With the obesity epidemic in America rising, it has become clear that the bulk of the problem (no pun intended) has a lot to do with the higher cost of nutritious foods, opposed to the super-cheap cost of fast food and processed foods. We could go around and around the mulberry bush on that subject alone—but if you're low on cash and want to eat well what are your options?
1. Cook for yourself. This is by far the most important piece of the puzzle when learning to eat well on a budget. Eating nutritiously at a restaurant (I'm not counting those fast food or family restaurant chains) will cost you big-time. Learning to cook basics at home will help you save money and calories.
2. Frozen vegetables. These may not be the best choice for the environment, but in times of financial stress, they are great for a family on a budget. Frozen vegetables keep for a very long time, and if stored probably, can even exceed the "best by" date for up to eight months!
3. Skip the ready-made entrees. Anything that has been pre-touched by a chef or manufacturer will be more expensive to buy. That includes everything from a meal at a restaurant to pre-cut lettuce in a bag. Buy raw ingredients and chop or cook them yourself to save cost. Skip those boxed frozen entrees too—they are hiding large amounts of sodium, sugar and fillers.
4. Rice, vegetables, protein. When in doubt—try this tried and true recipe: brown rice with sauteed vegetables and a protein. The easiest and healthiest meal, it'll get you through tight financial times for sure. An easy and inexpensive one to try is rice with sauteed onion, spinach and broccoli with chicken or tofu.
5. Stick to the perimeters of the store. The middle of the grocery store will cost you in nutrition and dollars! The edges hold the good proteins, vegetables, fruits and breads. When you're on a budget, don't feel pressured to buy organic produce, either. We can all agree that organic is best, but a non-organic apple is just as good as an organic apple in nutritional value. Don't feel bad that your shopping list isn't "perfect." Feeding your family with good, nutritious food is the most important thing.
6. Make a plan and stick to it. Creating meal plans and sticking to a list will definitely help you save money. Try to steer past the "ohh, that looks good!" items and keep a forward plan. The government even provides meal plans and sample, easy recipes for families on a budget here.
7. One last tip—sign up for those rewards cards! If you shop at a big-name grocery chain, they most likely provide a rewards system or coupon card. Sign up! You will save tons of money using those cards, plus a lot of the cards have new, additional phone/internet apps that allow customers to load extra coupons onto their personal card. It's worth it!
(Image credits: Andrea Sparacio)