HEALTHY EATING ON A BUDGET – WEEK 1

healthy eating on a budget: week 1 // cait's plate

With the school year back in full swing, I’ve decided to recommit myself to keeping my grocery bill in check (as those of you who follow me on Instagram already know).

As time permits, I think it will be not only helpful to me, but hopefully some of you looking to eat well on a budget.  I’ll try to share my shopped items, total spent, the meals I created with the food I bought and whatever takeaways I may have after the week!

Hopefully I can manage to do the above once a week (you never know with a grad school schedule – but that will be the goal!) and the rest of the time I can fill in with recipe posts of the main dish(es) that got me through each week.

If all goes as planned, it will keep me motivated to stay on a budget while maintaining a healthy diet, waste less and get creative with the dishes I pull together each week.

This week is a little wonky since Labor Day fell on Monday and I am traveling this weekend, so it’s only 3.5 days of meals, but it gives you a good idea of what I’m going for.

Healthy Eating on a Budget Week 1:

Money Spent: $100

Groceries Bought:

Produce: Mixed greens, 1 green zucchini, 3 peppers (orange, red and yellow), 1 peach, 2 apples, 2 oranges, pint of strawberries, 1 medium sweet potato, bag of carrots, 1 nectarine, 1 onion

Frozen: Bag of corn, bag of broccoli

Protein: Package of 4 chicken sausage, container of hummus, carton of 4 eggs, jar of natural, unsalted peanut butter, jar of sunflower seed butter

Pantry Items: Box of who penne pasta, jar of arrabbiata pasta sauce, small jar of pizza sauce, whole grain naan, loaf of whole wheat bread, bag of dark chocolate chips, box of whole grain cereal, chia seeds, canola cooking spray, bag of coffee, large canister of old fashioned oats, 2 Clif bars and 1 luna bar and a box of popcorn

Dairy Items: 16 oz. tub plain greek yogurt, 2 6 oz. containers of coffee greek yogurt, package of part-skim mozzarella cheese, container of soymilk

Condiments: Spicy brown mustard, salad dressing, salt

Misc.: Package of cranberry lime seltzer water

Pre-Week Tips I Kept in Mind:

  • Always go into the grocery with a meal plan!  If you don’t, you will inevitably end up buying more than you need (I speak from experience!).
    • On the same note: plan meals that will pack a good nutritional punch as well as volume (this week I went with pasta and cooked veggies.  that dish can easily be made meatless and can create a good 3-4 meals).
  • Unless you’re absolutely tied to a brand name, go generic.
  • When it comes to things like french fries – opt for the natural version of the product and make your own (i.e. buy whole potatoes rather than the frozen fries)
  • Where vegetables are concerned, buy frozen whenever possible, they’ll last so even if you don’t end up using them, you can have them for the following weeks.
  • The aim for most meals to include whole grain, a protein source (I’m including dairy in this section), fruits and/or vegetables and healthy fats

Meals:

Day One:

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Breakfast #1: Plain Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tbsp. chia seeds topped with sunflower seed butter, whole grain cereal and strawberries.  Coffee with soymilk on the side.

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Lunch #1: Hummus, mixed greens and onions on 2 slices of whole wheat bread with 2 large carrots and a nectarine

Dinner #1: Whole wheat penne pasta topped with chicken sausage and sautéed tri-color peppers, zucchini and arrabbiata sauce.

Day Two:

Breakfast #2: 1/2 cup old fashioned oats mixed with 1 tbsp. chia seeds and 1 medium diced apple then topped with peanut butter and served with coffee + soymilk on the side.

Lunch #2: Dinner #1’s whole wheat pasta, sautéed veggies and arrabbiata sauce with 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella and an orange.

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Dinner #2: Whole grain naan topped with pizza sauce and part-skim shredded mozzarella with a side salad (mixed greens, carrots and onions plus dressing)

Day Three:

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Breakfast #3: 2 slices of whole grain bread toasted and topped with sunflower seed butter, 1/2 cup greek yogurt mixed with 1 tbsp. chia seeds and fresh peach slices.  Coffee with soymilk (as always) on the side.

