Eating healthy(ish) on a budget

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I often hear “I want to eat healthy, but it’s so expensive!”

While I can’t say that’s completely false, I do know it is possible to save on your groceries without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.

I’ve recently started challenging myself to spend less money. After looking at how much we had been spending on groceries (not to mention eating out), it was surprisingly easy to make a few changes here and there to cut costs. This week, I wanted to see if I could plan an entire week of balanced meals (three meals a day) spending only $50.

I’m excited to say that I came super close! My grand total was $55.31. If I would’ve made a couple substitutions or if my sneaky husband hadn’t added Cheez-its to the cart, I would’ve come in under $50.

Here’s what I did.

Shopped on a Sunday. To make my life easier, I came up with a menu and grocery list for the entire week and did my shopping on Sunday. Before I started dreaming up ideas, I took stock of what I already had and based my meals on that. For us, I only plan dinners. We’re on our own for breakfast and lunch, so I tend to keep some basic items on hand for those meals.

Loaded up on fruits and veggies. If I’m buying fresh produce, I purchase what’s in-season. It’s cheaper and fresher. Pro tip: I buy a lot of frozen and canned options. The ones without added sugars or salt and packed in their own juices are just as healthy as fresh.

Picked my protein. Meat can be pricey, especially when purchasing the leanest varieties. Since I have the freezer space, I like to buy in bulk and on sale. Pro tip: We go meatless at least once a week. I do this by working beans and eggs into our menus.

Bought store brands. I used to avoid store brands like the plague. I figured “they’re not much cheaper, so why not get the good stuff instead?” While the difference may seem like small potatoes, it adds up over time. And at the end of the day, dried pasta is dried pasta — the nutritional value remains the same no matter the brand.

• On that note, don’t be fooled by coupons. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to discover I spent more while couponing, rather than less. Unless I’m using coupons on items I regularly purchase, it’s usually cheaper to buy the store brand.

This Week’s Menu

Disclaimers:

• You won’t be seeing much, if any, organic at this price.

• I cook often. That being said, my kitchen is well stocked with my go-to pantry staples. I only buy these items when I run out.

• I put an asterisk next to items we had on hand. If you’re starting from scratch your groceries will cost a bit more.

Breakfast — Coffee*, banana and peanut butter*, eggs*, oatmeal*

Lunch — Leftovers, turkey sandwiches, wraps using leftover rotisserie chicken (from pizzas) and tortillas, Mediterranean salad, baby carrots*, apples

Dinner —

Sunday - Homemade Buffalo chicken pizza and salad

Monday - Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup*

Tuesday - Fish tacos and slaw

Wednesday - Honey Sriracha chicken and Rice* and broccoli*

Thursday - Pesto pasta alla vodka and salad

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Date Night

For more relatable articles — and if you’re curious about these recipes or want to see exactly what I bought for groceries — check out our new blog Nourishing the Good Life (launched alongside two of my Extension colleagues). Find us at nourishingthegoodlife.com and follow us on Facebook!

Jordan Luxa is a Food, Nutrition and Health educator for Nebraska Extension in Washington County. She can be contacted at 402-426-9455, jordan.luxa@unl.edu, or visit the Washington County Extension website at www.washington.unl.edu.

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