Dietitians Dish: Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

One thing I often hear when counseling people about healthy eating is: "Why does eating healthy have to be so expensive?" So I am hoping the following tips can help you cut your cost while eating healthy.

Plan meals. By planning menus ahead of time you are less likely to default to fast food or eating out. I recommend getting your local grocery store sales flyer and planning your meals for the week depending on what is on sale. This will help you save money and gives you some ideas on what to cook for meals.

Some tips to help plan your meals can include building your meal around your entree. See what items are on sale and then build your meal around that item. There are great websites and apps you can use to find new recipes.

One I have used quite a bit is BigOven (there is an app and a website). You can type in food items you have in stock (or plan on buying), and it will give you recipes using those ingredients. So say pork chops and barbecue sauce is on sale at the grocery store. You can type those items in, and a recipe, such as honey barbecue pineapple pork chops, will appear. This is also a great way to use leftovers.

If you cook chicken and broccoli and rice one night, you can type in those items and recipes such as broccoli chicken rice casserole or a stir fry recipe may find their way into your favorite recipes list.

Make a grocery list and stick to it. Only buy what is on your list. If you have planned out your meals, the grocery list should have the items that you need to cook your meals, so no need to buy anything off the list. Also, don't take your children - or sometimes your spouse - with you. Those extra hands (not holding the grocery list) can add items to your basket when you aren't looking.

A great tip for shopping is to buy in bulk and then divide it up and freeze meal-size portions. Typically, the larger amount you buy, the cheaper per pound you can get items, such as ground meat.

Unless you are going to use the meat within one to two months, make sure to overwrap or rewrap meats using airtight heavy-duty foil, (freezer) plastic wrap or freezer paper or place inside a freezer bag.

I use the vacuum-pack bags myself because it helps get the extra air out and keeps the items from getting freezer burned. For guidance, frozen, raw ground meat maintains quality for three to four months in the freezer, and larger pieces of meat like steaks, chops or roasts maintain optimum quality for anywhere from four to 12 months.

So if you find larger cuts of meats on sale, you can safely stock up and freeze these items for use later in the year.

These are only a small number of tips to cut your costs. Consider looking at some of these websites for low cost meal ideas or more discount shopping tips: cheapcooking.com, quickandhealthy.net and grocerysavingtips.com.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is the clinical nutrition manager/bariatric coordinator at DeTar Healthcare System. She is a registered and licensed dietitian and has a Master of Science degree. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.