Nutritious Eating on a Budget

As we started to research this important topic, three things seem to always present themselves:

1)      Cook from scratch.

2)      Minimize eating out.

3)      Plan your shopping list and stick to it!

Cook from scratch using real food.

With modern conveniences of microwave burritos and “homemade”-style lasagnas, it’s so easy to fall into the rut of buying food that is already prepared. While it can save some time in the kitchen, it generally doesn’t save calories, sodium, or fat consumed. You don’t really know what types of preservatives are added and you probably don’t want to find out! Fresh food is best as it holds most valuable nutrients. When you cook at home, you’ll use real meat, fresh vegetables, fruits and more. And, you’ll probably cut back on the amount of oil and butter used to make the meal. Also to save money, you can use the bulk section of your grocer for spices, rice, beans and other dry items.

Dine at home.

This means planning a weekly menu. Each week before heading to the store, take a few minutes to think about what you need that week to cover breakfasts, lunches, dinners…and even snacks. Write it out and stick this menu to your fridge. That way, you’ll know what’s in store for your next meal and you can prepare things (like thawing meat) early in the day. You’ll avoid that “I didn’t really have anything to cook” excuse we all come up when we’re craving takeout or our favorite restaurant. Also, plan to make and eat your leftovers. If you don’t like eating the same thing two days in a row, eat something else the day between or freeze it for a later day. If you have a leftover chicken breast, shred it into a quesadilla the next day for lunch.

Plan your shopping list and stick to it!

Grocery stores spend a large chunk of change determining how to get you to buy MORE. Displays look gorgeous and we easily forget that the bag of grapes we just put in our cart is $10.  How can you avoid this? After you plan your meals, write a shopping list with everything you’ll need to make them. This includes your snacks, too. When you hit the store, keep your eyes open for things on the list. Compare prices (don’t forget to look at the size of items) and make sure you’re getting the best deal. This also helps with waste. If you only buy what you’re going to eat that week, you won’t end up throwing away stuff that goes bad.

Our Caregiver Training Program offers a complete Continuing Education course on Nutrition that goes into much greater detail. While we plan on sharing more information in the future on this important topic, feel free to contact us for more information on the course.

Below are some ideas for nutritious meals and snacks. Do you have others you might want to share?

7 EASY, CHEAP, QUICK, HEALTHY BREAKFASTS:

  • Yogurt topped with dry cereal (granola, muesli, all bran), fruit and nuts
  • Banana and peanut butter or Tahini (sesame butter) on whole wheat bread/toast
  • Oatmeal with nuts, fruit and milk
  • Fruit smoothie with banana, berries, yogurt, milk and protein powder with ½ slice of wheat toast
  • Hard boiled egg, slice of whole wheat toast, low-sugar fruit spread and piece of fresh fruit
  • Scrambled eggs (consider liquid egg product for all of the protein and none of the fat) with veggies or salsa and whole wheat toast
  • Whole wheat or corn tortilla with beans, cheese, egg, salsa and avocado

 7 EASY, CHEAP, QUICK, HEALTHY LUNCHES

  • Lentil veggie soup with rice or whole wheat roll
  • Tuna sandwich on whole wheat with veggies
  • Large tortilla wrap – lots of veggies, salsa, black beans
  • Hummus plate/sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, sprouts in or on a whole wheat pita
  • Whole grain crackers with a bean spread, baby carrots, apple and nuts
  • Turkey slices with tomato, spinach, avocado on whole wheat or other whole grain bread
  • Edamame and raw veggies in pasta or grain salad
  • In a pinch: burrito from local taco place piled with veggies and guacamole 

7 EASY, CHEAP, QUICK, HEALTHY DINNERS

  • Whole wheat pasta or brown rice with tomato sauce, fresh or frozen veggies added, and a can of chickpeas for protein
  • BIG spinach salad with lots of veggies, nuts, kidney beans. Add tuna or low sodium turkey ham.
  • Chicken/tofu stir-fry with mixed veggies
  • Couscous with mixed veggies and beans of your choice, top with curry sauce
  • Can of 3 bean chili over brown rice
  • Pita pizza – add peppers, tomatoes, olives, etc. and small amount of cheese on a whole wheat pita and put in oven/toaster oven 

7 EASY, CHEAP, QUICK, HEALTHY SNACKS

(Remember, don’t just do a carbohydrate, get some protein and even a little fat into the mix!)

  • Low fat Cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit and nuts/seeds
  • Almonds or walnuts with dried or fresh fruit
  • Baby carrots with bean dip or hummus
  • Whole grain or rice crackers or rice cakes spread with avocado
  • Protein/energy bars (read the label and look for hidden saturated fat and simple sugars)
  • Hardboiled egg and piece of fruit
  • Banana or apple with 2 tbsp of nut butter spread or a piece of cheese