Eating Well On A Budget
Just because January 1st has passed, doesn’t mean it’s too late to start a new habit in the new year. If eating well, cooking at home, or getting healthy are part of your resolutions for 2022, InTown Suites has you covered! Combining our expert knowledge of budget-friendly living and our borrowed expertise from healthy-cooking gurus, we’ve created the ultimate guide to help you eat well on a budget.
- Peruse our list of Top 10 Tips For Eating Well On A Budget
- Discover a variety of Healthy Essentials That Will Help You Stay On Budget
- Enjoy these 9 Simple Recipes To Help You Eat Well For Less
When you decide to change your eating habits, you must remember that you will need to invest more time into your meals than when you were buying fast food or heating up a frozen pizza. There are many small ways that you can make this change to healthy eating and saving money. Making this switch to cooking at home is the first step. You can take these savings and improvements a step further by investing a little more of your time into meal planning and preparation. Check out our full list of tips to help you accomplish your goals in the new year by eating well on a budget:
1. Plan your meals and stick to the plan.
As you plan your meals, use the weekly sale paper to take advantage of the current deals at your local grocery store. You can also implement in-season fruits and vegetables to enjoy the freshest meals and best quality produce. By planning ahead and making one trip to the grocery store, you can save yourself precious time throughout the week, valuable money on impulse purchases and important calories when meeting your healthy goals.
*TIP: Never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. This increases the likelihood of impulse purchases.
2. Take advantage of free.
There are hundreds of free offers and discounts available for budget-focused shoppers, you just have to know where to look. Beyond the sale papers, search online for coupon websites. Additionally, there are several grocery apps available that allow you to download coupons directly onto your mobile device so you never forget your coupons. You should also take advantage of pickup orders when available. This will not only save you time from weekly grocery shopping but also save you money since most grocery stores offer curbside pickup for free on orders over $35.
3. Buy fresh and whole.
While it may be tempting to buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables to save time, you’ll wind up costing your wallet in the end. Plan to take time after you’ve completed your grocery shopping to wash, peel, cut and prepare all of your fruits and vegetables for the upcoming week. This extra prep time will not only save you precious time during your busy work week but also help you stay on budget for the month.
4. Create your own snacks.
Another great way to eat well on a budget is to create your own snacks instead of buying premade or pre-packaged items. Try creating your own trail mix. The real savings will come if you purchase your ingredients in bulk. You can make small batches of your homemade trail mix to be eaten weekly or monthly. Then, store your leftover fruits and nuts in the freezer until it’s time to make another batch.
*TIP: Planning a road trip and worried about finding healthy snacks along the way? Here are 9 healthy snacks to enjoy and where to find them on a road trip!
5. Stock up on sale items.
When a great sale comes up on items that you enjoy, don’t be afraid to stock up. When chicken or beef goes on sale, you could purchase multiple packages and simply freeze them to be used in the months to come. If there’s a special on canned goods, load up your pantry. Obviously, only do this for items that keep well in the pantry or can be frozen and easily unthawed.
6. Don’t be afraid of leftovers (or doubling recipes).
Similar to the above tip, you can save yourself time and money by preparing large meals and freezing the leftovers. If you plan to make soup for dinner, go ahead and make enough for two dinners. Then you can save the second half for an evening when you have to work late. If you plan to make lasagna, create enough for two meals. Cook one pan for dinner and freeze the second to be used in the future. Don’t forget, you can also use leftovers for next-day lunches. This saves you money on eating out and helps you stay on your healthy eating plan.
7. Save even more with generic.
While there can be small differences between a name brand item and generic, many times the taste is the same. Save some extra change by purchasing store-brand items. To be sure you are still purchasing a quality product, simply compare the ingredients lists of the name brand and store brand.
8. Avoid highly processed foods.
You may find that purchasing frozen dinners could save you time on preparations and money on purchasing fresh meats and vegetables, but you must also remember your goal of becoming more healthy. Frozen dinners and many pre-packaged dishes are full of sodium, sugar and carbohydrates. Even though the box will read something like “Low Calories & High Protein,” the overall nutritional value is highly lacking.
9. Purchase frozen when needed.
For your health, the number one choice for produce is fresh. But for your wallet, sometimes the number one choice is frozen. Purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables can be helpful when you are looking for items that may be out of season and the cost of fresh produce is extremely high. It can also be helpful when making large dishes like soups or stews. Just be sure to look for packages that read “frozen fresh” or “quick frozen.”
10. Buy in bulk.
Most of the time, bulk purchasing requires more money upfront but provides long-term investment savings. Any items that have a long shelf life can be purchased in bulk for overall savings. You will find that your cost per pound/item/meal is much lower when you can purchase larger quantities upfront. If you and your family eat a lot of a particular food or meal, consider buying these items in bulk also. You will save yourself time on the weekly grocery store trip and money on your monthly grocery budget.
As you work to continue eating healthy and staying on budget, it’s important to keep a few staples in stock for those times when hunger strikes and junk food calls. Some of these items are also great substitutes for common ingredients that don’t exactly fall within the realm of healthy eating. Here’s our list of essentials that are sure to help you eat well on a budget:
Refrigerated goods to keep in stock.
