How to eat healthy on a budget

March 04, 2009

Your child's nutrition still matters in today's struggling economy.

The bad news is that providing a healthy diet for your child requires more planning and creativity during the recession. The good news is that healthy food does not necessarily have to be more expensive. So, even if your bank account is malnourished, your child does not have to be.

One reason many people think healthy items cost more is they associate healthy foods with items that are prepared in advance. Packaged salads and frozen dinners are more expensive because the price includes labor – not because the contents are healthier.

"The key is planning," said Annette Cole, director of Clinical Nutrition. "If you don't plan in advance, that is when you begin straying away from the budget idea and start buying pre-packaged or processed items that are quick fixes. The real trick to eating healthy on a budget is buying food you can make yourself, which also happens to be the key to eating healthy."

Planning saves time

In addition to planning your grocery shopping trips, it is important to plan meals in advance. Making a meal from fresh ingredients requires less time when all the ingredients and recipes are available before preparation time. Cole suggests creating a schedule for the upcoming week's meals and then shopping for the ingredients to those meals on the weekend.

Another way to save time preparing meals is to buy foods that can be multi-purposed. The roasted chicken that you eat with rice and peas one night will yield leftovers that can be used in pasta the following night. Chopped lettuce can be used for a sandwich at lunch and for salad at dinner. 

"No one is perfect," said Cole. "You're not going to be Martha Stewart tomorrow, but if you move in the right direction, it's a start. Eating healthy on a budget involves planning, organizing and thinking it through, but once you develop a system, it does become easier."

Five tips to eating healthy on a budget:

  • Cut coupons.
  • Buy fresh, unprepared foods.
  • Make your own meals.
  • Re-use or freeze leftovers.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in bulk when on sale.