my favorite items to buy when working to create nutrient-dense meals on a budget
Those of you that have been reading this blog for awhile already know that when it comes to grocery shopping, I always like to try to stick to a budget. I even did a “Healthy Eating on a Budget” series!
After 3 years of being a broke grad school student, I got pretty darn good at navigating the grocery store and finding those items that provided the most nutrition for their price. I know from my conversations with many of you that you’re in the same boat (whether it’s being in school or just trying to keep your grocery bill reasonable!) so I wanted to share my favorite budget buys with you. I hope this list helps to guide you next time you’re at the store. And just remember, eating on a budget does NOT have to be boring! It just takes a little bit more thought and kitchen creativity 🙂
1. Frozen Fruits & Vegetables: Studies have actually shown that these are often fresher than the fresh versions depending on how long the fresh have sat out in the produce section at the grocery store. Because most frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen almost immediately after harvest, they maintain their peak freshness! They are also not subject to oxygen or lighting like their fresh counterparts meaning they likely retain more of their nutrient base as well. The added icing on the cake (or…vegetable) is that they’re also usually much cheaper! Use these to make stir-frys, omelettes, smoothies, overnight oatmeal and pasta dishes among many, many other things!
2. Dried/Canned/Frozen Beans: I think the misconception about eating on a budget is that it’s difficult to get enough protein. But that’s actually not true! There are plenty of great, affordable protein options available such as dried, canned or even frozen (think edamame) beans! These are great to add in with rice or pasta for easy dinners and into wraps for burritos or quesadillas!
3. Nut Butters: Nut butters can get expensive real fast! I usually opt for peanut butter because it tends to be cheaper than other nut butters out there and I always try to buy the store brand. So long as you’re making a smart choice about which one you buy, for about $4 you can get a good number of meals and snacks out of one jar!
4. Whole Grains: Breads, ancient grains, oats, pastas, rice, cereals, pizza dough – the list goes on and on! These items tend to be inexpensive (especially if you can buy via bulk bins) and offer plenty of nutrients while serving as a great base for many different types of meals (oatmeal for breakfast, rice for lunch, pasta for dinner).
5. Milk/Yogurt: Milk and yogurt are great options because (so long as you’re buying store brand!) they’re fairly inexpensive and can be used for a number of different meals.
6. Cheese: Again, if you buy the store brand versions, you can get a decent amount of cheese for what you pay. While it might not be the cheapest thing in the store, it is a great way to add flavor to dishes (top your pasta, mix it in with your rice and beans or even make a grilled cheese sandwich!)
7. Popcorn: Okay so this kind of goes in the whole grains category up there, but I wanted to give it its own category because it offers so much! It makes for a perfect snack and if you buy the un-popped kernels and pop them yourself on the stovetop, you get a ton of servings (way more than you do with the microwaveable popcorn boxes) and usually for under $1!
8. Eggs: Eggs are great to have on hand not only because they’re a wonderful source of protein but they make for easy meals (and snacks!) at any point during the day. They’re also be fairly inexpensive and utilized to make many other things (hello easy veggie-packed mexican casserole and whole grain chocolate chip zucchini waffles!).5