10 Healthy Meals on a Budget
If a budget meal means ramen to you, we’ve got good news. There are plenty of delicious, nourishing, healthy meals that you can cook up on the cheap. And they’ll keep you full a lot longer than a cup of noodles, too.
Eating healthy starts with knowing how much you can spend. Set a budget for yourself before you go to the store, and stock your pantry with healthy foods that are versatile to fit your mood. Canned soup and freezer meals might seem like an easy solution, but once you learn how rewarding cooking for yourself is, you’ll save more money and be a lot happier at mealtime.
We’ll serve up some healthy budget meal recipes in a bit – but first, let’s review some tips for making your meal plan:
Meal planning on a budget
1. Take stock
Letting beans and grains pile up in your pantry is a waste of space and money, and it can attract pesky mealworms and moths. Figure out creative ways to use what you have before you go to the store, and buy what you need to make the meal you’re in the mood for.
2. Make a pantry checklist
A pantry checklist will make sure you have items you use frequently, like olive oil or all-purpose flour. Prioritize the staples, and the rest of your list can be more flexible to take advantage of coupons and price drops.
3. Take advantage of offers carefully
More and more stores are switching over to digital coupons. Log in online before you head to the store and make notes on all the deals so you can stretch your grocery budget. Some stores offer weekly discounts when you buy 5 or 10 items at a time. Sometimes this turns into a great deal, especially if it’s something you eat a lot – but don’t let it define your spending if won’t actually use the ingredients.
4. Skip the junk
Junk food is never a good deal, no matter how much it’s on sale. It’s okay to get a treat sometimes, but eating junk is no substitute for a healthy meal, and it will only leave you hungry later when you crash.
5. Shop in season
Fruits and vegetables vary in price a lot throughout the year. A pint of strawberries might be anywhere between $2-5 dollars depending on the season, and they’re never worth the extra cost. Flexible recipes and snacking will let you take advantage of the cheaper produce when it’s available.
6. Don’t let food go to waste
Over-planning your meals can be just as wasteful as not planning at all. If you cook dinner several nights in a row and you’re not eating your leftovers, you’re not saving time or money.
7. Prioritize your shopping list
When you’re looking at recipes, take time to consider what ingredients could be left out and still make a good meal. Garnishes are nice, but they are expensive. If your cart isn’t very full but your budget is running out, you’ll know what you can put back and what you need for your recipes.
8. Buy in bulk
If you select recipes that use the same main ingredients, like chicken breasts or rice, you can get a better deal by buying a larger package.
9. Organize your efforts
The more work you’re willing to do, the more money you will save. And organization can save you more time than buying premade things. Homemade vegetable broth is a perfect example. When you’re chopping vegetables for a meal, toss the scraps in simmering water rather than the trash. Add a few garlic cloves, put a lid on it, and you’ll have vegetable broth in an hour.
Cheap healthy meals to inspire you
Now that you’ve checked your pantry, you’re ready to browse these recipes for inspiration. Make your meal plan for the week and head to the grocery store for some healthy meals!
- Stir-fried chicken with peanut butter sauce: Try this simple recipe with green beans and peppers for a healthy and satisfying meal.
- One-Pot Chicken Parmesan Pasta: Pasta is always cheap, but this recipe is perfect for weeks when your favorite tomato sauce is on sale. Choose whole-grain pasta and add veggies to make this decadent treat as healthy as it is easy.
- Chicken Tostadas: This meal can be ready in under half an hour if you’ve already got beans ready for the week.
- Black bean enchilada casserole: Cheap ingredients and easy preparation make this recipe perfect for dinner on any night.
- Mexican quinoa: An instant pot makes this cheap meal virtually effortless. If you don’t have one yet, it’s worth the investment – especially if you find one used or on sale.
- Breaded Pork Chops with warm apple slaw: A healthy alternative to the standard fried pork chops. Save even more money by making your own breadcrumbs
- Tomato soup with lentils: Lentils are a cheap way to turn tomato soup into a hearty dinner you can savor.
- Coconut Pumpkin Soup: Pair this with a grilled cheese or your favorite sandwich and you’ll be glad you skipped the deli.
- Slow cooker pot roast: A slow cook will let enhance the flavor of these cheap ingredients and make your cook time totally hands-off.
- Bean and oat burger: Clear out your pantry and transform these cheap belly fillers into a savory treat.