Did you know that InTown Suites offers a full-sized refrigerator in every suite? Whether you stay in our most affordable traditional suite or our newly renovated premium suite, you’ll enjoy a full kitchen that’s perfect for making meals at home.
Many people call eggs nature’s perfect food. When eggs are boiled, they are good for up to a week if you keep them in the refrigerator. They make a great breakfast when you’re running late to your morning meeting.
Slices of turkey, ham or roast beef are great to have on hand. Roll them up and munch on them as is, or make a sandwich with them. Make it even healthier by purchasing a low sodium option.
Fruit makes for a great snack or sweet treat. Remember to purchase whole fruits to help you stay on budget. Also, look to purchase seasonal fruits to avoid excess costs. Farmer’s markets are also a great option for fresh fruit and great prices.
When purchasing vegetables, try to implement a variety of colors into your diet. Don’t just buy potatoes and think you are done. (Potatoes are a starch anyway!) Add green with spinach, broccoli and zucchini. Add orange with sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkin.
*TIP: If you find vegetables too boring on their own, consider buying a tub of hummus or tzatziki to dip them in.
Not all yogurt is healthy – you must check the nutritional facts – but the right yogurt can become a healthy alternative or the base of a delicious snack. Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt is an excellent alternative to sour cream when baking or cooking. Plain, non-fat yogurt can create a filling snack by adding fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts or granola.
Shelf-stable eats to always have available.
Besides the full-sized fridge, InTown Suites’ well-equipped kitchens boast a two-burner stovetop, microwave and plenty of cabinet space. Easily store your pantry items, cookware, dishes, cutlery and drinkware. Keeping these items stocked in your cabinets is a great way to stay healthy and save money:
Peanut butter is a staple. It’s a cheap source of protein and healthy fat. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and it tastes delicious. Add it to a few slices of bread for a PB sandwich, dip apple slices in it, or eat it right out of the jar with a spoon!
Not just for breakfast, cereal makes for a great snack at any time of day. Just remember to look for a whole grain cereal with lots of fiber and little sugar (avoid anything marketed towards children or contain the word ‘frosted’). Top it with some sliced banana or berries and you’ve got a complete meal.
Granola is very versatile. It can be added to yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast. It makes a great addition to homemade trail mix. It’s also a staple ingredient in many homemade protein bars and healthy cookie recipes. Just avoid brands with added sugars or sweeteners.
These sweet and condensed versions of fruit are perfect for snacking. They are also another staple in many healthy snack creations. It’s a great way to curb your sweet tooth without resorting to refined sugar.
Nuts pack a lot of energy into a small package, making it the perfect option for snacking well. Look for dry roasted or plain nut options. Candied nuts are not worth the extra calories!
Look for a protein bar that has a good ratio of fats, carbs and protein. These can act as meal replacements when you’re in a rush and can easily be stashed in the glove compartment for easy access.
*TIP: Check out our homemade energy bar recipe!
Rice (& Other Grains)
This is an inexpensive way to “beef up” a meal. Keep it healthy by selecting whole-grain alternatives. Another inexpensive alternative is barley which can be used instead of rice.
Many people forget that beans are a remarkable source of protein and fiber, plus they are far cheaper than meat. Consider adding a can of black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans or red kidney beans to your grocery list.
Once you’ve planned your meals, stocked your shelves and finished your meal prep, it’s time to get cooking. Check out this list of 9 simple recipes that are sure to help you eat well for less, from main courses to delicious snacks:
1. Breakfast Banana Popsicles
We just love this fun and whimsical breakfast. The best part is you can prepare this breakfast up to a week in advance. Plus, it’s a fun way to get in some healthy carbs and protein. Pick up the following ingredients and enjoy a breakfast that will keep you going until lunch!
- Peanut butter
- Peel and chill your bananas. This works best in the fridge overnight.
- Take a banana and insert a popsicle stick.
- Roll it in some peanut butter, or another favorite nut butter.
- Dip the banana into some granola.
- Grab, go and enjoy!
2. Apple Pancakes
Who doesn’t love pancakes? This version is much healthier and won’t sit heavy in your stomach if you’re off to morning meetings. Here’s what you’ll need to make this scrumptious breakfast:
- Pancake mix
- Milk and eggs (as mix requires)
- Mix up a small batch of pancake batter, adding in a few dashes of cinnamon.
- Take an apple and slice it horizontally into rings.
- Dip the rings into the pancake batter.
- Grill the apple rings over medium heat until golden brown.
- Enjoy a unique take on cinnamon apple pancakes.
3. Overnight Oats
If you love oatmeal for breakfast but don’t have the time to make it in the mornings, we have a great recipe for you! Simply prepare this delicious meal the night before, and it’s ready in the fridge when you need it! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Rolled oats (not instant)
- Non-fat milk
- Honey or another sweetener (sugar, Splenda, etc.)
