Healthy doesn’t have to mean not frugal! You can eat well on a budget. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that eating whole foods is only for the wealthy. Everyone–on any budget–can afford to eat well. Below is a short selection of my favorite frugal foods.
Whole Chicken – Whole chickens are incredibly frugal. Typical price is $.99 a pound, while average sale price is $.88 a pound. Sometimes you can find them for .79/lb, but not as often as in past years. That’s my stock up price. I can get two to three meals or dishes out of one whole chicken. I love roasted chicken for the first meal, then triple mushroom bisque for the second (a Cooking Lightrecipe)and then I make homemade chicken stock for the third use.
Fruit Waters – Whether its sparkling or still, I love homemade fruit waters. Sparkling waters make me feel like I’m having something a little fancier and are very frugal to make. I shared one of my recipes a few weeks ago. Here’s another simple one: Simply take a bottle of sparkling water (like a two-liter for $.79 at Kroger), add a handful of your favorite frozen fruit to the bottle and chill in the fridge. My favorite is raspberry. The juice from the berries will infuse the water, giving it flavor. You can do the same with a pitcher of fresh-filtered water. The raspberries are cheap, too – I have two different favorite sales. First, when they are 10 for 10 over the summer, I buy a bunch of pints and freeze them. Second, when Cascadian Farms has frozen fruit sales at Kroger, I’ll stock up. $2.99 for frozen organic fruit and a $1/1 coupon makes it $1.99 for a package – and since I’ll use about 1/4 cup per two liters of water, that’s a good deal! No sugar needed in the flavored water. (Oh, and don’t let lemons or limes sit in the water for more than 24 hours. The rind becomes bitter and so does the water.)
Oatmeal – Oatmeal in its whole form is incredibly healthy for you! A whole grain in and of itself, oatmeal high in fiber and other nutrients. Oatmeal often goes on sale in the fall, so I always stock up for the year. My favorite recipe is to make my own instant oatmeal. (The boxed variety typically has 13 grams of sugar per 1/4 cup serving.) I mix a 1/2 cup of whole oats with 1 teaspoon of organic sugar (that’s only four grams of sugar), a handful of raisins, one tablespoon of dried milk and some chopped toasted walnuts if I have them. Then I mix it up and eat it or freeze it in individual servings. (To eat, add boiling water to your 1/2 cup serving – enough to not quite cover the oats, about 1/4 cup – then microwave for 30 seconds to one minute until it’s fully cooked, depending on the power of your microwave. Mine only takes 30 seconds.)
Aunt Millie’s Breads – Aunt Millie’s makes great whole-grain breads with no added corn syrups. There are sales on these breads every three months. If you combine coupons with a sale, you can find it for less than $1 for a loaf of good whole-grain bread. I don’t suggest eating a lot of bread while trying to lose weight, but it does help with making sandwiches for the kids’ lunches. I will stock up at this price and freeze it for future use.
Frozen Pacific Wild Salmon – Both Aldi and Walmart often run sales on frozen Pacific wild salmon, which is the healthiest type there is. Skip Atlantic salmon – there are many warnings about it, and as I’ve been reading up, I’m finding it has higher fats and less protein. Anyway, Walmart and Aldi’s often has wild Pacific salmon for $6.99 a 16 ounce package. That’s four servings of a great source of lean(ish) protein!
Rice – Rice is a great deal and is a very flexible staple to cook with. Remember to get whole-grain or brown rice and buy it in bigger bags for a bigger bang for your buck! I love to mix some Italian spices along with a bit of parmesan cheese (a small grating won’t kill your diet) into it for a new flavoring. I will frequently buy a small inexpensive box of wild rice and mix it in with brown rice and keep it in a jar on my counter, to make it quick and easy for dinner time.
Potatoes – Potatoes can be baked, mashed, steamed, roasted, etc. They get really cheap during certain times of the year (you’ll pay as little as $1.99 for 10 pounds) and can be stored in cool, dark places to make them last longer. (I put them in my garage, off the floor during the winter.) They also freeze well if you cook them slightly. I like mashed potatoes flavored with the skim evaporated milk, a little garlic and some salt and pepper.
Frozen Vegetables – Did you know that frozen veggies are almost always healthier than the ones in the “fresh” area of your grocery? It’s true! Frozen veggies are picked at the height of their ripeness, and frozen within 48 hours of picking. “Fresh” veggies, however, are often picked before they’re ripe, and have been off the vine/tree/plant for as much as two to three weeks before you buy them! They’ve lost lots of vitamins since they were picked before full ripeness, and many of their vitamins evaporate into the air as they sit waiting to be bought. As for deals, Birds Eye and Green Giant steamers have frequent sales. Cascadian Farms have been on sale several times, and when combined with a $1-off coupon, have been under $1 a package for organic frozen veggies – a GREAT deal!
Mom’s Best Cereals – I love Mom’s Best cereals, and they are one of the best deals to be found in the health food section. Watch their website to get the best coupons. They have a ton of variety, including “kids” cereals, that are made with whole grains, no colorings or artificial flavors, and a small ingredient list. Even better, I rarely pay more than $2.49 for a box–and that is full price at my store. With coupons and sales you can stock up for .99/box. My kids love them as much as the more processed cereals, so this is a win for us!
Eggs – Eggs as whole protein are incredibly healthy and frugal. When local stores offer eggs for less than $1 a dozen (I’ve seen Walmart have them for $.88 a dozen locally), I’ll stock up. While you can’t freeze eggs in the shell, good chefs know that eggs can still be frozen. Just crack and freeze them whole – scrambled, unscrambled, all whites, all yolks, etc. I love scrambled eggs with a little spinach and mushroom for my breakfast. My favorite are the eggs I get from a friend–we will often barter for the eggs. I might trade her food from my stockpile for her fresh eggs. It’s worth it for eggs that were laid just that day!
The Misto – The Misto is not a food product, it’s a food tool. The Misto is a substitute for Pam or other oil/baking sprays. Instead of buying individual cans, the Misto is a refillable pump sprayer. I can buy extra light oils and fill the Misto, give the cap a few pumps to build up air pressure and then spray my foods or pans lightly. I get small amounts of oil (often under 1 gram of fat per use) but sprayed evenly and cheaply. The Misto cost me $12 when I bought it and has saved me well over that amount this past year alone.