Eating Healthfully on a Tight Budget
Let the Plate Be Your Guide
- Chili—beans, vegetables, and meat, served with a salad
- Stir-fry—vegetables with a small amount of meat served over rice or pasta and a salad
- Stews or soup—beans, vegetables, pasta, rice, meat or chicken, served with salad
- Taco—beans or meat with lots of lettuce, tomato, onions, and a corn tortilla
Make It From Scratch
Have a Game Plan for Shopping
- Plan meals and snacks several days in advance. Then write a shopping list—and stick to it!
- Compare prices among grocery stores. Shop at national chains and discount food outlets. Do not shop at convenience stores.
- Go to stores that sell generic foods, store brand foods, and foods in bulk.
- Use coupons with caution. They are often for foods that are more expensive. Do not buy junk food or something you normally would not buy, just because you have a coupon.
- Never shop on an empty stomach.
- Look for sales on items that are on your list.
Check the Unit Prices of Items
Read Food Labels
Buy in Bulk…When It Makes Sense
- Buy only products that your family will like and use often enough so that they will be used before spoiling or becoming outdated. Otherwise, you will waste food and money.
- Not all bulk items are bargains. Make sure the item is really a good buy and saves you money. Check the unit price; do not just look at the size of the package.
- When you buy in bulk, you buy more than you can use before your next shopping trip. Be sure you have enough money to do this.
- You should know what type of storage is needed for the product and have enough space to store it.
- Beware that buying in bulk can lead families to overeat or eat too quickly. If this happens, you could run out of food or money before the end of the month. Make sure you can store food so that it will not get eaten too quickly.
- Freeze prepared items in small containers rather than one large container so you only need to thaw the servings you need.
Know proper storage times for different foods. For example:
- Ground meats: 3-4 months in the freezer
- Hot dogs: 1-2 months in the freezer
- Eggs: 3-5 weeks in the refrigerator
- Opened lunch meats: 3-5 days in the refrigerator
- Bacon: 7 days in the refrigerator
- Fresh chicken or turkey parts: 9 months in the freezer
Eat at Home
American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org
Canada's Food Guide http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca
Charts: food safety at a glance. FoodSafety.gov website. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/index.html. Accessed March 13, 2014.
Eating better on a budget. Choose My Plate, US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet16EatingBetterOnABudget.pdf. Published December 2011. Accessed March 13, 2014.
Lino M. Nutrition doesn't have to be expensive. Choose My Plate, US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/downloads/USDABlog-NutritionDoesntHaveToBeExpensive.pdf. Published August 25, 2011. Accessed March 13, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014 -
- Update Date: 03/13/2014 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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