If you have a weight problem or a chronic disease like diabetes, you may feel overwhelmed with trying to eat healthy while managing your time and money. Many convenience foods are high in sugar, sodium, or fat. However new shopping habits can pave the way toward a healthier life.
Plan ahead. Make a shopping list. Decide what meals you will make through the week with an eye toward your health needs – low sodium or sugar, low calorie. Check your pantry and refrigerator to maximize what you already have. Eating protein or other healthy food before you shop helps to avoid temptation.
Shop in season. Shopping in season and in combination with store sales will help you eat healthily. Fresh fruits in the summer are delicious but some are expensive in the winter. Also, be willing to swap for similar ingredients that are on sale. If you go in with chicken on your list but the ground turkey is on sale, it may be a worthy switch.
Buy frozen and canned produce. Frozen and canned produce can be purchased year-round and is a convenient way to eat healthily. When eating canned fruit and vegetables it’s advisable to rinse them first, to avoid added sugar and sodium.
Buy and cook in bulk. Buy non-perishable and commonly used items in bulk. When possible, cook more than you need immediately to save time and energy. For instance, you can wash and chop vegetables to cover multiple meals. If you’re making a side of brown rice, you can make extra servings for the next few days. This way you have quick options to eat healthy when time is short.
Avoid store marketing. Grocery stores often put higher-priced items in high traffic areas, when there are lower-cost options deeper in the store. When shopping in the aisles, look up and down. Stores often put the higher-priced options at eye level. Avoid temptation from cleverly placed displays that offer desserts and indulgences, not on your list.
Minimize waste. Ensure that you’re storing perishables to maximize their shelf life. For example, spinach and other fresh greens do best in a dry environment. Putting a paper towel in the container can extend the freshness. Lots of produce can be re-grown using scraps and seeds. Freeze food before it goes bad, to be incorporated into recipes later on. Serve smaller portions to help with calorie control, then enjoy the leftover food at another meal.
With just a little forethought, you can eat healthily and keep your food budget healthy too.
- Budget Bytes is an online blog that offers countless recipes for those on a budget. You can search the recipes based on ingredients or dietary restrictions. They also publish recipes for every mealtime. This is a great resource with shopping staples, videos, meal plans, and everything you need to start cooking healthy meals. Budget Bytes – Delicious Recipes Designed for Small Budgets
- Good and Cheap is a recipe book designed to maintain a $4 a day budget. The recipes are healthy, delicious, and simple. https://books.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a guide that helps determine what produce is in season. https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide
- The American Diabetes Association has lots of recipes available. This online recipe book has lots of tasty and low cost options that are especially good for diabetics. healthy-tasty-recipe_sampler.pdf (diabetes.org)
Ross, T. A., & Geil, P. (2010). Healthy eating on a lean budget: diabetes meals for less. Diabetes Spectrum, 23(2), 120+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A238749053/ITOF?u=wilm99594&sid=ITOF&xid=02aeb21c