by Ashley Huffman
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about eating healthy is that it’s expensive. As a college student I’m always looking for ways to save money, but still be healthy and fit at the same time. I don’t want to spend tons of money on grocery shopping, but I also want to eat high quality, nutritious foods. I’ve successfully gone from spending upwards of $75 a week on food down to around $30 a week to stock my fridge and pantry with plenty of meals and snacks. Read on for my tips on how to eat healthy on a budget!
High Quality Protein
One of the most costly items on the grocery list is usually protein, and it’s also the one that you don’t want to compromise on quality. Protein is important for keeping you full and building your muscles, but you also want to make sure if you’re getting it from animal sources that the animals are ethically treated and also not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Your grocery bill will be a lot higher if you’re buying steak or salmon every week, but eggs, tofu, tuna, and chicken thighs are four great options. Eggs are usually only $1-2 for a dozen and are an excellent source of omega-3s, which are great for your skin, hair, and brain function. Tofu can be seasoned and cooked in a variety of tasty ways and is only around $2 for four servings. (If you haven’t tried tofu, you should! I used to think it was mushy and tasteless before I tried it but now I’m hooked.) Tuna is another great source of high quality protein and omega-3s and is typically $1 or less per serving. Chicken thighs are a cheaper alternative to chicken breast, and they also contain more fat so they keep you fuller for longer.
For produce, eating seasonally is both less expensive and more nutritious. Seasonal foods are picked when they are ripe and fully developed, leading to higher levels of antioxidants. Changing up the fruits and vegetables you buy will also add variety to your diet and ensure that you’re getting all of your micronutrients.
Freeze Your Greens
Do you usually get halfway through a container of mixed greens before they start to go bad and you have to throw them away? Even as someone who eats plenty of salads and juices kale and spinach regularly, I struggle to actually use all of them within a week. The best solution that I’ve found is to freeze my greens just before they start to become less than fresh, then use them in smoothies or add them to my scrambled eggs.
Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
When the produce you want isn’t in season, it is usually less expensive to buy it frozen. This is actually not less healthy since the fruits and vegetables are picked when they are ripe and immediately frozen, as opposed to fresh produce that is picked before it is ripe and then transported.
Eat Organic When Necessary
Another way that your grocery bill can quickly skyrocket is by buying everything organic. The best rule of thumb here is to buy organic produce that is most heavily sprayed with pesticides. The “dirty dozen” that is best to buy organic includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers. Everything else, such as bananas, oranges, or other items with a peel, are safe to buy non-organic, and this will help to bring costs down.
A great way to make sure you’re getting your micronutrients and fiber is to add smaller ingredients to your meals and snacks to boost them up. My favorite superfoods that are not expensive are chia seeds, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs. Chia seeds are an amazing source of fiber and omega-3s, and I love to add them to my smoothies, oatmeal, or even to plain water. Hemp seeds are very high in protein and can be sprinkled on avocado toast or tuna for an extra boost. Cacao nibs are packed with antioxidants, iron, magnesium, and calcium, and taste amazing on top of acai bowls or in cookies or milkshakes.
Hopefully these tips help you and you’re able to create healthy, nutritious meals without breaking the bank! For more tips on shopping smart and eating healthy, here’s another blog post with a $2, 5 minute dinner to meal prep and enjoy.
Ashley Huffman is a health and fitness enthusiast on a mission to eat well and stay fit. Currently a senior in college, she spends her time pursuing a degree in marketing, working out, or forcing her roommates to try her new recipes. You can follow her on Instagram @ashhuff.fit for daily workouts and lots of food.
For more health tips from Ashley Huffman follow her on Instagram!