As supply chain problems strain food production and the price of staples continues to rise, many Americans are really worried about getting food on the table. Grocery prices across the country have risen since the onset of the pandemic – and with many of us still working from home because of COVID-19 and cooking more often, many Americans are spending more on groceries than ever before.
While it can be a challenge to eat well on a budget, it’s important to focus on maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet when times are tough, says Whitney English, a registered Los Angeles-based dietitian. “Proper nutrition is essential for overall health, including mental health,” she explains.
But what if you are unemployed or keeping an eye on your ears? What healthy foods can you stock up on to eat well when money is tight? We asked a group of registered dietitians, including English, New York-based Toby Amidor and Sandra Allonen from Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, to share what cheap grocery items they would recommend to get the best nutritional bang for your buck.
Whether you buy them canned or dried, all three dietitians say that beans are an excellent, inexpensive pantry – they fill and are filled with protein and minerals such as iron and zinc. Canned beans are quite salty, so be sure to rinse them thoroughly before eating, Allonen says. Dried beans are even cheaper than canned and can be purchased in bulk for just a few dollars (Allonen recommends that you check the international markets for the best deals). Prepare a round and add them to soups, stews and salads throughout the week.
2. Whole grains
Whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries and farro, are inexpensive pantry items (especially when purchased from the bulk pan) that are easy to prepare and build a meal around, say English and Allonen. In addition to brown rice, Amidor says it is rich in fiber and protein as well as nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
It’s unanimous: All three experts say that oats are a super affordable source of protein, minerals and stomach-filling fiber. English says she has oats for breakfast every morning, either as oatmeal or ground to make oatmeal for waffles and pancakes. “I always pair my oat dishes with a rich source of vitamin C, such as strawberries, to maximize the uptake of iron from the oats,” she says. “Vitamin C has been shown to increase iron uptake by 3-6 times. If I do not have fresh berries on hand, I use frozen ones, which are just as nutrient-dense. ”
4. Frozen fruits and vegetables
To save money without missing out on essential nutrients, frozen fruits and vegetables retain all the same nutritional properties as fresh because they are frozen at maximum ripening, says English. On average between $ 2 and $ 5 per. bag, frozen products will not break the bank – especially for out-of-season items, says English. You can even make your own; If you notice that fresh fruits and vegetables are starting to turn around, pack them up and put them in the freezer to eat later, or use them for smoothies, Allonen says.
Although a group of retailers have been accused of raising egg prices during the pandemic, they are still a relatively inexpensive means of consuming protein. In fact, dietitians say that eggs are considered a perfect protein because they contain essential amino acids and choline, which is great for brain health. Consider keeping the plum; it contains nutrients such as vitamins A and D, omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidant lutein, which help promote healthy eyes and skin.
Amidor pays homage to the virtues of the ordinary old potato. “With the skin on, a medium-sized potato provides 30% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C along with carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium,” she says.
7. Canned tomatoes
Whether you like them crushed, diced or whole, canned tomatoes are a cheap nutritional supplement to your shopping list. Amidor says that they are full of vitamin C, fiber and are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which can help lower the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and macular degeneration (poor eyesight as you get older).
Nuts are an affordable, bulk bin staple that fills you up with healthy fats, proteins and minerals, says English. “Enjoy them for snacks and for meals, or use a food processor to turn them into nut butter for toast, sauces and more,” she says.
9. Rotisserie chicken
Amidor says you can score a pre-fried little rotisserie chicken in the supermarket for around $ 4 to $ 6. “Chicken provides protein, several B vitamins and iron. If you want to minimize the saturated fat, remove the skin before eating,” she says.
10. Herbs and spices
It does not cost much to fill up with a few selected spices – you can use them to change taste profiles and take advantage of the antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that herbs such as rosemary and oregano have to offer, says Allonen.
People think it costs a lot of money to eat healthy, but it can be affordable with a little planning, says Allonen, who recommends scanning circulars for supermarket sale items to build meals around. “The bottom line is that if you put good gas in your car – which means good food in your body to burn it – it runs much better,” says Allonen. “Put in lousy or heavily processed food and your body will not run as well.”