My approach to nutrition is focused on real, whole foods, and how they fit into your real, everyday life. I don’t think that we should be cutting out any sort of food group (unless you have a diagnosed disease or sensitivity to the foods). I think the mainstream media “health” people do a good job of finding key words and getting them out to the public saying why this one food is the answer to all of your problems, or that one food will make you fat. These are catchy headlines, but far from reality. My approach has always been the same, make vegetables the focus of your diet, create balanced meals with protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, and avoid packaged foods if you can, but they aren’t going to kill you. If you are doing packaged foods, stick to the ones with the shorter ingredient lists. Keep your Grains & wheat products to whole wheat and whole grains, and you don’t need grains with every meal. Grains and Wheat get a bad rep, but remember, everyone is different and what could be harmful for one person, could be perfectly fine for the next person. Finally, eating healthy doesn’t have to brake the bank!! I think so many people get discouraged or overwhelmed thinking that they have to shop at Whole Foods and buy all organic products to be healthy, so they just don’t even try. McDonalds & Mac & Cheese are cheap, but what if I told you that you could eat better and feel better for the same cost? Well its true.
My husband and I have been living on a Student/Intern budget for the last few years and trust me, we know about living on a budget. My strategy is to have some sort of game plan before heading to the store, look for sales on produce, and buy bulk ingredients when you can. Don’t waste your time and money on packaged “health foods”. That is the food industry reeling you in to spend more money on food that you could make healthier yourself! So here are 10 frugal, healthy ingredients I usually always have on hand.
- Rolled oats: you can buy these in bulk from Sprouts, Harmons, and many other options. I always have oats for a quick and healthy breakfast. I use them for oatmeal, overnight oats, baking, etc. Just blend them up to make your own oat flour!
- Lentils: Also one of my favorites from the bulk section. Lentils are awesome to make hardy soups with, added to a warm salad, or even just stirred in with cooked veggies. They are packed with fiber and tons of nutrients.
- Bananas: My motto, you can never have too many bananas. I usually don’t have more than 1/2 banana at a time in my oatmeal or smoothies, but the beauty of this fruit is you can peel and freeze and you’ll always have a perfect smoothie ready to go! You can also use frozen bananas to make healthy ice-cream when you’re in need of a sweet treat.
- Big, Raw Carrots: skip the baby carrots, you’re graduating to the real deal. You can get a big bag of large raw carrots for 1-2 dollars. Why do I love them? you can chop them up into sticks for an on the go snack, chop them up in soups, smoothies, juice them, spiralize them to make carrot noodles, cut into match sticks to add to sandwiches or wraps, in baking, the list goes on. If you’re still buying overpriced processed baby carrots, make the switch! save money and give yourself more options!
- Big Bags of Spinach: You may think “why would I buy so much spinach, it goes bad so quickly!” Agreed. But the beauty here is that you can use it for salads, through it in your eggs, in wraps, sandwhiches, and when you notice it start to go bad hurry and through it in a ziplock bag in the freezer and you have frozen spinach for your morning smoothies! You can also do this with Kale. Trust me on this one.
- Canned beans: When you have beans on hand, your possibilities are endless. Beans are cheap, and make great soups, salad toppings, even use in healthy baking (try my black bean brownie recipe). Some of my favorites are black beans and Garbanzo beans. Also, look for canned food sales to stock up on these items.
- Frozen Berries: Berries are an awesome, low glycemic fruit, full of vitamins, but the fresh stuff can be pricey. Try a large bag of frozen berries. You can through those in your smoothies, in your oatmeal, and even in thaw out for a salad topping. They may not be quite as delectable as their fresh counter part, but when your on a budget they do the trick.
- Brown Rice: I buy brown rice in the bulk section and its an awesome way to get in some healthy carbs as a base to your meal. You can make a quick veggie stir fry and serve on top of some brown rice. This stuff goes far. I usually only make a cup at a time for my husband and I and there’s usually left overs. Just don’t overdo it on your serving sizes. Try to stick around one cupped handful.
- Sweet Potatoes: Oh how I love sweet potatoes! Again, another cheap, nutrient dense, power food that has a long shelf life, and can be used in so many ways! Some of my favorite ways to use sweet potatoes are shredded for hashbrowns, diced up in soups, sliced and baked as fries, or baked and loaded with a protein & other veggies. You can also make brownies with them… a must try.
- Eggs: back to the basics, eggs are an absolute staple on my grocery list. I love them hard boiled as a protein filled snack. One of my favorite go to dinners is a veggie frittata, with lots of veggies sautéed, then eggs poured over and cooked till nice and fluffy. Eggs don’t need to be boring!
There you have it! Some of my staple foods that are good for you and fit into the tightest of budgets. Try to shop in season for produce, and try to use your ingredients for more than one recipe. Check out my Fit Girl on Budget Ebook on sale in my store for a full meal plan to fit into a budget. Its packed with healthy Recipes & Fit tips on how to eat healthy, manage your weight, and feel great all on a budget.