Eating delicious, nutritious and filling foods don’t have to cost you a fortune...
Even if your tastes are more refined (read: picky) ‒ or you prefer to eat out ‒ it’s possible to find homemade recipes that satisfy both your hunger and wallet.
Because as long as you’re willing to do a bit of planning and cook most meals at home, then you’re bound to have money leftover to spend on a few meals out at the end of the month.
Embrace The Meal Plan
One of the fundamental components of a healthy and economical diet is a meal plan.
Without a meal plan, you may find yourself going grocery shopping when you’re hungry, and susceptible to purchase pre-made meals or snacks. And if you find yourself entrenched in a habit of shopping without a plan? Keep reading.
These pre-packaged foods, including salads, appetizers and pre-cut fruit are priced at a premium. And sure, they may satisfy your immediate hunger ‒ but your bank account will pay for it later.
Awaken The Planner In You
Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean the quality and quantity of food has to suffer…
The key to eating well on a budget is to plan out your meals in advance and write out a shopping list.
Before making a meal plan, consider looking at your local grocery store flyers. You can use a sale flyer app (see #8 for a short list). Check out what’s on sale and plan meals around those foods.
If you’re at a loss for what to make with some of those items, search for recipes on Pinterest with whatever dietary restrictions you may have for a long list of ideas.
And to get us started, here’s a list of a day’s worth of tasty recipes for meal planning on a budget.
Foolproof Homemade Granola (Up to $1 per serving)
If you enjoy a bowl of granola for breakfast, or as a topper for your yoghurt, you will love this recipe.
And if you usually buy packaged granola, you will love how little it actually costs to make your own granola at home.
Put the following ingredients on your shopping list:
- 4 cups of rolled oats
- ½ cup of nuts (I like pecans, walnuts and sliced almonds)
- ½ cup of seeds (I like pumpkin, sunflower and hemp)
- 1.5 cups of coconut flakes
- Pinch of sea salt
- ⅓ cup of honey
- 4 tablespoons of coconut oil
And here are the steps to put it together:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Mix the honey and oil in a small saucepan over low heat.
- In a large bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients.
- Drizzle the honey and oil mixture on top and mix well.
- Lay the granola out on a cookie sheet.
- Bake it for 10 minutes, then stir the granola around on the cookie sheet.
- Place it back in the oven, but stir every five minutes until the oats begin to brown (approximately 20-30 minutes).
- Let cool completely and transfer into an airtight container.
- To amp up the health factor, add chia seeds, goji berries and cacao nibs after baking. Or to make it a sweeter treat, add some dried cranberries, cherries and dates.
- If you want to flavor your granola, add some cinnamon spice, vanilla bean or cocoa powder before baking.
Shop in bulk
Depending on what types of nuts and seeds you decide to include, the cost of the granola will vary. I suggest purchasing nuts and seeds in bulk to cut down on costs.
Bulk food stores, or warehouse stores like Costco will give you larger servings for less cost.
A bag of sliced almonds from Costco will last me for a couple months if I were to eat granola a few times a week.
Better Than Store Bought Hummus ($0.25 cents per serving)
One of the healthiest and tastiest snacks is veggies dipped in hummus. This is also a great lunchtime option whether at home or at the office.
If you’re short on time, you may think buying a pre-made dip is more efficient, but if your health and saving money are a priority, consider learning one of the easiest recipes in the world.
If you purchase all these ingredients in bulk, you’ll be able to make hummus at a fraction of the cost, and control exactly what goes into it. I typically limit the salt and oil I use to create a low sodium and low fat recipe.
The ingredients you’ll need are:
- 1 can of chickpeas
- ¼ cup of tahini
- ¼ cup of lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- ¾ teaspoon of salt
- Dash of paprika
To put it together, follow these simple steps:
- Rinse the chickpeas, then set aside.
- Combine the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor for 30 seconds.
- Add the olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and process for another 30 seconds.
- Finally, add the chickpeas and process for 1-2 minutes. Add a tablespoon or two of water until you get the desired consistency.
This hummus is whipped up quickly and makes a fancy appetizer in a pinch. When serving, sprinkle a dash of paprika. You can also put it on a sandwich as a protein packed spread.
The remaining hummus will keep in the refrigerator for one week, or maybe more.
Bacon Wrapped Anything ($0.75 cents to $3 per serving)
Whenever bacon goes on sale at my local grocery store, I always pick up a few packs.
