Naturopathic Kitchen: Healthy Food on a Budget

Hands holding a receipt with a paper bag full of produce in the background

One of the biggest barriers to eating a consistently healthy diet is cost. The knowledge regarding how to prepare whole foods, and making selections that are best for you can also be challenging, often driving people to pre-made foods and takeout. There is a perception that beneficial whole food choices are expensive. To help you out, we are going to share budget-friendly tips for finding nutrient-rich meals. Try these simple ways to improve your diet and save money at the same time.

Eat Less Meat and Dairy

Meat and dairy can be pricey, so an effective way to decrease your grocery bill is to make a commitment to eat less of both. This will look different depending on your individual lifestyle and needs. You may decide to cut out meat completely, only eat meat on certain days of the week, or just implement one or two meals per week that are always vegetarian. Cutting down on meat is a great way to spend less money, and it may also reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. 1 2 Try swapping out your usual meat in meals for tofu, beans, tempeh, or another plant-based protein. Also, consider using animal proteins for flavor instead of as the main attraction. This will help cut down on the quantity needed to prepare a meal.

Shop Seasonally

Produce that is in season tends to be less expensive, plus it tastes better too! When you buy produce that is out of season, you are paying more because those items have been transported from far away since they are not able to grow in your area at that time of year. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are more likely to be abundant and grown locally, which means they will be priced lower and are more environmentally sustainable. Not only that, but produce that is grown out of season and transported a long distance loses a significant amount of its nutritional value and flavor. 3 4 This means that when you choose produce that is grown locally in season, you get more nutrients and taste with a benefit of price.

Quick Seasonal Produce Guide

Spring

Summer

  • Tomato
  • Peppers
  • Melon
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Corn
  • Peach
  • Apricot
  • Plum
  • Blackberry
  • Okra

Fall

If you are not sure if something is in season or not, simply look it up online or in a farmer’s almanac. You can also check labels in the grocery store to see if something was grown locally.

*Note: What is in season may vary by geography.

Plan Your Meals

One of the best ways to save money and eat healthy at the same time is to plan your meals ahead of time and meal prep. Once a week, sit down and write out your meal plan for the week. Think of meals that are nutritionally dense, simple to make, and use in-season produce. Once you have decided on your meals for the week, check your pantry for any ingredients you already have. Then write out all the remaining ingredients, and you have your grocery list for the week! Try to stick to your list and avoid impulse purchases. Shopping intentionally with specific meals in mind means you are less likely to buy anything that will end up going untouched in the fridge and eventually thrown out, which can save a bundle of money.

If you are new to meal planning, start by only planning a few meals a week, and then slowly work your way up to planning all of your meals. With multiple meals in mind, you can also pick a day of the week to chop and dice things at one time that will be needed throughout the week. This can save time and prevent the impulse to eat out—since most of the heavy lifting has been completed.

Freeze Fruits and Vegetables for Later Use

A common problem that contributes to wasting both money and food is letting produce go bad because you had too much and couldn’t get through it all in time. Instead, when you buy a large amount of produce, you can split it up and put half in the freezer for later use. This works well with berries, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, peas, green beans, and fresh herbs. Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables frozen for more than two months may lose some of their nutritional value. 5

Cook in Batches

Cooking large batches of your favorite meals helps you work within a tight budget while still prioritizing nutrition. Try making a big pot of chili, soup, or stew and add lots of high-nutrient ingredients like beans, leafy greens, broccoli, and other vegetables. You can enjoy these meals for a few days in a row and freeze some for a quick dinner next time you need one.

It is also helpful to cook versatile ingredients like grains, root vegetables, and proteins in bulk and then use them in different ways throughout the week. For example, you might roast a whole pan of yams for a side dish one day, add some to a wrap the next, and then toss the last few into a soup later in the week.

Even though healthy eating on a budget may seem daunting at first, it is very achievable when you follow these simple steps. For even more advice on how to create a budget-friendly healthy eating plan, speak to a naturopathic doctor about your dietary needs, lifestyle, and health goals.

 

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