A common complaint voiced by people trying to eat more healthy is they often believe it is more expensive.  With food prices rising and the economy in a challenged state, now is a good time to remind people that even when money is tight and time is short “eating right” is possible.  Below are a few tips on ways to save time and money and still maintain a healthy diet:

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, fresh isn’t the only option.  In recent years, freezing and preservation methods have greatly improved maintaining the nutritional quality.  Buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables on sale or in bulk can often save money.

Even small amounts of planning ahead pay off.  Plan your meals for the week and make a grocery list based on your plan.  Check grocery store specials for the week and use coupons if it is something on your list. 

Shop after eating a meal or a light snack to resist temptation.  Shopping when hungry leads to impulsive purchases!  Shop the perimeter (outside) of the store first because that is where the more healthy choices are versus the more processed and costly items.

Generic/store brands can provide good savings and yet the nutritional value is the same.  You can do a taste test on generic brands versus brand names and decide for yourself.

Stock your pantry with nutritious staples such as quick brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, barley, canned items such as beans, soup, fruit, tuna, chicken, and salmon.  A well-stocked pantry and freezer prevents frequent trips to the store saving time and money!

Serve more meatless meals or add extra vegetables and beans to the meat.  Adding beans and corn to taco meat extends the meat and boosts the fiber and nutrition.  You can make a big pot of meat, beans, and corn and freeze leftovers for future meals.  Other less expensive alternative protein sources are peanut butter, eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils.  Keep in mind that a meat serving is 3oz or the size of a deck of cards!  Eating the recommended serving size will save money and help with health!

Prepackaged, grab-and-go options offer convenience and portion control but can cost more.  Sometimes purchasing items in bulk and individually packaging them at home can save money.  Buy small snack bags and make several at a time. An example would be to purchase a large bag of almonds and count out 23 almonds (1oz) and put in snack bag.  They are ready to go and are a quick easy portion controlled snack you can take anywhere.

Cut up fruit and veggies over the weekend so you have them ready to eat during the week. 

Cook extra and freeze it.  When you cook a healthy soup or chili, make extra so you can have leftovers or freeze it for another time.  Soups, cooked meat, pancakes, waffles, rice, etc. can all be frozen to be used in other recipes later or as a meal.  Example:  cook up extra chicken or ground beef and refreeze for another time.  This frozen meat can be used to pull together a crock pot meal quickly.  See chicken barley soup recipe below as an example:

Chicken Barley Chili

1 can diced, undrained tomatoes (14.5oz can)
1 16oz jar salsa or tomato sauce
1 cup quick cooking barley
3 cups water
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 can black beans, drained, rinsed (15 oz can)
1 can corn (15 1/4oz) or 2 cups frozen
3 cups cooked chicken (hopefully already cooked and in freezer ready to use!)

Place all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours or high 4 hours. Makes 11 servings (1 cup). Can serve with low fat sour cream and cheese if desired.

Nutrition Information per cup:  Calories 270, Fat 4g, Sodium, 700mg, Carbohydrate 27g, Fiber 5g, Protein, 32g.

With a little preplanning and effort you can help both your health and your wallet!