- Vanilla (optional)
- Granola (optional)
- Blueberries (or another berry, optional)
- Mix together a ½ cup of rolled oats and ½ cup of milk. (You can always mix more for multiple days’ worth of breakfast. Overnight oats are good for up to 5 days.)
- Add in a dash of sweetener, like sugar or honey. Add vanilla for even more flavor without the calories.
- Store in the fridge in individual meal sizes. (The oats will soften overnight, so they don’t need to be cooked!)
- In the morning, throw in a handful of blueberries or other fruit. You can also add a handful of granola for more fiber and texture. Enjoy!
4. 20-Minute Honey Garlic Shrimp
Shrimp are an excellent source of lean protein, and they cook in a matter of minutes, making them a wonderful addition to any dish. Gather a few basic ingredients and enjoy a flavorful, healthy, and satisfying meal. The ingredients you will need are:
- Soy sauce
- Olive oil
- Green onion
- Brown rice
- Whisk honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in a medium bowl.
- Place shrimp in a large zipped-top bag or in a container. Pour 1/2 of the marinade mixture on top, give it all a shake or stir, then allow shrimp to marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or up to 12 hours.
- Cover and refrigerate the rest of the marinade for step 3. (Time-saving tip: While the shrimp is marinating, whip up your quick brown rice according to the directions on the package.)
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place shrimp in the skillet. Discard used marinade. Cook shrimp on one side until no longer pink (about 45 seconds) then flip shrimp over. Pour in the remaining marinade and cook it all until shrimp is cooked through, about another 1 minute.
- Serve shrimp with cooked marinade sauce and a garnish of green onion on top of brown rice.
5. 20-Minute Sausage, Brussel Sprouts & Parmesan Pasta
Easily made with gluten-free, whole grain or regular pasta, this satisfying dish is a crowd-pleaser worthy of a position in the rotation. Enjoy virtually no prep work and the convenient clean-up of a two-dish meal! All you’ll need are a few basic ingredients, like:
- Spaghetti noodles (or another pasta option)
- Sweet Italian sausage
- Olive oil
- Brussels sprouts
- Salt & pepper
- Red chili pepper flakes
- Fresh parmesan
- Cook sausage over medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Scoop sausage onto a plate; set aside.
- Drop pasta into salted, boiling water then cook until it’s just under al dente (pasta will continue to cook a little bit in the skillet later). *Save the water when pasta is done cooking.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in the skillet. Add brussels sprouts and red chili pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, then saute until the brussels sprouts are tender. Add garlic then saute for another 1 minute until fragrant.
- Using tongs, transfer spaghetti from pot to skillet. Also, add the parmesan cheese and cooked sausage. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and enough pasta cooking water to help the parmesan cheese melt and evenly coat the pasta. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.
6. Linguine With Spicy Shrimp
Another simple meal that packs a lot of flavors is this spicy shrimp creation. You can easily substitute the pasta for whatever you have in stock or what’s on sale this week. It can also easily be doubled or cut in half depending on how many you plan to have for dinner. The items to add to your grocery list include:
- Linguine (or another pasta)
- olive oil
- peeled and deveined large shrimp, tails removed (raw)
- cloves of garlic, chopped
- crushed red pepper
- kosher salt
- watercress, thick stems removed (or another hearty green like kale)
- grated lemon zest
- Start by cooking your pasta according to the package instructions. Drain your pasta but save a cup of pasta water for later. Wipe out the pot.
- Add olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, garlic, salt and red pepper. Cook approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and add pasta, watercress, and a small portion of your saved pasta water. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta, adding more pasta water if needed.
- Serve and enjoy!
7. Grown-Up Crackers
Everyone has snacked on some saltines at some point or another. Take your cracker snacking game to the next level with these grown-up crackers that will keep you full, and are full of good-for-you ingredients, including:
- Sesame crackers
- Ripe avocado
- Salt & pepper
- Hard boil an egg for about 8-10 minutes.
- While the egg is cooling, use a fork to mash up the avocado to your desired consistency.
- Spread an equal amount of the mash across the crackers.
- Peel the egg and slice it into disks.
- Add a slice on top of each cracker, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Enjoy immediately.
8. Tangy Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries
This frozen treat will help cool you down quickly after your workout, and they are perfectly designed for mindless snacking. You’ll need the following ingredients:
- Container fresh blueberries
- Container plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
- Vanilla and honey (optional)
- Place a plate in the freeze for 10 minutes, then cover with wax or parchment paper.
- If desired, sweeten the yogurt with honey or add extra flavor with vanilla.
- Using a toothpick, dip each blueberry into the yogurt to coat, then place on wax paper
- Once all the berries have been dipped, transfer the plate into the freezer and let them freeze solid (about two hours).
- After the berries have frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag.
- Snack at your leisure.
These delicious morsels will not only fuel you up with a lot of nutrients but also satisfy your sweet tooth! The ingredients you will need are:
- 1 cup oats
- 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup agave
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly.
- Similar to making meatballs, use your hands to form the mixture into small balls.
- Refrigerate the balls for 20 minutes to firm.
- Consume with abandon!