Eating healthy doesn't mean you have to spend your life savings at the grocery store on organic, minimally processed foods. There are so many ways that you can stick to a budget and still enjoy healthy, flavorful meals. Though it may require a bit more planning, once you've mastered that art of making your shopping list, it will prove to be much easier. Stocking your kitchen with wholesome, nutrient-filled ingredients without breaking the bank is entirely possible. To help prove it to you, we've put together a list of 15 cheap ingredients that won't cause you to dip into your savings account.
Fresh Fruits and Veggies
It's no secret that fruits and veggies are great for you. In fact, they're one of the most nutrient-packed foods out there. When it comes to purchasing produce, there is a right and wrong way to do so. To guarantee that you stick within your budget, we recommend that you buy in-season produce only. Not only is in-season produce much cheaper than other fruits and veggies, but it's also more flavorful. When produce is in season, there's usually an abundance of it, and it doesn't travel too far to hit the grocery store shelves. Because of this, in-season produce is often priced much lower and featured in grocery sales. On the other hand, out-of-season produce will likely cost you a pretty penny and should be avoided to guarantee savings.
Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Now, if you're still craving fruit that is out of season and want to find a more cost-effective way to purchase it, then buying frozen goods is the way to go. Frozen fruits are typically just as great for you as fresh ones and can be used as a replacement in various recipes. Keeping frozen produce in stock in your freezer is ideal when making stir-fry, soup and smoothies! Frozen fruits can also be used as an excellent breakfast popping on oatmeal, waffles and yogurt.
If you genuinely want to save money, then purchase dried beans. Dried beans are an extremely inexpensive superfood and can be used in countless recipes. Make a baked meal like these Macedonian Baked Beans or use them in this Instant Pot Chili. Because dried beans can take a while to cook, after purchasing, we recommend making a batch to use throughout your week's meals. Making a large batch in advance will save you more time later on. Additionally, canned beans can be purchased and mixed into salads, soup and rice recipes!
Purchasing canned tomatoes, instead of fresh tomatoes, is a great way to extend your ingredients' shelf life. Having canned tomatoes on hand can save you money, time and will surely add flavor to your meals. Use canned tomatoes to whip up a tasty sauce or combine them with your favorite chili recipe for even more flavor.
It's no surprise that we'd put grains in this list; we love them! Aside from being incredibly great for you, grains are also extremely affordable! Grains like farro, quinoa and rice are easy to buy in bulk and can be stored for long periods. Their subtle, nutty flavor makes them a versatile food that can be used to whip up both sweet and savory recipes. Used grains to make a hearty entree like this Ensalada de Quinoa or a nutrient-packed grain bowl.
Sweet potatoes have recently grown in popularity in the health industry, and it's no surprise as to why. This nutrient-packed veggie is great for you. Use sweet potatoes to make a fall-inspired appetizer like this Granola Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Tahini Butter or turn them into a healthy version of French fries. Potatoes can be baked, chopped, roasted and grilled!
Eggs are a great way to stretch your dollar. Loaded with protein and nutrients, eggs can be bought in bulk and used to make some pretty flavorful meals. Use eggs to make Ham and Asparagus Quiche Cups or whip up a baked good like these Eggnog Blondies.
Purchasing pre-cooked meat like a rotisserie chicken is a great way to save time and money. From sandwiches to savory omelettes, a rotisserie chicken can be used throughout the week to add protein and essential vitamins to your favorite meals. It's the ideal purchase when you require a quick dinner that is within budget. Additionally, many stores offer sales on rotisserie chickens, shop around to get the best price.
Looking for more plant-based ways to add protein to your diet? Purchase tofu! Tofu is an excellent protein that's not hard to make. Plus, it's incredibly affordable. Use it to add substance to salads, mix it into stir fry, or use it as a meat alternative in your favorite tacos.
For an efficient and budget-approved way to add more protein to your meals, purchase flavorful protein powder. Protein powders can be used to make everything from smoothies to popcorn. Don't believe us? Check out this Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Popcorn.
When choosing your protein powder, search for one with whole food ingredients like our Chocolate Protein Powder Nutritional Booster. Made with pea protein powder, chicory root fiber, chia seeds and beneficial probiotics, it's a great way to boost your nutrition without breaking the bank.
Seeds and nuts might be one of the tiniest superfoods on the planet. They have a tremendous shelf life, are reasonably priced and can be used in countless ways. Use crushed walnuts to spice up your favorite dessert. Or, make a healthy pudding using chia seeds. This small superfood delivers tons of health benefits that will keep you healthy, happy and energized all day long. To maintain freshness, make sure seeds are kept in an airtight container.
Condiments and pickled vegetables can transform a bland meal into a flavorful one in seconds. Depending on the kind of meals you usually eat, you'll want to choose your condiments wisely. Do you enjoy making Italian food? If so, we suggest purchasing a jar of pesto or marinara sauce. Or maybe, you're a huge taco Tuesday fan. If that's the case, you'll want to make sure you're stocked up on taco condiments like sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Having a wide array of dressings to choose from is an excellent way to discover new flavors. Plus, when it comes to condiments, a little goes a long way. You won't have to worry about your mayo, ketchup or ranch running out in one use.
Don't have a fresh herb garden at home? Don't worry. While fresh herbs are delicious, dried herbs do an incredible job when used to flavor dishes. They are also pretty cheap. For a well-stocked kitchen, be sure to check in on your dried herb collection now and then. Dried herbs will last for a long time, and you only need a tiny bit to get the job done. They're a great, cost-effective way to add flavor to your meal.
When it comes to cooking, oils often get a bad rap. While some oils are loaded with unhealthy fats, other oils are great for you. Oils are a necessary ingredient in many cooking styles. Styles include everything from sautéing to grilling and roasting. Oils can also be used to make creamy dips, sauces, spreads and dressings. Not sure which oil to choose? We recommend selecting those that are high and healthy fats. Oils that include healthy fats are olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil, among others. When purchasing oil, make sure it's one that you will use, or else it will likely sit at the back of your cupboard unnoticed.
The more you begin to cook at home, the easier it will be to identify healthy, budget-friendly meals. Keeping a well-stocked pantry of these 15 items is necessary for flavorful cooking on a budget. Now, that doesn't mean you have to purchase all of these ingredients at once. Instead, we encourage you to choose a few ingredients from this list that you enjoy and work them into your weekly meal rotation. Once you have your basics determined and ready to go, you can begin adding more ingredients to your shopping list.
Of course, the ingredients you choose and use from this list is entirely up to you. Because each person's taste preferences vary, there are likely to be items on this list that appeal to you and others that do not.
To make your decision easier, think back to the foods you enjoyed as a child. Did your family cook with a lot of olive oil? Maybe a sweet potato mash was a family tradition around fall? Whatever ingredients stand out to you, add them to your pantry. And remember, at the end of the day, this is just a suggestion.
These foods are versatile, nutritious and delicious. It just depends on how you choose to use them in your kitchen.