Note to Reporters: Melissa Wdowik is an assistant professor at Colorado State University, director of the Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center and a CSU Extension affiliate.
Does your budget make you want to turn to Ramen noodles and hot dogs for survival? Many people report their first budget cuts are to healthful foods, which seem like splurges in these unpredictable times. Fortunately, you can still buy nutritious, delicious foods without dipping into your savings account! Here are some ideas:
- Precut fruit and vegetables cost more than whole. Cut your own carrots and onions, peel your own garlic, and slice your own apples. For best prices, buy produce that is in season and on sale. If want produce that is not in season, try it frozen or canned – just be sure it has no added sodium or sugar.
- If you’re trying to make these changes but feel squeezed by limited time, make a big meal once and eat leftovers; it’s easy to double or triple your recipe then refrigerate or freeze individual portions for later. A slow cooker also can be your best friend; cook chili or stew all day and enjoy it at dinnertime.
- Instead of boxed mixes, make your own pasta, rice or potato dishes. You can find easy recipes on the package or online (such as www.nutritioncenter.colostate.edu, www.cookinglight.com, or www.ext.colostate.edu). For example, toss cooked macaroni with a can of diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese with a side of chicken for a quick family-friendly meal.
- Instead of eating out for lunch, make your own turkey wrap for less than $1 per serving. Spread mustard or hummus on a small whole wheat tortilla; add two slices of turkey, lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Avocado also lends extra flavor.
- Cut your spending on foods that should be optional because they provide little nutrient value, such as soda, chips and cookies. Have these treats once a week rather than daily, and spend grocery money instead on fruits and vegetables.
- Identify your favorite treats, and allow them in moderation. Chocolate may never be banished from our household budget, but a bag of chocolates kisses lasts a long time. One or two can be just as satisfying as a dozen if you take the time to enjoy them.
- Looking for healthy proteins? Skip the bologna! Instead choose tuna, eggs, beans, tofu and peanut butter. These cost a fraction of what you’d pay for meat, and most people can do with less meat in their diet.
- Specialty coffee and tea drinks are expensive, and many offer extra calories that you don’t need. Make your own brew, then add milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract to make it special.
- Eliminate bottled water and other bottled beverages. Use a refillable bottle to sip water all day, saving both money and calories.
- Why pay extra for packaging of ready-to-eat snacks? Buy a large bag of pretzels or nuts then portion them out into small reusable containers for lunches and snacks.
- Most dry cereal and instant oatmeal are expensive. A better option: store-brand whole grain cereal or oats that you cook yourself.
If you are willing to do a little planning and preparation, you can stock your kitchen with nutrient-packed foods that won’t break the bank!