Things were tough financially when I was in nursing school. Even though my husband (boyfriend at the time) worked full time and I worked several part time jobs, we were struggling to get by. At the time, we were renting a one bedroom apartment. We were always on the run and our grocery budget was minuscule. There were weeks when we had $10 in our bank account after bills and groceries. We thought we were eating as well as we could for the lack of funds we had. I remember thinking one day that I couldn’t recall the last time I had a fruit or vegetable. We were living off of gummy fruit snacks and cracker sandwiches. That’s when the pounds started to pack on and I started to feel sluggish. I wish I knew then what I know now. There are so many options available for healthy eating at an affordable price.
- You can get a bag of baby carrots for less than a dollar. They come peeled and cut, so all you have to do is enjoy them. You can also get a bunch of celery for super cheap! Cut it up and put it in a reusable container for when you are ready to snack on them. You can pair these both with homemade hummus! We buy our chickpeas from a can (I know, it’s better if you cook them yourself, but I just haven’t carved out the time for that yet) and they are less than 70 cents each. Add the (drained and rinsed) chickpeas to your food processor or blender along with a bit of olive oil and whatever else you would like (garlic, crushed red pepper, diced red peppers, seasonings, lemon juice, dill, jalapeno,…) and blend until smooth. Celery is also great with peanut butter and raisins. Yes, I said it, I love ants on a log.
- Bananas are a super cheap, yet delicious, fruit. You can eat them plain, make ice cream, put peanut butter on them, or bake with them. When we notice the bananas in our house are becoming super ripe, we peel them, cut them, put them in a freezer bag (two bananas per bag), and freeze them. When we are in the mood for ice cream, we grab a bag of the bananas and blend them in the food processor until smooth. It tastes just like banana ice cream.
- Frozen vegetables are a great option if you are pressed on time and worried that produce will go bad before you get the chance to eat it. You can get a large bag of frozen vegetables (I love the Asian styled seasoned vegetables) for a reasonable price. I always look at the generic brand’s options for products when available. They are cheaper options that are often similar in taste. You can cook stir fry vegetables with tofu and eat it over rice or add the vegetables to your soup or as a side.
- Popcorn is a delicious snack option that is super cheap! We buy loose kernels and cook them without oil on the stove.
- Only shop for groceries that will last for a few days if possible. This counts especially when talking about produce. Wasted food is wasted money.
- Save scraps of your vegetables in a freezer bag for when you need vegetable broth. You can put the vegetables in a cheesecloth in water and seasoning to make your own broth at home.
- Meal prep your lunches so you don’t end up ordering takeout or going through the drive through. Those costs add up and there aren’t many healthy options available (at least not near me).
- Hearty soups are not only great for the winter, but are affordable and delicious. Include sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, celery, and other vegetables to keep you satiated. Package up leftovers in reusable containers with enough for each meal and take it out during the week. If need be, freeze leftovers and thaw when ready.
- Salads are relatively cheap to make! Buy kale and spinach, add chickpeas, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and any toppings you enjoy. Dip your salad bites into a cup of dressing to use less dressing than pouring it over the top.
- Applesauce is a great sweet snack. You can buy a container of it or small cups. I always buy the unsweetened applesauce that is just apples and, if I want something a little extra, I can add some cinnamon.
There are a million different ways to make your diet a little healthier. All it takes is a little planning and you can maintain a healthy diet while staying within your budget.
Take care of yourself.