Tips for healthy eating on a tight budget

Healthy eating does not need to be a budget-breaking task requiring frequent visits to specialty grocery stores.

  • Sep. 22, 2012 1:00 p.m.

Healthy eating does not need to be a budget-breaking task requiring frequent visits to specialty grocery stores. Say goodbye to expensive trendy products and say hello to these easy-to-follow steps that will keep both your health and your budget in check.

Preparing meals on a budget and shopping successfully requires planning ahead. Making a grocery list will keep you focused on what you need and minimize unnecessary purchases. Grocery stores are set up to trigger you to impulse buy, so it is valuable to identify what you need before you enter the store. A deal isn’t a deal if you don’t need what you buy!

Monitor the different stores in your area and select the place that has the best prices for most of the items on your list. Delay purchasing the remaining, non-essential items on your list until you are at a store with more reasonable prices. It is worthwhile to check online or in the newspaper for specials and coupons because many items have a regular cycle of going on sale.

The kitchen is another place where planning will help you stay within your budget. Prepare a large meal and use  reusable containers to ensure leftovers can become lunches and snacks on the days to follow. Saving leftovers doesn’t mean you need to eat the same meal twice – dinner from the previous night can be an excellent filling in a wrap or topping on a salad. These strategies minimize waste and eliminate the need to eat out and spend extra.

Buying fruits and vegetables when in season is a great way to boost your nutrient intake and slash your grocery bill. For example, a bunch of carrots from your local farmer may be cheaper than a bag of baby carrots that have been pre-chopped, packaged and imported from another country. If your favourite foods only grow during certain seasons, try buying in bulk, and freezing them so you have them on hand year round. Adding seasonal vegetables that you may be unfamiliar with to a recipe may increase the flavour and decrease the price. For example, try using julienne turnip or rutabaga strips in coleslaw.

Sources of protein are often the most expensive component when it comes to meal planning. Seeking out affordable alternatives such as beans and canned fish can satisfy both your appetite and wallet. Along with other important nutrients, beans are packed with the same hunger-fighting, muscle-building protein as your favourite meats. Canned tuna, salmon and sardines are also excellent alternatives These varieties last longer on your shelf than fresh fish, and come with a lower price tag.

-Rose Soneff, Interior Health Community Nutritionist, with Amelia Lyne and Hannah Robinson, UBC Dietetics students.