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Lunch #3: Two slices of whole wheat bread toasted and topped with hummus plus a large mixed green salad on the side with carrots, onions and shredded part-skim mozzarella.  I also ate an apple – just forgot to include it in the photo!

(Not pictured was a Chocolate Chip Peanut Clif bar during my 3:30 – 5pm class.)

Dinner #3: Chicken sausage, corn, roasted sweet potato rounds and a seltzer

Dessert: Coffee greek yogurt topped with peanuts (which I already had) and dark chocolate chips

Day Four:

Breakfast #4: honey almond & flax 9 whole grain cereal with strawberries, soymilk and…surprise, surprise, coffee with soymilk.

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Lunch #4: Dinner #1’s whole wheat pasta, sautéed veggies and arrabbiata sauce with 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella and an orange. Not so bad considering this was my one and only repeat meal of the week!

Dinner will most likely be on the road so I suppose I should add another $10 to the budget!

Post-Week Takeaways:

  • I definitely spent more than I would ideally like to week to week.  I’d love to get to around $60.  The good news is that the coffee, the oatmeal, the frozen veggies, the remaining chicken sausage (just packed and thrown in the freezer), box of cereal etc. can all be used in later weeks so hopefully that will make up for the difference.
  • I think being able to find loose leaf lettuce in the produce section would be great because a good amount of mine went to waste this week.
  • Don’t make the whole box of pasta (especially not for 3.5 days)!  I had WAY too much leftover.

Overall I felt pretty happy with the variety I managed with a minimal shop!  I only truly repeated a meal once and never felt bored or tired of with repurposing the same foods in different ways.

Feel free to leave any budget-saving tips you might have!

disclaimer: i share these meals for inspiration and because i’m often asked for the recipes on instagram.  please note that i do not share these meals with the intention of them being prescriptive or because you should eat exactly what i eat.  everyone is different and requires different calories and nutrition.  if you’re seeking an individualized plan for you, consult a dietitian in your area.

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Comments

  1. I love this post!! Can’t wait for more! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    A friend of mine suggested buying loose leaf lettuce at the salad bar. Just grab the amount you need and it’s pretty inexpensive as lettuce/mixed greens don’t weigh much.

    Your oatmeal looks so thick! How do you make it?

    • Yay! It makes me so happy that you liked it! I definitely think it will be a good way to keep myself motivated 🙂

      And yes! That’s such a good idea on the lettuce – I will definitely have to do that for this week. Thank you!

      The key to my thick oats is using chia seeds – they make it SUPER thick! Although I’ve heard (though never tried) that egg white oats are very thick and fluffy as well!

    • Thank you! Glad you liked it! And haha yes! Me too! There’s a Whole Foods right near me and I avoid even going in because I fear that I will get sucked into a black hole of high grocery bills 😉

  2. I absolutely LOVE this idea! I’m usually pretty good at eating well and sticking on a budget, but as I’m student teaching this semester (aka not getting paid for working and dishing out money for 13 credits), I really need all the help I can get! Thanks!
    And of course, your meals look incredible as always. 🙂

    • Haha I hear you on the not getting paid and dishing out money! Ah, the beauty of being in school 😉

      I’m glad you’re on board – definitely share any tips you discover along the way and I’ll be sure to do the same!

  3. What a great post! You could not be more right about going to the grocery store with a game plan. I went into Whole Foods yesterday after work with the intention of grabbing a few veggies (already stocked up on amazing fruit from Costco) so I was feeling like I had things in check. Still spent $60, gah! How does that happen? OK, well in my defense, I guess I did buy a couple staples like two jars of almond butter which was on sale, two boxes of tea, a few other small items as well as honey crisp apples which were NOT on sale but I just had to have! I am over the moon excited for fall and apple season again!!!

    • I’m so glad that you liked it! And I know – that ALWAYS happens to me! Even sometimes when I DO go in with a game plan!

      And yes!! Nothing beats apple season – can’t wait to pick my own!!

