When the budget is tight, keeping healthy meals on the table can be quite the challenge. The temptation to stretch the money by buying big boxes of ramen noodles is definitely there. But we can do better. We can stay healthy.
Here are seven suggestions on what to buy when you’re stretching your wallet:
1. Carrots. We probably all know that carrots are high in vitamin A, which is important for eye health, but did you know that carrots are also high in biotin? Biotin is a B vitamin that helps your body build healthy fats in your skin to keep it supple and moist. One cup of chopped carrots has 52 calories and four grams of fiber. Carrots are definitely one of the least expensive foods at my grocer. I can make a whole meal of two cups of sautéed peas and carrots for about $1. That’s a way to stretch my money!
2. Onions. Onions are actually higher in biotin than carrots, but they are high in manganese as well. Manganese is vital to many functions of the body. It helps bones and metabolism. So the next time you say “hold the onions,” think twice. Onions are versatile and can bring wonderful flavor to many dishes. One of my favorite dinners is mashed potatoes with a whole chopped onion and a clove of garlic boiled right in with the potatoes. Because of the added flavor I don’t need to add butter or milk. This is a filling and healthy meal for only $1.
3. Bananas. Bananas are the main staple of my diet. They are practical and easy to carry, delicious raw, and loaded with balanced nutrition. Did you know that besides the awesome fiber and healthy carbohydrates for energy, bananas have protein and a touch of fat, too? When you eat them raw — although they are great in recipes, too — you get live enzymes to help with digestion. There are people who live on bananas and are very fit and healthy. Bananas make a delicious “just add water” smoothie if you have a blender. They are a great deal at just $1 for 700 healthy calories to fill you up – and they give you the energy you need.
4. Potatoes. Potatoes are loaded with nutrients. Just like bananas, they are high in potassium. But potatoes are even higher in vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is important in the production of red blood cells, the metabolism of carbohydrates, brain and nervous system health, and liver detoxification. Potatoes are quite a popular staple food of the world, but sadly they are too often covered with unhealthy fats and way too much salt. Potatoes can be delicious without being salt- and fat-laden. I like to boil chopped potatoes in a small amount of water with blends of veggies (such as onion and garlic) and herbs. Then mash them or puree them without draining the water. This way they are not dry or dehydrating and they have lots of flavor. They are also good with a little lemon juice on top. We all know potatoes are quite inexpensive. I get them the same price as my bananas, about $1 per 2 pounds.
5. Beans. If you are concerned about getting protein without breaking the bank, I have to say beans are one of the best options out there. There are so many different kinds of beans that you can find a vast array of nutrients and different meal options. I like to get them either canned with no added sodium, or dry. To create a complete protein and good meal, cook black beans with brown rice, throw in some cooked diced tomatoes, and serve with a green salad.
6. Frozen vegetables. Sadly, as wonderfully healthy and necessary as green vegetables are, they are not always inexpensive. While I was in college, not having any extra cash, I would grab a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables most nights and cook those up. Now I love buying whatever frozen vegetables are on sale or are cheaper per pound and adding them to my meals. I can often get a pound of green beans or peas for just $1.
7. Discount produce. People are always telling me, “I can’t afford to eat healthy. The produce section of the store is the most expensive!” To them I say: I once felt the same. But the truth is there are options. I am now known for perusing my local grocery stores, looking for whatever discount produce they have to offer. A head of romaine lettuce with a few bad leaves, a misshapen tomato, and a green pepper with a black spot to cut out, can make the cheapest green salad you’ve ever had. A few pears with easy-to-cut-out bruises, some very ripe kiwis, and a funny looking pineapple, make a great fruit salad for just $1 per serving.
What other healthy inexpensive foods do you eat? Share your tips in the section below: