Planning Healthy Meals on a Budget


    Eat Better and lose weight

    By Jennifer Struble, AHS

    Do you often find yourself spending more money than you have planned on your groceries? For most people, the cost of food is something we think about every week while shopping for food or eating out.

    Try the following tips to help you prepare healthy meals while not breaking your budget.

    Plan Ahead. Plan a menu first. This may help to prevent you from buying items you don’t really need. Decide what recipes you will make for lunch and dinner for the week. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer for ingredients you may already have on hand and then start a list of what you will need to pick up. If you have a plan you will be less likely to spend money on fast food and convenience meals. For quick and healthy meal ideas check out

    Avoid shopping on an empty stomach. It’s been proven that people who shop on an empty stomach spend more money.

    Buy fewer convenience items. Foods like canned soups and stews, frozen dinners and packaged noodle and rice mixes are often costly. Save money by preparing more meals at home. Pick up groceries from a grocery store rather than stopping at corner stores which tend to be more expensive.

    Look for the best buys in the four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide.

    • Vegetables and fruits- Best buys tend to be apples, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, frozen 100-per-cent pure juices, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, canned tomatoes and plain vegetables such as peas, green beans, mixed vegetables and spinach. Purchase other vegetables and fruit when in season to get the best price. In the winter months frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option.
    • Grain products- Best buys include grains such as rice, pasta, bread, barley, oats, quinoa and couscous. Choose whole grain more often such as whole grain bread and brown pasta or rice. Try them in soups, stews, salads or as a side dish.
    • Milk and alternatives- Skim milk powder, white cow’s milk, evaporated milk, cheddar and mozzarella cheese and plain yogurt are your best buys. Choose low fat milk, yogurt and cheese more often and buy generic brands when available to save money.
    • Meat and alternatives- Try peanut butter, dried or canned beans and lentils, eggs, ground beef, blade or rump roast, canned light tuna and utility grade chicken for your best buys. Try this recipe for Lentil Pasta Salad.

    Avoid recipes that need a special ingredient. It may not be worth the money to buy an ingredient if you are only going to use it once. Try Alberta Health Services Healthy Eating Starts Here for some great recipes and nutrition resources.

    Plan to use leftovers. Think about how you can use extra pasta for soups and salads. Use left over roast chicken for sandwiches, salads or casseroles. Use extra rice for rice pudding or chicken fried rice. Freeze leftovers for school lunches or evenings that you may feel rushed.  See Alberta Health Services Healthy Eating Starts Here resource on The Best of Leftovers.

    Enjoy planning, purchasing, preparing and eating nutritious and delicious meals at home.

    Jennifer Struble is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services and can be reached at [email protected]


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