Budget Cooking That’s Healthy Too: Fooducate’s Top Seven Tips

Whether it’s a meal for one, family of four or you’re feeding a whole brood, we’ve got some great tips to help you save money and stay healthy.

1. Try dry beans & legumes

Ounce per ounce, beans are one of the healthiest foods out there. They are full of protein, fiber and are the most recommended food for many health conditions, like diabetes or heart disease.

Buy them dry, soak them overnight (depending on size) and cook them accordingly. They’re a great low cost source of protein and make a wonderful addition to any dish. Other legumes, like lentils and smaller beans, can be cooked without soaking.

Try mixing beans into any pasta dish, adding them to soups, using them in stir-fry dishes or employing them anywhere you might use meat.

2. Find a good affordable source of fruits & vegetables

Every community has its own resources – from free gardens to local co-ops to farmer’s markets. Find out which is the best for you. Taking the time to shop around can pay off in the long run. Don’t count out unlikely sources, like ethnic markets.

If you eat seasonally and choose from store specials, you can keep costs low. Don’t rule out any veggies, like cabbage or carrots, from being the star in your dish. Frozen produce contains virtually the same amount of nutrients and can come in handy in the off season.

When you see a good sale, buy more and keep storage in mind. Veggies like sweet potatoes can last a long time, fruits like apples and oranges can last a while – stock up! However, fruits like bananas and avocados aren’t good candidates for longer storage.

3. Go for the oats

Oats are one of the healthiest breakfast options. But you don’t have to buy fancy flavored oats or instant packets. Choose plain oats and dish our portions yourself; add your own flavoring and save money. Buying oats from bulk bins could also keep costs down.

4. Cut out the packaged goods

From boxed cereals to canned veggies – cut them out! Skip the pre-made drinks, like sodas, juices or anything else and stick to water.

And don’t get tricked into using coupons for these items – buying processed items for almost nothing isn’t worth it if they’re not healthy and take your food budget away from real food.

5. Cook in bulk and freeze

Chili is great, so are soups, but there’s only so much you can eat at one time. Instead of making small batches every day, make a large batch and store half of it when it’s finished cooking.

6. Eggs!

Eggs are a great, affordable source of protein. They’re a high protein way to start your day, but can also find a good place at the dinner table. Try adding hard boiled eggs to salads or scrambling some into any stir-fry. Bulk up the nutrition of eggs by scrambling them with greens like kale or broccoli.

7. The whole bird

Learning how to buy a whole chicken and cutting it to pieces can be a great source of food and save you money.

Shredded dark meat is great for casseroles, sliced breast is good for sandwiches and you can make a hearty stock from the bones. No matter how you cook it, buying the whole chicken is usually cheaper.

If you have any other suggestions or resources , list them below!

  • http://www.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com/ Mike Luque

    Hear hear! to all that advice. That’s pretty much how I eat. Lots of beans, oats in the winter. Although I’m more prone to homemade yogurt for breakfast.
    If you slow cook your dried beans, in a Crock Pot for example, you don’t actually have to soak them. 3 cups of water to each cup of beans.

    • http://www.brettburky.com/ brettburky

      Hello Mike,

      Is there an exact recipe of this idea so that I can do this? I have been soaking beans in the same jar because now it smells like beans, then I figure out a way to cook them.

      The oats in this were new to me, always knew they were cheap but haven’t ventured that way as of yet.

      Any help you can would be greatly appreciated.

      • http://www.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com/ Mike Luque

        Right now, once you’ve soaked your beans, how are you cooking them. Not soaking only works in a slow cooker. That way the beans are immersed and cooking for 5-6 hours.

        • http://www.brettburky.com/ brettburky

          I have gone to a couple indian markets and bodega’s and got spice packets and that is working pretty well. I figure for a meal that my wife and I eat for 3 days it is costing me a whole ~ $5.50 or less, can’t really price the beans exactly but if the packets are $1.50 then the beans are about $2 and then peppers & onions $2.

          So we are doing pretty good with it. I have been trying to get the amount to a science.

          On another note do you know of a site or something that will compare grocery store prices real time? If not all good, I have been just using an evernote note that I share with some buddies for that.

          • http://www.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com/ Mike Luque

            Yeah, those are all good, healthly choices for making beans into a main dish. If you have a crock pot/slow cooker, you won’t need to soak. Also, try adding chopped kale when there is only 1 hour left in cooking.

          • http://www.brettburky.com/ brettburky

            I do have a crock pot, so just put them in with water and slow cook it for how long? Adding kale sounds like a good idea.

  • http://www.brettburky.com/ brettburky

    For the person who wrote this post: I have been trying to optimize the cost and development of getting the best nutrition for my family. This post was awesome and exactly what I was looking for, thanks

  • Pat

    I wanted to print out these tips to share at a nutrition class for low income parents…..it doesn’t print out nicely. Any suggestions?

    • mikes

      Cut & paste the text into Word and fix the format before printing. (Copy and Paste the logo at the top of the page to give credit, and maybe copy in some other info – like the app – to stick at the bottom.)

  • http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/bradwilson Brad Wilson

    And invest in a freezer, and/or learn to can fruits, vegetables and meat. Local organic meat can be drastically cheaper than a farmers market if you buy from the farmer in bulk. Direct marketing is very expensive.

  • Shaylyn

    This is a great post! Cost is a huge barrier that keeps people from eating healthy (after all, a McChicken is only a dollar) but this post offers some great tips to help your waistline AND your wallet. I eat oats every morning and usually mix in cinnamon, almond milk, and some cut up fruit depending on what’s in my fridge!

  • ozyinusa

    I love beans but seem to have a problem with them afterwards. There is a trick to preparing to avoid this.

    Pour beans into a pot ofcold water, bring to boil.

    Boil 3-5 mins.

    Remove and drain.

    Fill with cold water then bring to boil for 3-5 mins.

    Do this 4 times.

    Then cook till tender with NO seasonings or additions.

    When tender, add all the flavors etc you want to recipe or personal taste. Cook till done .Usually no more than 30 mins unless something like boston baked beans.. :)