If you want to make enjoyable, healthy meals on a budget, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center can help.
If you want to make enjoyable, healthy meals on a budget, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center can help. We’re here to offer the tips and tricks you need to feed your body nourishing foods while also saving money at the grocery store. There are tons of cheap and easy options to consider, so we’ll offer up some of our favorite things to eat that are delicious and nutritious. Keep reading to learn what you should be adding to your grocery list.
Low-Cost Staples High in Nutrition
Often, when we hear the phrase “healthy food,” we immediately think “expensive”—but this isn’t necessarily true. You can eat healthy without stepping foot into an overpriced health food store. Whether you typically purchase food from the grocery, gas station, convenience store, or farmers market, there are nutritious options worth putting on your shopping list. Some examples include:
Eggs: Eggs are a nutritious and versatile staple that typically won’t cost a lot. Known as “nature’s multivitamin,” they are a great source of protein and just about every vitamin and mineral your body needs to thrive. Make omelets, a scramble, add to a stirfry; the options are endless.
Brown Rice: When you’re looking for a healthy, long-lasting staple that you can combine with nearly anything, rice is a great option. Not only can you buy rice in bulk—which tends to be cheaper—it’s an awesome source of whole grains.
Beans & Lentils: Dried or canned beans and lentils are not only considered one of the top health foods, but they are also one of the top non-perishable foods you can buy. You can keep dried beans for up to 10 years, so it’s definitely worth the investment. Try adding black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and more to soups and chilies.
Frozen Fruits & Veggies: Many fresh fruits vegetables do not last very long before going bad. This is why it’s best to buy frozen when possible, so you can eat however much you need and keep the rest safe in your freezer. Frozen fruits and veggies offer nutrient-dense ingredients at hand and are just as healthy as fresh produce since they are frozen at peak freshness.
If you’re looking for fresh produce, check out Mary Rigg’s Produce Fridays. We offer free fresh produce the last Friday of every month with no boundaries or service area restrictions. Items will vary based on what’s available.
Garlic & Onions: If you’re going to buy fresh veggies, garlic and onions are must-haves. These two simple, relatively long-lasting ingredients can be the backbone of most meals, adding tons of nutrition and flavor to meals. Throw them in a variety of meals to up the flavor and health factor.
If you’re looking for the ingredients above, be sure to check out the Mary Rigg Food Market. We offer a variety of items such as canned goods, fresh produce, bread and baked goods, frozen and refrigerated products, as well as other items including toiletries and cleaning products. Weekly items may vary based on availability through partner agencies and donations.
Meals to Consider
With these ingredients in mind, here are some low-cost meals that can make a lot of food for you or your family. Better yet, many of these meals can be made in large batches and frozen so you can make them last longer. Put your ingredients into a crockpot and come back hours later to a ready-to-eat meal.
- Soups: Soups are a great way to make tasty, large-batch meals with healthy ingredients. You can incorporate canned beans, frozen vegetables, garlic, onion, rice, sweet potatoes, and whatever else you have on hand. Things like broth and seasoning also have a long shelf life and are cheap and incredibly versatile. Better yet, soups can be frozen, so you don’t have to worry about eating this meal all at once.
- Chili: There are many ways to make chili that’s hardy and nutritious. Whether you include turkey, chicken, beef, chili beans, black beans, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, or all the above, this can be a bulk meal packed with healthy ingredients. You can mix and match whatever ingredients you’re feeling that day and make a completely different tasting chili the next with all the possibilities this meal introduces.
- Stir Fry: Since you already likely have rice in your pantry, consider making a stir fry. Use ingredients like rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, eggs, garlic, onion, and any veggies you want, like frozen carrots, peas, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli. Stir fry is another healthy meal that freezes well.
- Pasta: Noodles are a cheap pantry staple that are easy and quick to make. You can pair them with homemade pasta sauce for a healthy and delicious meal. Pasta sauce can be made with onion, garlic, tomatoes, and various other cheap ingredients. While noodles will need to be eaten within a week, pasta sauce can be canned or frozen to use in the future for a quick and easy dinner.
- Oatmeal: Making oatmeal in bulk is a great way to make sure you have a healthy breakfast waiting for you every morning. Buy your choice of oats and milk, and you’re basically set. The cool thing about oatmeal is you can basically use whatever ingredients you want. Feeling savory? Add some salt, cheese, egg, and tomato to your oats. Feeling sweet? Add some canned peaches, sugar, and cinnamon. You can store cooked oats in the freezer and scoop out your portion each morning to keep everything fresh. Just pop it in the microwave, and you have a tasty breakfast.
The Value of Meal Prepping
Meal prepping not only saves time, but it also saves you money in more ways than one. If you’re looking to eat healthy on a budget, we highly recommend looking into the benefits of planning and prepping your meals. This process gives you a clear idea of what you should be putting on your grocery and gives a clear view of what you’ll be spending.
One of the best parts about meal prepping is the convenience. It takes about an hour to prepare and prep food that can be spread out throughout the week or frozen to come back to when you’re in a pinch. You can make the meals mentioned above and organize them into separate containers for easy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or you can create your very own healthy meals that fit your budget.
While it may sound intimidating at first, making healthy meals is one of those things that has major benefits in the short- and long-term. If you need some additional inspiration, this article from Medical News Today offers some useful info, and Mary Rigg has programs that can help make the process accessible and fun.