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Food & Fitness

Healthy Foods On a Budget

Mother and son looking at tomatoes

A Simple Start

You can make healthy choices as a family, one small step at a time. Even small changes in your routine can help save money. And getting started doesn’t take much time.

  • Make a shopping list.  Keep a shopping list in place that’s easy to see so you can add to it any time. Checking your list as you shop can help you stick to your budget. Children can help write or draw items on the list, or check things off while shopping.
  • Look for generic or store brands. These usually cost less than name brands and taste just as good!
  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast. A healthy breakfast gives the whole family energy to stay focused all day. It can also be the most affordable meal of the day, whether you make it at home or participate in public school breakfast program. You can get creative with breakfast, too –try a healthy breakfast burrito with beans, salsa, low-fat cheese, and a whole-wheat tortilla.

Thinking Ahead

Whether you are shopping at a large supermarket, a farmers’ market, or a local grocery store, simple steps can help you save money. Spend just a few minutes planning ahead and you can save a lot of time and money in the long run!

Planning ahead gets easier over time. The whole family can help make choices that fit into your routines.

  • Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Although most fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year, keep in mind that some cost less when they are in season.  Farmer’s markets offer seasonal produce, and many accept SNAP cards or WIC vouchers.  To find out what’s in season, search for “seasonal produce” online, or ask someone working in your local market.
  • Buy in bulk. You may save money by buying in bulk (if you will use large quantities) or stocking up on sale items.
  • Be in the know.  Find out when stores publish weekly flyers or announce sale items. Ask a store manager or clerk about current or upcoming sales.

In the Long Term

There are even more steps your family can take to make healthy choices on a budget over time.

  • Create a weekly menu. As you get used to planning ahead, preparing weekly menus can help you save money and make food last longer.
  • Plant a garden.  Growing your own food can be a great way to have fun as a family and save money. Plant things like tomatoes, peppers, and herbs outdoors or in pots at home, or look for community gardens in your area.   Gardening helps children learn where food comes from. They’ll also be excited to try the healthy foods that they helped grow!
  • Stay healthy on weekends and during the summer. You may find summer breakfast programs, weekend services or community meals in your neighborhood. You may also find free summer activity programs or events, such as playground playtime, where your child can get healthy snacks, too.

Stretch Your Dollar

These tips can help you make healthy hearty meals that fit your budget.

  • Choose low-cost resources of protein. Dried beans, peas, and lentils; canned fish; eggs; and peanut butter are healthy, inexpensive sources of protein.
  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. In addition to fresh produce, try to pick canned food that is labeled “in its own juice,” “no added sugar,” or “low sodium.” If these aren’t available, drain and rinse other types before eating.
  • Swap foods and coupons with friends. You may have many cans or boxes of kind of food, or extra coupons.   Ask friends if they have different extra items or coupons to exchange.  Swapping can help you add variety to your meals –and save money, too!
  • Try powdered milk. Its long shelf life makes it an easy, affordable option. You can you use it instead of regular milk in just about any recipe, from creamed vegetable soups to rich fruit smoothies.

Save for Later

Leftovers can be made into delicious and healthy meals. At home, save time and money by making more servings than you need, then saving the rest.

  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers quickly.  If you plan to eat leftovers within a day or so, refrigerate them.  If you plan to eat them later than that, freeze leftovers in reusable containers.
  • Thaw foods safely. Leaving foods to thaw on the counter can make them unsafe to eat.   Thaw foods safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
  • Divide portion sizes.  Separate leftovers into single serving sizes for easy preparation.
  • Mark and date.  To keep track of when you put the foods in the freezer or refrigerator, mark the containers with the date and what’s inside.

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