Eating on a Budget

People always tell me that eating healthy is “just too expensive”.  Now, I will not argue the fact that healthy foods are not cheap.  This is a huge issue and something that needs to be dealt with on a large scale, but how we get there, I just do not know!  When an organic bell pepper is $3 for a single pepper and ramen noodles are ten for a dollar, I understand where the decision gets hard if your bank account is getting low. 

It seems like food is often the line item in the budget that gets cut first.  Which makes me sad… I honestly believe that if we spend money on good food now, we will save money on our healthcare later.  Sometimes that is easier said than done.  What I will say is that if you cut your food budget, but you don’t cut your fancy coffee budget, that may be a part of your problem. If you start to do the math on eating out, it can add up quickly…$10 for your fancy coffee and muffin, probably another $10 at lunch and then I would guess another $10 for dinner.  So, that is $30 per day… and on crappy food.  Also, your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and obesity are all sky rocketing at this point.  What’s my point?  I can feed myself super healthy meals for way less than that on a daily basis.

Yes, good food is expensive, but there are ways to get creative.  Organic is nice, but if you can’t afford it, conventional is probably still better than McDonalds!  Stop making excuses and challenge yourself to find healthy options within your budget! 

Here is a good place to start.  Here are 3 budget friendly, healthy meal ideas.  I’ve broken down the costs and given some examples of organic vs conventional as well. 

 Meal 1: Taco bowls

  • Ground beef (1lb)
  • Just brown the beef in a skillet.  There are some really easy “taco seasoning” recipes out there you can make at home!
  • Pico de gallo
    • Store bought is about $5 for 16oz
  • Rice
    • Organic white rice- $4 per 32oz = lots of leftovers
      • You can cook in a saucepan or if you have a rice maker or instapot, those work great!
  • You can also do cauliflower rice, but fair warning, this will be more expensive.
  • Guacamole
    • This is a tough one. Avocados can be expensive!   If you can time it right and get them at Costco (they still take about 4-5 days to ripen after I buy mine), I pay about $7 for a big bag of them (6).  Let’s say for this recipe you would be using 2 avocados ($2.30) to make some guacamole.
      • Mash your avocados with salt, pepper, lime juice, and garlic powder for some quick and tasty guacamole. 
  • Black beans (1 can)
    • Watch for unwanted added ingredients here- roughly $2 for organic beans.
  • Corn (1 can)
    • Watch for unwanted added ingredients here- roughly $2 for organic corn.

All you have to do is add all of these items to a bowl…and this meal comes in right under $21!  And you can easily get 4 meals out of this- so roughly $5 per meal.  And with this one, you have a lot of left-over rice and avocados for the rest of the week! 

Meal #2- Chicken w/ veggie side and sweet potato wedges

*one of my all time favorite go-to meals

Whole fryer chicken or pre-cooked rotisserie chicken

  • I buy the whole “young” chickens at Costco- the organic ones are about $10 for a 4-5lb bird. 
    • You can easily get 4 meals out of this.
  • Easily cook this bird by brushing with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and roast until it reaches temperature.

Roasted sweet potato wedges (3lbs)

  • At my local store they are $2.69/lb for organic- the conventional are about a dollar cheaper. Total for 3lbs would be roughly $8 if you go organic.
    • Meant to be a side for all 4 meals.
  • Cut sweet potatoes in to wedges and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 425 for 20 minutes or until they are cooked to your liking!

Sauteed Kale (1 bunch)

  • $2.49 for the organic stuff.
    • This will make a side for 2 meals.
  • Cut up and sautee in pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add some red wine vinegar at the end for some extra flavor.

Roasted or steamed broccoli (1 bunch)

  • $3/lb for organic.
    • This will make a side for 2 meals.
  • Easily steam the broccoli and serve with salt and pepper OR toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 375 for about 15 minutes.

Adding all of that up is a little less than $25 (depending on how much your broccoli weighs😊… but remember that is for all organic.  You could probably shave $5 easily if you wanted to get all conventional.  Organic per meal cost = roughly $6.25.  Conventional per meal cost = roughly $5. 

Meal #3 “Spaghetti” with meat sauce

  • Ground beef or ground turkey (1lb)
    • I get an organic grass-fed ground beef for $5.50/lb.  I imagine you could find ground turkey for a similar price.
  • Tomato sauce
    • Make sure you watch the ingredients here!  1 large, organic jar = $4.79
  • Zoodles, spaghetti squash or gluten free pasta
    • The price will vary depending on what you choose- I get a huge bag of zucchini and squash for about $7 at Costco.  Gluten free pasta is $4 for a bag.  Spaghetti squash is $1.59/lb, but those suckers are heavy, so let’s say it’s a 5lb squash = roughly $8. 
  • Side salad
    • Bin of organic mixed greens = $4
    • Pint of cherry tomatoes =  $3
    • 1 Cucumber = $1

I still have a soft spot for comfort foods, and you just can’t go wrong with some spaghetti and meat sauce!  Adding a salad gets in some good vitamins and minerals as well.  This meal comes in at about $22- obviously, this will vary based on what you choose to make your noodles from.  You can also add things like mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, etc to your sauce to add some extra veggies. This meal is little less than $6 per meal if you plan on 4 meals out of it…still not to bad!

There you have it- a few budget friendly meals, that will feed you for a good portion of the week.  I know that eating well can definitely be expensive, especially if you did not plan ahead, but for the most part, with a little bit of planning ahead, you can eat well on a budget.  You may have to get creative and put a little bit of thought in to it, but it is very doable, and so worth your time!

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