    • Totally! The funny thing is that I usually DO make my own but they were out of my favorite red wine vinegar! But definitely a budget saver that I will be using in the future!! 🙂

  4. Not sure if you’ve heard of Aldi– it’s a German based discount supermarket but there’s one 5 minutes by my off- campus apartment and it’s awesome. All of its own generic brand stuff is cheaper than any supermarket (including walmart’s food section) and i’ve never spent over $30 on groceries there– which includes produce, cereals, meats, dairy. Of course it’s no Trader Joe’s or whole foods, but if you want cheap generic foods that are pretty much the same thing anywhere, i would definitely checking out to see if an Aldi is near you. other than that, i still have a meal plan this year so all my fresh fruit pretty much comes from the dining hall 😉

    • Good to know! I HAVE heard of it and have even driven by it before but have never stopped in – I didn’t know it had such good discounts! I’m definitely going to have to check it out 🙂

  5. I love this post! It is filled with so many great tips for eating on a budget, especially for just one person! I never make pasta, but your post inspired me to make a batch for a few meals this week. I read in the comments section about egg white oats being fluffy! I love making those because they do getthick! Sometimes I also mix 1/4 cup cottage cheese into my oatmeal to add protein! Those oats always keep me full for hours!

    • Oh yay! I’m so glad that it inspired you! And good to know on the oatmeal – I’m going to have to give both a try!!

  6. I love seeing how other people budget their weeks! You got a good haul for $100!

    (also, my phone broke, so I can’t see IG anymore – hopefully temporary – and I misssss youuuuu and your beautiful meals!)

    • Me too! I need to find more budget-friendly blogs for inspiration!

      And oooh okay – that makes more sense! I keep checking to see if you reappear – is it the barbie calculator phone that broke?!?!

      Love you tons and tons and can’t wait for you to be back on IG! I’ll try to keep my weekly meal recaps fairly regular just for you! 🙂

  7. when we were on a major budget, we did $60-75 per week for 2 people. Ya, we ate a lot of eggs, rice, beans, and tortillas. Plus frozen veggies. But hey, it was healthy!

    • Yeah I’m already realizing that beans, rice and eggs are definitely going to be staples! I need to gather up some good recipes for those things! And holy cow – $60-$70 for 2 people!? I hope I can get my budget to that!!

  8. i love this post! i’m in a similar situation: i’m trying to balance eating healthy with really high quality foods, but also reign in my weekly grocer shopping. i don’t like shopping with a set dollar amount because i feel trapped and i won’t settle for lower nutrient-dense food or for low-quality ingredients just to save $5. however, i do know that the majority of my weekly $ spent is on groceries, aside from rent. i love this post and can’t wait to see how creative you get!

    • I’m so glad you liked it and that you can relate! Definitely share any tips you might have as you go and I’ll be sure to do the same 🙂 And I agree – I don’t feel like I need to set super strict limits – I really just want to reign it in a little more and walk in with more of a plan than not!

  9. Terrific ideas. That sandwich with the greens and onions looks awesome.

    I went on a #5Ingredient Challenge this month. All meals are made with only 5 ingredients and that has certainly cut down on grocery expenses and forced me to purchase only what I truly need rather than things I ‘may’ need.

    • I know I’ve been seeing that challenge of yours on Instagram – I really like the idea of it! Maybe I’ll try to keep that in mind when coming up with meal plans 🙂

  10. Just found your posts and LUV it! I have a family of 5 and was wondering if your budget was for just 1 person? I spend WAY too much on food and am working on transitioning to a strict budget while attempting to continue feeding my crew healthy, mostly organic foods. Awesome job, keep it coming! God bless:)

    • Hey Angi! Yes my budget is usually just for one person but other than the produce, most of the food that I buy lasts me several weeks. This week was particularly high (I usually like to stay around $60/week) because I was out of a lot of staple items like oatmeal, coffee, peanut butter (all of which lasted me much longer than this one week).

      I definitely know the feeling of spending too much on food – half the reason I started these posts was to motivate myself to stay within a better budget! Congrats on making the commitment to feed your family healthy – definitely feel free to throw any tips you might come up with my way! 🙂

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