We all know we should eat healthy, but doing so when money is tight can be difficult. Unfortunately, processed junk foods are much cheaper than buying fresh, healthy foods, and that is one of the reasons there is an out-of-control obesity problem in the United States. The good news however, is that it is possible to buy and eat healthy even if you’re on a budget, and it’s not difficult at all. It does take a little extra time in the planning stage, but the time spent is well worth the benefits you receive. Using the Three P’s – Plan, Purchase, Prepare (as brought to you by the United States Department of Agriculture), you can begin eating healthy on a budget.

Plan Ahead

This first step will require the most time as you will plan the meals you want to make for several days at a time and create a shopping list to ensure you remember everything.

  • Using an established budget, plan snacks and meals for at least a week.
  • Use the Internet to find quick, easy recipes.
  • Plan to cook meals that will “stretch” expensive ingredients – casseroles, stews and stir-fry dishes work well.
  • Make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need to prepare all the meals for the week.
  • Look for sales in the newspaper and clip coupons. Go online for additional coupons.
  • Be sure to get a loyalty card for each store if they have one.


Purchase What you Need

In this step, you’ll be using the information you gathered during the planning stage to find the best deals and sales, as well as doing some simple math to determine the most bang for your buck.

  • Eat before you go grocery shopping and make sure you have plenty of time. You tend to make more unhealthy impulse purchases if you’re hungry, and you need plenty of time to figure the best deals.
  • Stick to what you have on your list and avoid aisles that contain nothing on that list.
  • Compare store brands to named brands and buy whichever is cheapest (Here’s a hint: the store brand isn’t always the best price.)
  • Compare unit pricing to make sure you’re getting the best price.
  • When possible, buy in bulk or in family packs, which usually costs much less per unit.
  • Try to stay away from pre-cut foods, or single-serving sizes because these items typically cost more.

Prepare your Meals

This is the fun step: you get to put together all the things you bought into healthy meals the entire family will love. Here are a few ways to make your meals go further.

  • When you have the time, pre-cook what you can and prepare for meals in advance.
  • The freezer is your friend, so double recipes and free meal-sized or individual-sized portions for quick, easy meals later.
  • Beans and peas make great meat substitutes, so opt for a meat-less meal once in a while. Another alternative is to go “no-cook” and eat a salad as a meal.
  • Use leftovers to create more meals.


Image: WikiCommons