As a mama, I feel good when I know my babies are eating well. But have you gone to the grocery store lately? Those prices are HIGH!
Sure, you can buy frozen meals and processed food that are quick and easy to prepare. But those usually aren’t the best options when it comes to nutrition.
Is it even possible to make healthy meals your family will enjoy without having to sell an arm and a leg? I think so! We just have to get a bit creative. Here are a few of my hacks for making nutritious meals on a budget PLUS some recipes to inspire you.
Cook From Scratch
One of the best ways to provide nutritious meals for your family while staying within your budget is by cooking from scratch. It might sound intimidating, but it’s honestly just a matter of finding a good recipe on Pinterest and following instructions.
Let’s do a quick comparison:
I can buy one serving of chicken alfredo from Olive Garden for $14.99 OR I can make FOUR servings at home for $15.02. Not the healthiest meal, but you see what I’m getting at? Cooking from scratch is where it’s at!
Stock Up On Staples
In order to be able to make meals from scratch, you need to stock up on some basic ingredients. Things like pasta, rice, canned beans and vegetables, frozen fruits, and veggies are all staples that you can use to mix and match ingredients for meals.
Plan Your Meals
Before you do any grocery shopping, get out a notebook and plan what you’re going to have for each meal. This will help you to see exactly what you need and will prevent you from spending money on ingredients you don’t actually need.
I live in a tiny town that doesn’t have a grocery store. To help combat having to make multiple trips out of town to the grocery store every week, I plan two weeks’ worth of meals at a time. Grocery shopping every two weeks has worked great for us! Of course, you do what will work best for your family.
Plan Meals with Common Ingredients
When planning your meals, try to find recipes that have common ingredients. This will help you stretch your grocery budget by not having to buy a bunch of ingredients that you’ll only use once or twice.
Some safe ingredients that you can use in plenty of recipes include chicken, ground beef, potatoes, rice, and beans.
Try to use these ingredients in different recipes throughout the week so that you’re not eating the same thing over and over again.
Make a Grocery List
After you’ve planned out your meals, get to work on making your grocery list. Make sure to check your pantry and fridge before you go shopping. You’d be surprised at what ingredients you already have on hand that you can use.
Cross items off your list that you already have, and make sure to include all the ingredients you need for each of your planned meals.
Don’t Go In to Shop
If you’ve read any of my articles that have mentioned grocery shopping, then you know I am a big fan of Walmart PICKUP & Delivery. Shopping online has saved me so much money and stress over the years!
Let’s face it, walking through e bunch of aisles filled with yummy-looking food and pretty labels is tempting to even the strongest of mamas. Shopping online takes away all of those rotten temptations!
If you don’t have access to these services, try to stick to your grocery list and resist the temptation to buy things that aren’t on it.
Buy In-Season Produce
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but one that I only recently learned. In-season produce is usually cheaper and tastes better than out-of-season fruit or vegetables.
Check out your local farmer’s markets or look online to see what fruits and veggies are in season near you. You’ll then be able to plan your meals accordingly.
Shop the “Mark Down” Section
Look for the mark down section in your grocery store. This is where you’ll find the items that are on sale or nearing their expiration date. You can usually get them at a great discount and they’re still perfectly fine to eat.
Just make sure to read the labels so you know how long they will stay good for.
Buy What Will Fill You Up
I know those cheap ramen noodles taste good, and the kids love them too. But you can’t survive on them! They’re not very filling, and they don’t have much (if any) nutritional value.
When making meals on a budget, look for filling ingredients that will keep you full without breaking the bank. Some of my favorites are oatmeal, eggs, beans, lentils, and potatoes.
These ingredients can be used in a variety of recipes to make your meals delicious AND nutritious.
Spice It Up
Ingredients like beans and potatoes don’t sound very appealing. However, add in some spices and suddenly your meals will be bursting with flavor!
Buy a few spice mixes that you like and experiment with adding them to your recipes. You can also make your own spice blends using herbs and spices that you already have on hand.
I know, I know, spices can be expensive too. I think some things are worth biting the bullet for, though. PLUS, spices are ingredients that you can use for just about every meal. So in the end, you get your money’s worth out of them.
If you really want to save some money, you have to stop being snooty about leftovers. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT throw out your leftovers!
Want to know a secret? I NEVER make my husband’s lunch. Instead, I pop whatever we ate for dinner the night before in a container and he takes that with him to work.
Cook up a big batch of something like chili, soup, or stew and eat it throughout the week. Add different mix-ins to give it a different flavor each time.
You can even use leftovers to make something completely different– like a frittata or burrito bowl. The possibilities are endless!
Buy Store Brands
The generic or store brands of items are usually just as good as the name brand, and they cost a lot less. Worried you’re buying junk? Take a quick look at the ingredients. Most cans of green beans are the same, regardless of what label is on it.