Bacon is great with scrambled eggs at breakfast, BLT’s for lunch, or wrapped around a chicken breast at dinner. And chicken breasts can be purchased inexpensively when bought in bulk or frozen.
Spice up your chicken breasts by wrapping a couple strips of bacon around them. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, put some stuffing inside ‒ and you’ve got yourself a filling main course.
One of my favorite ways to serve bacon for breakfast is to put strips of it inside of pancakes and waffles. Here’s how I do it:
- I cook the bacon first, then as I pour the pancake batter onto the griddle, I put a crispy piece of bacon onto the cooking pancake before I flip it.
- I’ll also do the same when I pour waffle batter in the waffle maker. I lay the bacon in with the batter, close the lid, then serve it with maple syrup for a sweet and savoury delicacy.
Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but there’s nothing better than eating bacon topped with maple syrup.
If purchasing bacon on sale, then you can serve it with pancakes and waffles for less than $1 per serving.
And if you were to serve it wrapped around chicken or asparagus spears, the cost can go up to $3 per serving depending on the price you acquired the other ingredients.
If you can manage to get everything on sale, it can be closer to $2 per serving.
The thing about too much bacon...
Of course, too much of bacon can wreak havoc on your diet, so eating it in moderation is a good idea. For example, serving bacon wrapped chicken breasts with bacon wrapped asparagus spears? Yep, too much.
But, a bacon wrapped asparagus spears as an appetizer or a side when bacon isn’t part of the main course, shows a healthy restraint.
Easy Sausage Pasta (Under $2 per serving)
Pasta is a crowd pleaser, even for the pickiest of eaters. My favorite quick and healthy pasta recipe is made up of gourmet sausages, kale and linguine.
Head to your local grocery store and pick up a couple of sausages made in-store. Depending on your tastes, you can choose a spicy, italian, mediterranean or honey garlic blend. I usually opt for turkey sausages for my pasta dishes, but choose based on your family’s preference.
Here’s how I do it:
- At home, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat and saute the sausage meat after removing the casings.
- Break up the meat into small chunks.
- After cooking the meat, add a couple cups of chopped up kale plus a dash of olive oil and salt.
- Boil the linguine until al dente, then toss it with the meat and kale.
- Add a few tablespoons of pasta water if needed.
- Top it with shredded parmesan for extra flavor.
The herbs and seasoning from the sausages alone often give this pasta all the necessary flavor. I usually spend about $10 on all the ingredients and have enough for five servings. Affordable and tasty!
Popcorn Drizzled with Nutella ($0.50 cents per serving)
Is it a snack? Is it dessert? It’s both!
You will love how simple and easy this dessert popcorn is. Popcorn is such an economical treat when purchased in bulk, or anywhere outside of a movie theatre. I like to buy organic kernels at the bulk food section of my grocery store. It ends up being cheaper than prepackaged microwave popcorn, and I can control how much oil or butter is used.
I like to pop mine on the stove with a tablespoon of coconut oil. For this recipe, just drizzle two tablespoons of melted nutella on top of the popcorn and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt for a nice sweet and salty combination.
More Ways To Save And Eat Well
Another added benefit to making a meal plan and buying only what’s on a grocery list is less food waste. When you buy food willy nilly, you’re likely to buy too much of each item, and won’t have a chance to use it all up before it spoils.
By having a plan, you purchase exactly the amount needed. And if you do end up with some extra, you can adapt your meals slightly to use up all the extra perishable foods. Some ideas:
- Vegetables past their prime go great in stews and soups.
- If you have fruit that is about to turn, make some baked goods with them.
- Hard breads can be turned into breadcrumbs or doused in eggs for french toast.
More homemade goodies
- Homemade dressings and sauces ‒ by making your own, you save on money and the additives (extra salt and sugar, among other ingredients) packed inside of these pre-packaged foods. There also tends to be less food waste when you make these at home since you are only making what you will consume in that sitting.
- Homemade bread ‒ there are an endless number of recipes online that vary from effortless to extra kneading required. Pick one with the ingredients you prefer. Whichever recipe you settle on, double it to make a few loaves at a time. You can freeze most breads to maintain their freshness. And if you’re ambitious for an extra boost of health? You can add super grains such as quinoa and millet as well as flax and pumpkin seeds.
Would you try any of these recipes? Or do you have a go-to, delicious and wallet-friendly recipe? Tell us in the comments below.