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A Registered Dietitian Shares How to Eat Healthier on a Budget

Published Date:

Written by Charlyn Ware, RD

Eating healthy on a budget does not seem to go together – but it can.

The best way to save money on your food bill? Eat out of your freezer and pantry. Most of us have a few things that probably need to be cleaned out anyway. I cleaned my pantry the other day – and found several things I forgot I had.

Start with making a list of what’s in your freezer and pantry, then grab a cookbook or look at recipes on the Internet for inspiration. For example, I have the slow cooker going today with a Thai chicken dish I found in my favorite slow cooker cookbook. I’ll serve the chicken over brown rice. I had chicken thighs in the freezer (or I could have used chicken breasts – the idea is whatever you have on hand), then added some salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, a little soy sauce and ginger. When it’s ready, I’ll sprinkle some peanuts and cilantro. And to keep it healthy, I’ll fix a vegetable, probably broccoli since I have plenty in the freezer, and serve cut-up fruit for dessert.

The key is to know what you have on hand, so you don’t have to run to the store.

Here are a few more tips to get you started:

  1. Start with a plan. Cooking at home (which is what we’re ALL doing now) can translate into big savings and much healthier eating. Before you go shopping, plan your meals for the week, and plan them around what you already have on hand. That way, you’re only buying what you’re going to eat.
  2. Eat what you cook, and try not to overcook. I’ve started using a smaller slow cooker so I don’t have a ton of leftovers.
  3. Look for the digital coupons. These days most stores have an app with weekly digital coupons. It’s the new alternative to clipping coupons. With your freezer cleaned out, you can stock up on frozen vegetables on sale.
  4. Shop in season because produce in season is cheaper. Right now, you can focus on asparagus and oranges. It will be awhile before the price of sweet corn comes down so wait if you can.
  5. Stock up on canned goods, such as peanut butter, tuna, beans and salmon, when they’re on sale, then store them in a cool, dry spot.

Remember the goal is to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein in your diet along with low fat dairy. Plan your meals around those goals and you’ll be eating healthy – and within your budget.

Here’s the recipe for Thai Chicken in the slow cooker:

2 ½ pounds chicken pieces

1 cup hot salsa

¼ cup peanut butter

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

½ cup peanuts chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Hot cooked brown rice

Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce and ginger; pour over chicken.

Cover; cook on LOW 8 to 9 hours or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours. (Chicken should reach 165 with a thermometer). Serve chicken and sauce over rice; sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

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