This also goes for spices and condiments. You don’t need to buy name-brand ketchup or mustard.
My husband is one of ELEVEN kids. He grew up eating store-brand groceries. It wasn’t until we got married that I realized I had been wasting a bunch of money all for a name.
Do some taste testing and find out which store brand you like the most. You’ll save a lot of money by making this switch and will still be able to provide delicious healthy meals!
Learn to Compare Prices and Choose the Best Deal
This is a good one! Just because the price tag is cheaper, doesn’t actually mean you’re getting a better deal. Look at the size of the product and compare it to other similar items to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
When deciding which product to buy, look at the price per ounce. For example, a 15.5 oz can of Great Value pinto beans shows that it is 5 cents/ 1 oz. Now you can compare that to the 16 oz can of Bush’s pinto beans for 8 cents/ 1 oz. In this case, the 15.5 oz can of Great Value pinto beans is cheaper per ounce than the 16 oz can of Bush’s.
Incorporate Meatless Meals
Meat is expensive! So, why not make a few meatless meals each week? The good news is that there are so many delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes out there.
Experiment with different ingredients like grains, beans, and legumes to get your protein in.
I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl, but making one or two meals a week without meat is a great way to save money on groceries.
Make Use of Your Freezer
Freezing food is one of the best ways to save money and reduce waste. You can buy in bulk, freeze what you don’t need right away, and use it later. Just make sure to label everything with the date so you know how long it’s been in there.
I like to buy meat in bulk because I can usually save a little money. Obviously, I don’t need to cook 6 lbs of chicken at once, so I divide the meat into smaller servings, pop it in a freezer bag, and freeze it.
You can also use your freezer to extend the life of fresh produce. If you have fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad, chop them up and freeze them for later use in smoothies, soups, or stir-fries.
Lastly, you can save money by making big batches of food and freezing the leftovers. This way you can have healthy meals ready to go when you don’t feel like cooking.
Purchase Whole Foods in Bulk
Buying large amounts of food in bulk is a great way to save money. It’s much cheaper to buy a big bag of rice than it is to buy it in smaller boxes.
The same goes for nuts, dried fruit, and other whole foods. Just make sure you’re buying the right amount. You don’t want to end up with food that spoils before you can use it all.
You can also save money by buying bulk spices and herbs. They tend to be much cheaper than the pre-packaged stuff and they last a lot longer too!
Stretch Your Meals with Beans or Legumes
Beans and legumes are some of the most versatile and affordable foods out there. They make for great side dishes, but you can also use them to stretch out a meal.
For example, if you’re making tacos, add some black beans or lentils to the mix. You’ll get more servings out of the same amount of meat and you won’t even notice the difference in taste.
You can also use beans and legumes to make some hearty soups, stews, and casseroles. And they’re packed with protein too!
Cheap Healthy Ingredients to Add to Your Next Grocery List
If you’re trying to save money and eat healthier, there are some ingredients that can help. Here are a few of my favorites that I like to keep in the house:
**These prices are from my closest Walmart. If you are shopping from a different location, prices might vary.
- Russet Potatoes ($2.97/ 5lb)
- Broccoli ($1.40/ 1lb)
- Carrots ($0.98/ 1lb)
- Oatmeal ($3.98/ 42oz)
- Rice ($2.94/ 5lb)
- Pinto Beans ($0.78/ 15.5oz can)
- Oranges ($3.97/ 3lb)
- Bananas -I freeze them and put them into smoothies ($0.53/ 1lb)
- Canned tuna ($1.12/ 1 can)
- Cottage Cheese ($2.58/ 24oz)
- Chicken Breasts ($2.97/ 1lb)
- Eggs ($5.46/ 18 eggs -this was before egg prices went cray cray)
I tend to stay away from fancier cuts of meat and processed foods that are more expensive. I also try to buy in bulk and freeze what I don’t need right away.
Recipes for Inspiration
Here is a smorgasbord of recipes that you can use to give you inspiration for your next healthy affordable meal:
- Baked Chicken Breasts from Gimme Some Oven
- Cherry Tomato and Basil Angel Hair Pasta from Oh Sweet Basil
- Tuna Cakes from Healthy Recipes
- Easy Fish Tacos from Simply Recipes
- Vegetarian Minestrone Soup from Peas and Crayons
- Chili Lime Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas from Call Me PMc
- Blueberry Baked Oatmeal from Laura Fuentes
- Ground Beef and Wild Rice Alfredo Skillet from Hot Eats and Cool Reads
- 5 Ingredient Lemon Chicken with Asparagus from Pinch of Yum
I also have a great post on easy healthy freezer meals that you can check out here.
These are just a few of the hacks I’ve learned (and am still learning) in order to save money on groceries. I hope you find something useful in this article and are able to start saving some cash! Good luck mama!
Have any tips I missed? Or a super yummy healthy meal that you think we should try? Please help us out and let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading and happy cooking!
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