When your finances get tight, it can be all too easy to slash the grocery bill first. Cheap food can too often mean unhealthy choices, but with careful planning, you can steer clear of the ramen and still eat well. Here are some simple, affordable meals you can cook up without burning your wallet.
A Word of Advice
Before you begin shopping, keep a few things in mind to stretch your dollars. While meat can be expensive, many grocery stores offer specials on cuts that have a few days left until expiration. Cook them up quickly and reheat leftovers throughout the week to make sure nothing goes to waste. (Or freeze them to make them last longer.)
Consider planning your meals in advance, which can help you buy fewer ingredients and use them in several dishes to reduce waste and your final bill. When planning, remember that you don’t necessarily need a protein, starch and vegetable for every meal — just make sure you’re meeting your daily allowance for each key nutrient.
Your Grocery List
When shopping for food, consider what you actually enjoy eating, and not just what’s on sale. This list might be a good place to start:
- Meat: Chicken breasts and ground beef can often be purchased for less than $5 per pound, and one package can be used in several meals. (Boil chicken and use the broth for one meal, then the meat for several more.)
- Produce: In-season produce might be just as affordable fresh as it is frozen, but make sure you also take a look at the canned goods and freezer section before choosing your produce. When it comes to fruit, bananas and apples are generally the most cost-efficient.
- Grains: Plain old pasta usually sells for between $1 and $2 per box, making it an excellent base for a hearty dinner. For a few dollars more, a large bag of rice can last a good, long time and serve the same purpose.
- Eggs: The incredible edible egg deserves a category all its own. It can add some much-needed protein to an otherwise bland meal, costs an average of $2 per carton and lasts for some time in the fridge.
Make Your Ingredients Multitask
Success is often decided by how you plan your meals. Meats can be used in tacos, tossed in pasta or combined with veggies and rice when you need something quick and easy.
Those veggies can also pull double duty tossed in as filling for pasta or omelets, which both come together in a snap. Stash apples and bananas for snacks or add to oatmeal for breakfast. With a few extra ingredients, like tortillas and beans, your basic grocery list can go a long way in slashing the budget and keeping you happy and full.