Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

As food prices soar amidst the coronavirus pandemic, your good intentions to eat more healthfully may be challenged by sticker shock at the grocery store.

But preparing family-friendly healthy meals should not break the bank.

By making some adjustments before, during and after you shop, less costly healthy eating is within reach.

Here are some tips to guide you:

1-Downsize meat from your plate

With meat being more expensive, eating less of it is as good for your pocketbook as it is for your health.

Most Americans eat much more than the recommended 3-4 ounce portion size which is the portion-size equivalent of the palm of your hand.

In my self-help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!, we give meal planning examples that showcase ways to ease into this healthier way of eating.

Plan ahead by searching online to find recipes where red meat, chicken, turkey, veal or pork are more of a condiment and not the main event.

Examples may include chilis, tacos, stir-fry dishes or toppers for thin, whole-grain pizzas, pastas or entrée salads.

Preparing meatless meals that use less expensive and higher fiber vegetable protein sources like lentils, beans, nuts or seeds is another helpful strategy.

Some examples:

-Hummus and vegetable wrap instead of a lunch-meat sandwich

-Bean or lentil soup instead of beef or chicken soup

-Veggie burger instead of hamburger

-Vegetarian chili instead of beef chili

Or consider breakfast anytime meals such as scramblers or frittatas as eggs are another less expensive protein source.

2-Shop sales

To eat more nutritious vegetables and fruits, I recommend eating what’s on sale.

Typically, seasonal produce is cheapest and often put on sale because there’s more of it.

When frozen vegetables and fruits (unsweetened and unseasoned) go on sale, stock up.

Shopping large discount stores like Costco or Sam’s is helpful especially for higher-priced items like fish or seafood that can be portioned out and frozen for later use.

Remember that buying bulk produce through these stores only saves you money if you know your family can eat the produce before it perishes.

3- Cook once, eat twice – or more!

Cooking ingredients that you can mix and match throughout the week is a time-saving tip that also helps to waste less food.

I asked my wife, Nancy, to share examples from our own home:

-Quinoa used in a tomato, cucumber, basil and roasted chickpea vegetable salad can turn into a quinoa and seared shrimp dish another night

-Roasted broccoli as a side dish to grilled salmon can be used in a pine nut and whole grain pasta dish another night

-Barbecued chicken used in a chopped salad can turn into a barbecued chicken and grilled onion topping for a thin, whole grain pizza dinner another night

-Seared tofu used for a vegetable stir fry dish can turn into a protein topping for an entrée salad another night

Nancy has another money-saving tip as she makes her own salt-free vegetable broth by storing saved vegetable scraps in the freezer in 1-gallon ziplock bags, boiling with 12 cups of water for 30-40 minutes and then straining.

This becomes the base for lentil and bean soups that can be made in bulk and kept in the freezer, to be used from week to week.

As you increase your intake of higher fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, salads, beans and lentils, the goal is to eat less of the highly processed, sugary, salty and fatty foods that can drain your pocketbook and your health.

Have patience and be flexible as you progress your healthy eating program.

Stay safe and be well!


Robert Kushner, MD


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1 Comment

  1. Kathleen on September 1, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks Dr. Kushner! Helpful, simple, doable tips that are impactful; especially during this time when we are all cooking more from home.

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