Sure, junk food offers lots of calories for not much money. But you can create your own “happy” meals that are tasty, nutritious, and inexpensive.
Step 1: Start with hot cereal
Start the day with a hot cereal; they’re much cheaper than cold cereals. Oatmeal is a nutritional winner and very inexpensive if you buy a container of plain, old-fashioned oatmeal.
Step 2: Stretch your milk
Stretch your milk dollars by diluting a can of evaporated milk or some powdered milk with water to create whole milk.
Step 3: Stock up on frozen veggies
Stock up on frozen vegetables when they go on sale. Unless your produce was just picked, it’s just as healthy — or even more so — to eat the frozen stuff, which locks in the nutrients.
Canned vegetables are another cheap alternative to fresh, but rinse them before eating because many are loaded with salt.
Step 4: Eat fruits in season
Limit your fruit purchases to whatever is in season, the exception being bananas and apples. The former are relatively inexpensive year-round, and the latter are low in calories, high in fiber, and may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Step 5: Snack happy
Enjoy healthy snacks without spending a fortune by air popping corn kernels and buying nutritious nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts. Buy in bulk.
Step 6: Limit meat consumption
Only eat meat two or three times a week, and make cheap meats as tender and tasty as pricier cuts by marinating them overnight or slow-cooking them in a Crock-Pot.
Step 7: Eat alternative proteins
Make the most of alternative sources of protein, like peanut butter, eggs, chunk light tuna (which is not only the cheapest kind of tuna, but also contains the least mercury), and beans.
Buy bagged beans in bulk — the kind you soak overnight. They’re cheaper and healthier than canned beans, which are high in sodium.
Step 8: Eat brown rice
Eat brown rice. It’s a bit pricier than white, but much better for you and still a nutritional bargain.
Step 9: Indulge in dessert
Indulge in desserts by making them from scratch using nutritious ingredients that you have on hand. Bake your own oatmeal and peanut butter cookies; mash and freeze overripe bananas for “ice cream”; bake bruised apples with a little honey.
Did You Know?
As of 2007, 8.5% of the American household budget went to food eaten at home, down from 19% in 1960.