By: Alexandra Greeley
Americans are eating out less, and more and more our food decisions are being driven by two things: budget and health. EatingWell marries these two trends in the new cookbook EatingWell on a Budget. It shows you how to make nutritious dinners that everyone in the family will love and get them on the table quickly without spending more than $3 a person. We cost out the ingredients, tell you how to get the most nutrition bang for your buck, and even show you where to splurge and where to save.
The following tips and tricks will help you save money, while maintaining a healthy diet.
1. Eat Vegetarian a Few Nights a Week
Try to include a couple of vegetarian meals in your menu for the week. Skipping meat, even once or twice a week, can help save money, since meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. And you will have a lighter impact on the environment—almost one-fifth of the world's manmade greenhouse-gas emissions are generated by the meat industry, according to the United Nations. This Szechuan Tofu & Green Bean Stir-Fry is just a 30-minute recipe, so you can have a healthy, delicious and meatless dinner ready in a snap.
2. Minimize Waste
One of the easiest ways to save money is to make sure you're not wasting food. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out more than 25 percent of the food we prepare. And a study at the University of Arizona that tracked food use and waste from production to the table to the landfill estimated that the average American family of four throws out $590 worth of food each year. So we need to do a better job of using leftovers and learn what to do with food before it's past its peak. This Spaghetti Frittata, which uses leftover noodles and costs less than $1 a serving, is a creative example of how to reduce waste.
3. Plug in the Slow Cooker
If you don't have hours to be at home tending a braise, then try a slow cooker. It will give you the same effect (i.e., it makes inexpensive cuts of meat meltingly tender), but you can plug it in, leave for the day and come home to a dinner like this stew made with chicken thighs (instead of pricier chicken breast). Other inexpensive cuts of meat that work wonderfully in the slow cooker include pork shoulder, beef chuck and brisket.
4. Discover Great Ways to Use Canned Fish
Just like their fresh counterparts, canned salmon and tuna provide omega-3 fats, which help keep your heart healthy by lowering triglycerides and blood pressure. The difference: canned fish is significantly cheaper. Give tuna an Asian twist with tuna salad.
5. Don't Order a Pizza. Make One at Home
Ordering pizza seems like a cheap and quick solution for dinner. But a typical pie costs more than $15. You can make your own at home, like this Sausage, Pepper & Mushroom Pizza, for a lot less and in about the same amount of time delivery takes. Domino's large, Brooklyn-style Sausage, Pepper & Mushroom Pizza is $17.58 with tax (but not delivery charge) included. Our pizza is $7.58.
6. Pack a Lunch
When you're busy at work, the easiest choice is to grab a bite to eat someplace nearby. The problem is that the cost of buying lunch takes a toll on your food budget. (The average lunch at the national chain Panera Bread, which specializes in sandwiches, soups and salads, is $8.50.) So try bringing a lunch from home. When you make dinner, think about what you're going to eat for lunch tomorrow. If you're making a salad, make a little extra and put it in a container, undressed. And what about your leftovers? If you have a little extra chicken or half a can of beans, toss that in with your lunch salad. Soups like this Curried Red Lentil Soup, which is less than $2 a serving, are also great for lunch. Make more than you'll need for dinner, and reheat it for lunch the next day.
Check out the slideshow above to find out exactly how much money each of these tips will help you save!