Affordable, Healthy Foods to Stock the Fridge Without Breaking the Bank

Dr. Sacha Obaid, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Serving Dallas, Plano, Southlake, and Nearby Fort Worth, Texas

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Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult for many reasons. Around the holidays, it can sometimes feel impossible! The ingredients to healthy eating can sometimes sound like a bad recipe:

  • Enough time to prepare meals
  • Extra time to shop
  • The right amount of cooking skill
  • The ability to afford healthy foods in the first place

The good news is, many healthy foods are surprisingly affordable. By making some informed choices about what to buy, you can maintain a diet that's great for you and get yourself on the right track in the New Year—without breaking your budget!

Making Choices That Are Healthy and Affordable

There are two secrets to making healthy food more affordable:

  1. Buy in bulk, where possible
  2. Buy foods in their raw, unprocessed state when it makes sense to do so. For instance, buying whole, raw potatoes rather than fries or instant mashed potatoes is much more economical: You get more servings per dollar spent, and you get the benefit of a nutrient-rich food with no additives and no processing.

NOTE: You won't always save by buying in bulk or buying raw, unprocessed foods. Sometimes they may save you a little money, but cost you when it comes to time spent on food preparation. One great example of this is legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils. These can be bought dried much more cheaply than canned, but dried legumes usually need several hours’ worth of preparation time before they're edible. Canned legumes are a little more expensive, but they can be used straight from the can. And in some cases it just doesn't make sense to buy raw, whole foods in bulk. For example, buying 10 pounds of fresh asparagus is only a good idea if you’re prepared to use it while it's still fresh, or you don’t mind freezing some of it yourself. On the other hand, buying canned or frozen veggies in bulk makes good sense when the price is right, and you have storage space. It's up to you to decide where you want your savings. Which matters to you more: your wallet or your time?

Foods to Include in Your Fridge and Pantry

When you have a good selection of staples on hand, meal preparation is faster and easier. With these items in your fridge and pantry, you can rest assured that you always have the makings of good, healthy, nutritious meals. All these foods are high in essential nutrients, and at less than $1 per serving, they’re good for your wallet and your body! Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes are packed with nutrients and fiber, and you can do a ton with them! Carrots can be enjoyed raw as well as cooked. Different varieties of potatoes (sweet, baking, etc.) can be:

  • Boiled
  • Mashed
  • Fried
  • Baked
  • Roasted

Just think of all the tasty side dishes! Frozen veggies (think: peas, carrots, and beans) are almost as nutritious as fresh varieties. Frozen peas, in particular, tend to taste better than fresh, as freezing locks in the flavor as well as the nutritional benefits. Canned tomatoes and tomato products are one of those foods that are actually more nutritious than their fresh counterparts. That's because the canning process makes the nutrients in tomatoes easier for humans to digest. Yogurt is both versatile and healthy.

By opting for plain, unsweetened yogurt, you avoid packing in sugar and additives. Need a little something sweet? Enjoy a cup of yogurt with fresh fruit. Yogurt can also serve as a delicious base for dips and dressings, and it makes for beautifully moist and tender baked goods. affordable healthy foodBrown rice is highly nutritious and very versatile. With plenty of fiber, plus a long list of vitamins and minerals, it's a winner in a wide range of meals. It can be used in an infinite variety of side dishes, added to soups and stews, and even used in desserts. Rice pudding, anyone? Legumes, such as lentils and beans, are inexpensive, nutritious, and satiating. They're very high in fiber, which will help you feel fuller for longer. And they make an excellent base for soups and stews and many side dishes. Choose dried legumes to make your dollars stretch further, or go for canned versions for a convenient alternative that's still very economical. Note that canned legumes are often high in sodium, however, so choose low-salt versions when possible. Turkey is more than a holiday food! High in protein and low in fat, it's a great alternative to red meats. Choose fresh or frozen turkey breast rather than expensive, sodium-packed deli meat, and go crazy with salads and sandwiches. A single turkey breast can provide enough meat for several days of meals! Canned salmon: A rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and protein, plus plenty of fresh flavor, make canned salmon a real treat. It's perfect for salads and sandwiches and is easily incorporated into delicious fish cake recipes. Eggs have had a bad reputation for many years due to their cholesterol content, but we know now that an egg a day is actually a very healthy dietary addition. They contain a huge variety of nutrients, are high in protein, and can be used in a wide range of ways.

  • Poached
  • Fried
  • Boiled
  • Used as the base for quiche or frittata
  • In omelettes or scrambled

Eggs are tasty, convenient, and great for you.

Save Time and Money, AND Make Healthy Choices Over the Holidays and Into the New Year!

As you move through the holiday period and anticipate your resolutions in the New Year, the value of a well-stocked pantry full of healthy whole foods becomes even more important. During the holiday season, it’s so easy to reach for cookies, cakes, and other treats that are high in fat and sugar. No wonder so many of us put on extra weight at this time of year! But with a kitchen full of healthy foods that make it easy, convenient, and affordable to cook nutritious meals, why reach for those holiday temptations? You’ve got something delicious in your fridge. And with healthy and economical foods on hand, you may even reduce your holiday spending. You'll start the New Year with more money in your pocket and fewer pounds around your waistline!

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