingredients and can help decrease the salt, fat, and added sugars you are consuming.
Start your day out with oatmeal for heart health, skip single-serve packages and add fresh fruit, nuts, and/or honey to rolled oats. Add leftover veggies to eggs and cheese for a delicious omelet. For lunch, make your tuna salad with fresh spinach, sliced apples, canned tuna in water and 2 tablespoons of mayo or a light vinaigrette. Add shredded cheese on top or a string cheese on the side to contribute to bone health.
For dinner, choose veggies that are in season or frozen veggies with a variety of colors for different health benefits. Cook them with canola oil and your favorite protein source made with a homemade marinade, creating a stir fry. Serve with brown rice for extra fiber, which helps aid your body in digestion. Where you can add beans to your meals, they are low in cost and will provide you iron, fiber and calcium.
Have a taco night with lean ground beef, turkey, or shredded cheese. Pack in the veggies, beans, and cheese for variety and flavor. Instead of buying shredded cheese, buy a block and shred the amount you need. Plan ahead and cook larger meals or soups to freeze into smaller meals, as they are great for lunches or busy nights. Keep your budget and health on track by planning ahead and including variety to make your nutrition a priority.
An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.
Lori Johnson is the UF/IFAS Extension Lake County Family & Consumer Science Agent. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.