Cooking Matters: Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. There are plenty of options available when it comes to purchasing nutritious foods that will leave both your family and your bank account happy.

Miaga Biggerstaff, a registered dietitian at Eskenazi Health, shows how easy it is to cook a healthy meal at home at a low cost. She took us on a tour of a local supermarket in downtown Indianapolis to prove how easy it is to eat healthy on a budget. It is suggested that each meal include protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy.

Following these guidelines, Miaga chose to purchase the following items. To satisfy any budget, we looked at the cost of both fresh foods from the produce section and canned/frozen food items to meet the nutritional needs of the average consumer.

Fresh
(1) Head of Broccoli: $1.99/lb.
(2) Sweet Potatoes: $1.49/lb. (2 lbs. purchased) = $2.98
Chicken Tenderloins (eight strips): $5.35/lb. (total package weight = 1.45 lbs.): $7.76
Pineapple (fresh, pre-cut, approximately 8 oz.): $3.49
$16.22 total (feeds a family of four)

Frozen/Canned
(1) Bag of Frozen Broccoli (12 oz.): $1.84
(1) Can of Sweet Potatoes : $1.39 (two cans purchased): $2.78
Frozen Chicken Tenderloins: $4.00/lb. (2.5 lb. bag): $10.00* or $5.80 based on same portion as above
(1) Can of Pineapple: $1.25 (two cans purchased): $2.55
$12.92 total (feeds a family of four)

It is important to pay attention to not only the retail price (price you pay at the cashier), but also to the unit price for each item to get the most for your money. The unit price will tell you how much an item costs per pound, ounce, quart, etc.

If you do not plan to eat the item within a short period of time after purchase, consider purchasing a canned item that will not spoil quickly. It is also recommended that you choose canned vegetables with lower sodium, as indicated on the nutritional value label. You should also drink low-fat milk or water with your meal, and steer clear of any soft drinks or fruit juices where extra sugar has been added.

A few additional tips to eating healthy on a budget include:

1.  Keep a running grocery list. Each trip to the supermarket will cost you extra time and fast money. Fewer trips to the store mean fewer impulse buys.
2.  Cook at home. You’ll have complete control of the ingredients and you won’t have the labor costs involved with restaurant meals.
3.  Identify meals you can make more cheaply at home. Avoid buying premade entrees if purchasing the ingredients and making it yourself will cost less (and taste better!).
4.  Start your own garden. Growing your own produce is a great way to save money, have fun and get better flavor.
5. Use high-nutrient, low-cost  foods such as beans, peas and lentils; sweet potatoes; white potatoes; eggs; peanut butter; canned salmon, tuna or crabmeat; oats; brown rice; quinoa; frozen vegetables and canned fruits and vegetables (fresh when in season).

Eskenazi Health Food & Nutrition Services offers a wide array of educational nutrition classes on the main Eskenazi Health campus, as well as several Eskenazi Health Center sites. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian, please call 317.880.5555.