By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, forcing many out of employment and a stable source of income. We have to be very smart about our spending during this time, as experts have warned that the economy might take a couple of years to get back on track. A major part of our disposable income is spent on food, and a great way to cut down on this expense is to make cheap healthy meals.
There are many cheap, healthy, family meals that you can make at home, but you must plan excessively to ensure you remain within budget. Here are some helpful guidelines:
It might be impractical to plan out months in advance. Rather, consider a weekly healthy meal prep to make things easier. Once you have decided on the menu, make a list of items you need from the store and calculate the total spend for the week. If you are exceeding your budget, try using cheaper alternatives for expensive ingredients or change some items on the menu.
A great way to save on groceries is to consume items already in your kitchen. Plan out your meals in a way that ensures you are utilizing the ingredients you already possess.
Once a grocery list is made, don’t succumb to the temptation of purchasing items that are not on it. The goal is to eat cheap, healthy meals, so it might be unwise to spend on snacks during this time. Usually, you will find the healthiest foods at the store’s periphery, so stick to this region to avoid temptation. If your store offers online shopping and free home delivery, shopping for your groceries online might be the best option. Speaking of delivery, there are a number of subscription kits that bring everything you need for homemade cheap healthy meals right to your door.
Avoid eating out as a rule for two reasons: food cooked by eateries might not be safe due to the easy spread of the virus, and eating out is generally more expensive than making meals at home. If you are short on time during the weekdays, try prepping your meals all at once. Focus on recipes for cheap healthy meals that are good for your body, you wallet, and your schedule. Take one of your off-days to sit down and plan meals for the entire week. Also, make bigger portions, as you can use leftovers as an entire meal.
There are many cheap, healthy meals you can make for less than $10. Some recipes have just three ingredients! Here are some ideas that are very easy to execute:
All you need to make a filling bowl of delicious oatmeal is oats, seasonal berries, honey, and cinnamon, combined with water/milk in a bowl. You can use oats overnight as well. The ingredients should cost you about $6.37, with each serving cost of $1.06. You also save a lot of time, as you can whip up this delicious breakfast in under five minutes.
Kickstart your day with an energizing smoothie. Take a bunch of kale, costing about $0.98, and puree it with cold water in a blender. Then, add some lemon juice for a citric punch, and frozen fruits of your choice. You should be able to find frozen fruits for around $1.19/12oz or maybe cheaper. Add anything else you like, such as protein powder or fresh fruits, and blend till everything’s well combined.
The total time taken is less than five minutes, and the price you pay is well under $3.05, with an 8-ounce glass costing about 61c.
Pre-cooked chicken breast should cost you $4.49/12oz, brown rice is about $1.12/2lbs, and frozen broccoli is usually available at $3.48/40oz, for a total of $9.09. It is very simple to make. Saute frozen broccoli with your cooked and chopped chicken breast in a pan with half a cup of cooked rice. Spice it up as per your liking, although salt and pepper work just fine.
Each serving of this costs you about 90c, and you get plenty of leftovers. This is among the best cheap, healthy, family meals you can make at home.
Meal prepping for vegans can be a bit tougher, as you have to steer clear of any animal-based foods. Buying fruits and vegetables can be expensive, especially if you like consuming produce that is imported from other countries. However, there are many budget-friendly vegan recipes that you can make at home on a budget.
A spinach salad is among the healthiest foods you can consume, and you can find fresh spinach at your local store for only $1.48/bunch. All you have to do is combine spinach with seasonal berries and tomatoes and top it off with a salad dressing of your choice. Feel free to add nuts in there as well for protein.
The salad serves four and costs about $10.45, amounting to $2.61 per serving.
Everyone loves pasta, and it is also very easy, quick, and cheap to make. You can also alter most recipes to make it vegan-friendly. All you need is some frozen peas and carrots at around $1.18/16oz from your local store, penne pasta, which should cost 82-cents per 16 ounces, and your favorite brand of vegan parmesan cheese. You will also need garlic, some lemon juice, and olive oil.
You start by boiling the pasta. In a separate pan, add olive oil and saute chopped garlic until golden. Then, add your vegetables, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Finish off by adding your boiled pasta in the pan and toss everything until all components are well combined. The entire dish should cost you around $8.78, and will easily serve four people.
While vegan ingredients can be slightly more expensive, there are many options for affordable vegan recipes. You can check out this 12-minute YouTube video for 12 vegan recipes that are very easy to prep even if you are an amateur cook.
Whatever your food restrictions or preferences, there are many ways to plan affordable meals. Don’t hesitate to get creative with your ingredients and prepping!