Eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean unhealthy meals. But eating a healthful diet on a budget is an intimidating prospect with the high prices of healthy foods.
However, if you know where to look and what to make, you can have healthy meals that cost around $5 each. Most of your meals will require you to make everything from scratch, but this allows you to eliminate much of the unhealthy ingredients common in prepackaged foods.
With food prices rapidly rising, it’s crunch time for family food budgets these days. To help lessen the pressure on your wallet, here are some tips and healthy dinner entrees you can make for about $5 apiece.
Budget friendly healthy eating tips:
- Buying frozen vegetables and fruit is less expensive than buying fresh, and has the same nutritional value.
- Refrigerate everything you can to keep it fresh longer – including pita pockets and bread.
- If you find meat on sale, buy extra and freeze it for a later date.
If your supermarket is having a sale, you can sometimes get a dozen eggs for as little as $1! That’s an awesome deal, considering that eggs are a great protein source. Each egg white contains 6 grams of protein. If you blend six whole eggs with six egg whites, you can make a lower-fat egg-based dish serving four people.
Frittata is one flexible and quick cheap meal option. A dozen eggs will make about four servings (if you use four large eggs and eight egg whites), and you can keep the cost down by using whatever cheese, veggies, and herbs you have handy in your refrigerator.
If you can get a couple of key ingredients on sale, you can make six servings of this popular entree for about $5. Start with a 12-ounce box of multigrain pasta for about $1.25 on sale. You can either use store bought pasta sauce or a quick homemade tomato based sauce.
Baked Potato Entrees
Potatoes are very inexpensive and a baked potato can be a great start for an entree. Try topping them with shredded cheese, fat-free sour cream, and chopped green onions or chives. Since the main ingredient is so inexpensive, you can afford to sprinkle some shredded chicken, turkey, pork, or beef, along with some beans or other vegetables, over the top.
Chicken Breast Entrees
Often, buying chicken with the bone and skin on and then skinning it yourself is the best deal. You can make a grill or slow cooker sauce using ingredients on hand, or use a bottle of store bought barbecue sauce.
Fettuccine with Shiitake Mushrooms & Basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice, juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine, or spaghetti (see Ingredient note)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, (1 ounce)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil for cooking pasta. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 9 to 11 minutes or according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Add the pasta, the reserved cooking liquid, Parmesan and 1/4 cup basil to the mushrooms in the skillet; toss to coat well. Serve immediately garnished with remaining basil.
Szechuan Tofu & Green Bean Stir-Fry
This spicy vegetarian stir-fry is a great way to use green beans when they’re bountiful and inexpensive at the supermarket. You can also try it with other vegetables, such as broccoli or peppers, just make sure to cut them into small pieces so that they cook quickly. Coating the tofu in cornstarch before you cook it gives it a light crust.
1/2 cup water, divided
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (see Note) or balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
Whisk 1/4 cup water, soy sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, crushed red pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside. Cut tofu into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and pat dry. Toss the tofu in a bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch to coat.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and spread out across the surface of the pan. Let cook undisturbed for 2 minutes. Gently turn and stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add green beans, garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, cover and cook until the beans are crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir the reserved soy sauce mixture and pour it over the green beans. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the tofu and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute more.