Eat Well, Not Junk, on A Budget

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

Once the holidays are over, we often find ourselves in belt-tightening mode – in more ways than one! That’s why we want to show you how to feed your family on a budget, without having to resort to takeout meals or regular stops at the drive-through window. Here are our Top 5 suggestions for tasty and healthy meals at home that won’t drain your savings.

5 Top Money-Saving Ideas When Cooking on A Budget

1. One-Dish Wonder

Think about the range of possibilities: mouth-watering curries, comforting stews or casseroles, pasta (the old stand-by), saucy stir-fries, hearty soups, or the always-popular pizza. Creating a one-dish meal is a great way to:

  • include lots of vegetables, especially when you have some that will otherwise go uneaten
    add soy to your diet
  • save time during both preparation and cooking
  • reduce the amount of meat you need
  • have leftovers to freeze, take for lunch the next day, or incorporate into another meal

2. Pantry (or Freezer) Power

Canned or frozen goods tend to cost less than their fresh counterparts. If you are the type of person who adopts New Year’s resolutions, make reclaiming your pantry one of them! Clear out all non-food items from the pantry and stock up on the healthy staples mentioned here.

3. Most Bang for Your Buck

Why pay lots of money for organic fruits or veggies when they may actually have inferior nutritional value? Foods labelled “organic” are not necessarily local. Some organic foods are flown in from faraway places, which contradicts the philosophy behind organic foods (sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices). Also, foods traveling that far can lose nutrients. If faced with the choice of buying locally-produced foods or organic-labeled food from another country, go local.

4. Take a Shortcut

Allow yourself one or two meals a week (maybe on your family’s busiest nights) where you do not have to start from scratch. That way you get a break, but you’re not tempted to eat out. Consider these examples:

  • A hearty soup using reduced-salt chicken broth, or canned/Tetra-Pak vegetable-based soups with extra vegetables added in. For convenience, use frozen veggies. If you like, add some lean protein (meat or soy). Sprinkle some dried herbs for extra flavor without adding salt.
  • Individual mini pizzas using English muffins or tortillas as the crust. Start with tomato sauce from your pantry, add some cheese, and lay out as many toppings as you can muster up.

5. Organize, Organize, Organize

Plan your meals one week at a time, peruse your local flyers and stick to a grocery list when shopping. It will help you take advantage of any specials in the store and prevent impulsive purchases. The rule is, if it is not on the list, it does not go into the grocery cart.

The Bottom Line

It is possible to eat healthy, great-tasting foods on a budget. It does mean investing some time to make your schedule and your kitchen conducive to easy home cooking. You and your family are worth that time investment!


budget eating, pantry


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