THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON THE KITCHN.
When you have a tight budget, meal planning and grocery shopping has its challenges. When you have a tight budget and you’re dedicated to eating healthfully, it’s even trickier.
We’ve talked about each of these topics quite a bit in the past, and every time our readers have responded with so many great tips and suggestions. Here are 10 of your smartest tips that make eating well when you’re strapped for cash feel like a piece of cake (or a kale salad!).
1. Buy fresh produce when it’s in season and freeze it.
Fresh produce is always great, but the cost can add up fast. Stick with buying what’s currently in season and consider stocking up when you find a good deal.
In the summer I will buy three or four dozen ears of corn when it is two ears for a dollar (or less). You can cut it from the ear and freeze it in bags, or freeze it whole (though the former takes up less freezer space). Then you have (really great tasting) corn for cheap for several months. Same goes with other vegetables. – doilyglove
If your local grocery store offers a savings card, be sure to sign up and check the weekly circular to see what’s on sale. Instead of shopping for groceries based on your weekly meal plan, consider planning your meals around what’s on sale.
If the store you usually shop at has a weekly circular my best piece of advice is to check it every week and plan your meals around what’s on sale. This has saved me so much money lately. It can also force you to get creative and maybe try some items or dishes you’ve never had. – kristen44
If you do not like prep I strongly recommend watching for sales on frozen vegetables. Here we sometimes get 10 for $10 sales on frozen vegetables, so I always stock up on onions, bell peppers, carrots, and peas. Makes it super easy to make something healthy. – Liz@LamentingLizzie
3. Try less expensive cuts of meat.
You can still enjoy meat when you’re on a tight budget. Look for less expensive cuts of meat, like chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, and try different cooking methods, like the slow cooker, to make tougher cuts of meat tender and juicy.
If you’re a meat-eater, learn to love cheaper cuts! Bone-in, skin-on, tougher cuts of red meat, and organ meats are all dirt-cheap (and more nutritious and flavourful!) compared to, say, boneless skinless chicken breasts, even if you’re buying the organic/free-range stuff. Don’t be afraid of (good-quality) fat, especially if you’re trying to lose weight! – the enchantress
The Crock-pot does an amazing job of taking cheap cuts of meat (pork shoulder, chuck roast, etc) and making them tender and juicy. – Sarah_L.
Look for cheaper cuts such as lamb neck fillets, pork belly and cheeks, shin of beef, whole chickens that will yield enough for leftovers, plus a carcass for soup or congee, chicken livers, gizzard, etc. Perhaps borrow a book from the library that will show you the techniques for bringing out the best from these cuts. – pearmelon
4. Embrace whole grains and beans.
Beans and whole grains, like quinoa, freekeh, and brown rice, are an inexpensive and tasty way to bulk up meals and can even be a meal in themselves.
I use black beans to stretch my meat. You can spend $15 and get the ingredients to make chili which will last for one person, 10 meals. I mix (cooked) black beans with ground turkey and make turkey burgers using that. – Christy Belville
Whole grains can really bulk up a meal and make it more filling and they’re generally on the cheaper side. Buy a package of wheat berries, whole wheat couscous, cook it up and freeze it in single portions to throw into salads or soups when you need them. The whole grains will also keep you full longer and may help aid in your weight loss efforts. – kristen44
5. Plan and prep meals ahead.
Whether it’s veggies for the week, or tomorrow’s breakfast, prepping food in advance is a step in the right direction towards eating healthfully. Plus, it’s also a good way to make sure you’re eating what’s in the fridge, to minimize waste.
I spend some time every weekend planning my meals for the week. I don’t mind eating leftovers so I plan on eating the same thing several times. I try to at least get my lunches prepped on Sunday so I’m starting the week off right. Then I might make something to eat on Monday night for dinner and eat that several times as well. – sweetautumn
I can cook two meals on Sunday night, package them up in portable containers and be set for lunch and dinner all week — with just one night of cooking. (This only works if you don’t mind eating the same thing every day – and I’ve learned it’s important to stick with what you like or outside temptations will be everywhere!!!) But it’s great to save time and money! – PropTart