Saving money while eating better is always a challenge. But you don’t have to stick to good old ramen noodle soup. There are lots of ways to eat better and stay within your budget.
The Bachelor’s Kitchen has repeatedly urged people to eat less meat. We’re not saying “NO meat,” just less. Not only can this improve your health, but it can also save you money. Plan on at least three meals a week without meat. You can make that all in one day or spread it out over the week. This leaves you with plenty of options for protein, like beans, eggs, tofu and rice.
When you do eat meat, the most affordable option is chicken. While breast meat is the leanest, it also has the least flavor. You can make low-fat meals with thighs and drumsticks that are super delicious and cost less than chicken breasts. Take for example this recipe for Sweet-&-Sour Chicken Drumsticks from Eatingwell Magazine. It takes less than an hour and costs about a dollar and a half per serving. Round it out to a full meal with roasted sweet potatoes and a salad. Sweet potatoes pack a lot of nutrition for the price, much more so than white potatoes. Salad greens are usually cheap and you can make your own dressing in minutes for just pennies.
In The Bachelor’s Kitchen, we also advocate making a pot of rice just about every week. Rice is inexpensive (when you don’t buy the already cooked and sauced stuff) and easy to make with a little practice. A rice cooker is not a bad investment if you like that style. You can use rice for so many things: soups, sides, main dishes, even desserts. You can save even more time and money by combining some of that rice with a stir-fry dinner.
Another good trick for cooking cheap and quick is to use the stir-fry method. With lots of vegetables, some rice and just a little bit of meat you can make a filling, healthy meal in minutes. It’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables. You use just a little oil and plenty of spices like ginger, red pepper flakes and garlic. Season with low-sodium soy sauce instead of salt and you’ve got a great one-dish dinner. Don’t want to chop up all those veggies? No problem. Just buy bags of frozen vegetables already cleaned and chopped. You can get all kinds of combinations. Just be sure to choose the ones that are just vegetables and don’t come with any sauce or other additives. Use a wok pan or a plain skillet over a medium-high heat, when the pan is hot add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. Don’t use olive oil. If you use sesame oil, use it as a seasoning; a little goes a long way. If your meat isn’t cooked, add it now. Then add your vegetables and start stirring. If your meat is cooked, add the vegetables first and then add the meat just to warm it up. Serve over rice.
We know we’re supposed to eat fresh fish and seafood a couple times a week. But anyone who’s scanned the seafood counter at the grocery store knows you can take out a second mortgage to pay for some of the goodies on ice. But there’s another option. Canned fish is just as rich in nutrients as the fresh kind. Salmon and tuna are the most common. But a closer look at the shelf will reveal several other kinds of canned seafood. Sardines and anchovies are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll also find shrimp and crab meat that go great in salads.
Another way to save money is to be aware of your portions. Steak is not out of the question provided you limit it to the recommended 3 oz. serving. We’re supposed to be eating less meat anyway. Fill the rest of your plate with salad, potato or rice and lots of vegetables. You’ll still be satisfied. You’ll get at least two meals about of an 8 oz. steak and the money you’ve saved will make it all the better, and healthier, for you.