cheap eatingWhen you’re on a strict budget, it’s easy to think that you can’t eat well.

Because yes, organic foods cost more and fresh foods cost more – generally.

But they don’t have to.

You can eat healthily, well, and feel full even on a strict budget.

It just takes a little planning and creativity.

1. Think fresh and freeze. Fruits and vegetables in season cost less than when they’re in season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them year-round. Buy them cheap when they’re fresh and freeze them for use in six months, when the prices are up at the grocery store. Are the fruits and vegetables you want to eat out of season – and expensive – now? Remember the frozen section of your store. Frozen vegetables are as healthy AND cost less than out of season fresh ones. Plus, you can often find great deals, think 10 for $10, on frozen vegetables. Which ties into…

2. Do your own prep work. Yes, pre-sliced vegetables are incredibly convenient. Unfortunately, it’s a convenience you pay for. Grab bunches of carrots instead of the prepackaged sticks, loose lettuce instead of the bags, whole cauliflower and broccoli rather than pre-cut. Then, prep them when you get home and it’s time to use them. For a little extra time, you can save a lot of money. And don’t forget the meat…

3. Prep your own chicken. Have you looked at the difference in price between chicken thighs with skin on them and the skinless, boneless chicken breasts that have been so popular since the 1990s? There’s a huge savings to be had there. And here’s another tip – chicken thighs taste better. They’re juicier and more flavorful. So save some money and get better flavor, all by being will to skin your own chicken thighs.

4. Stock up. When you find those sales on frozen veggies, load up. But also make sure your pantry is stocked with staples. While smaller, individual sizes may seem to make more sense, the larger portions of dry goods tend to be less expensive, so work better on a tight budget. Get the largest size of foods like flour, rice, pasta, and spices, that you have room for and you’ll save enough to enjoy the fresh foods you love, too!

5. Stretch your food. Soups, stews, casseroles, even meat can be filled out and expanded with the addition of beans and grains. Small servings can become budget-friendly full meals simply by throwing in some brown rice, quinoa, or legumes. Those are dry or canned staples that are inexpensive to purchase, last a long, and taste good in so many different dishes that they’re perfect when you’re eating on a tight budget.

6. Make the most of leftovers. Not much is less appealing, or will have you reaching for the take-out menu, faster than the thought of a reheated plate of last night’s dinner. But if you’ll take the leftovers and turn them into something new, you’re more likely to stick to your budget. Soups, casseroles, and omelets are all delicious, creative ways to repurpose leftovers. Which is easier to do when you…

7. Stay organized. What does staying organized have to do with eating on a strict budget? Well, it doesn’t matter if you save your leftovers or prep your own vegetables if they get shoved into the back of a crowded refrigerator and you don’t see them for a week or more. By keeping your fridge organized, you can find your food and use it in a timely manner, rather than having to throw it out because it spoiled in the back.

8. Think “nutrient dense.” When you’re on a strict budget, it’s important to get the most bang for your buck. That’s where nutrient dense foods come in. These are foods that offer many of the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber you need in one small serving. They fill you up, nourish your body, and give you energy without needing to eat huge amounts of them – or anything else – just to get all their nutritional benefits. Nutritionize your meals with foods like salmon, eggs, and blueberries.

Eating on a strict budget doesn’t have to mean eating badly or eating too little. You don’t have to choose from those two options!

Not when you can tweak your shopping, your pantry, and your meals just a little and eat well – and cheaply – all year long.