Ten Healthy, Frugal Foods Every Kitchen Should Have

Today’s guest post is by Megan at Life is better frugal.  Her site is a goldmine of information on how to manage your money, prioritise your spending and live more for less!  Megan is here to tell us all how we can extend those principles to our food, without sacrificing on nutrition, with her rundown of healthy frugal foods – Emma


Eating healthy is a tall order in and of itself. If your budget is tight, then you’ve really got your work cut out for you!

You try to plan and cook more at home, but there are always those odd meals that you can’t predict. You got sick yesterday and didn’t prepare anything for lunch. Relatives are visiting from out of town. Last-minute plans with friends mean no cooking dinner tonight. Sometimes things just pop up – you can’t plan for everything.

When life happens and there’s no time to cook, it’s easy to resort to convenience food, usually synonymous with junk food.  That’s why it’s good to have a healthy backup – something you can whip up in 15 minutes or grab on the go.

Having a well-rounded pantry stocked with healthy goodies makes it easier to stick to your eating regimen and, equally as important, your budget.

3 Quick Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

Before we get into what to buy, let’s talk about how you should buy. You’ll save more money and eat healthier in the long run with the proper system in place.

#1 Plan Your Meals

If you’re working within a budget, then planning ahead will help make sure you’re getting the best deals and the biggest bang for your buck.

Planning ahead doesn’t mean you have to do everything ahead of time. Try to plan your meals for a week in advance. On whatever day of your choosing, select your meals for the upcoming week, and go to the grocery store to buy what you need.

If there’s time, chop your vegetables and prepare your ingredients. This will make cooking throughout the week easier and faster.

#2 Keep a List

Keep a notepad on the kitchen counter or refrigerator. Every time you run out of something and need to buy it again, put it on the list.

It’s a simple trick, but it can shave loads of time off your grocery shopping and planning. It also reduces the risk of forgetting something and having to make multiple trips to the store.

#3 Buy in Bulk

This is by far my favorite way to save money on groceries! There are two ways to buy in bulk: purchase a large amount at a discounted price or purchase a very small amount at regular or discounted price.

I suggest both depending on what you’re shopping for and how often you use the ingredient in your meals. You’ll see what I mean in a second!

The Healthy Frugal Foods Every Kitchen Needs

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your healthy diet. There are tons of budget-friendly foods out there that are also good for you. Keep these 10 cheap staples in your kitchen and you’ll be surprised how healthy you can eat and for how little.

Beans

Beans are a fantastic pantry staple because they are super affordable and can be combined with almost anything to make a quick and delicious meal. Eggs and beans, beans and rice, bean soup — the possibilities are endless!

Save money on beans by buying and cooking in bulk. Shopping from bulk bins allows you to buy the exact amount you need so nothing goes to waste. You’ll also save time by cooking a large batch of beans to use for meals throughout the week.

One of my favorite go-to dinner recipes is a combination of beans, eggs, and whatever vegetables I have on hand. It’s a healthy fix that takes minimal time and effort on my part.

Oats

Instant oatmeal isn’t worth the cost, not to mention all the sugars and additives!

I like my oatmeal like I like my beans — bought in bulk! You can get a 25kg bag of oats for as little as £20. Oats are easy to store and have a long shelf life, so you can easily stock up for a month or more.

One of my favorite breakfasts right now is overnight oats. The recipes are simple, usually a combination of oats, milk, fruit, and some sort of sweetener (I like to use honey). I’m not a morning person, so I love being able to wake up and grab something without relying on my sleepy brain to figure out how to work an appliance.

Related Recipe: Healthy Mini Muffins

Brown Rice

You can use whatever type of rice you prefer, but I recommend brown rice for a couple different reasons. First of all, it’s a whole grain with more fiber, vitamins, and nutrients than white rice. That’s because we remove the most nutritious parts (the bran and germ) to make white rice.

The second reason is that brown rice is tastier (in my completely unbiased, objective opinion)!

Rice isn’t limited to dinnertime. Many Asian cultures use it as the base for most of their meals. Look for new and creative ways to incorporate this delicious, healthy staple into your dishes.

One of my favorite rice-based dishes is brown rice, black beans, corn, and taco seasoning. It’s simple, quick, and makes a great breakfast or lunch.

Brown rice keeps in a refrigerator for up to four days, which makes it easier to plan your meals in advance.

Spices

When you start cooking more at home, you’ll probably find a handful or so meals that become your go-to’s. The ones that fit your budget, satisfy your taste buds, and require the exact amount of effort you’re willing to invest.

But eating the same few meals over and over can get old. Sometimes you just need to spice it up a little.

Experiment with spices for a new twist on an old dish. Mix some chili powder, cumin, paprika, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder to make your own taco seasoning. Throw some pesto seasoning on your scrambled eggs. Spices are the simplest way to experiment with new flavors.

The problem with buying spices is that you usually end up purchasing an entire jar, using a small amount, and having it sit in a cabinet for months untouched.

Do you know what I’m going to say next?

If you guessed “buy in bulk,” you’d be correct! I like to purchase just a sample size of new seasonings at my local health food store to try in different dishes until I find out what I like.

Related Post: Saving Money on your Food: How to Shop Like a Frugal Foodie (with loads of great tips!)

Eggs

Egg everything! Fritattas, scrambled eggs, omelets, egg salad – the number of eggs that are consumed in my household is outrageous.

If you don’t think eggs are delicious, then I’d be willing to bet you just haven’t found the egg dish for you.

Eggs have high-quality protein, 13 essential vitamins and minerals, and a mere 70 calories. They are one of the only foods that naturally contain Vitamin D, and they have nutrients that help support a healthy pregnancy.

Basically, eggs are a superfood.

And did I mention they’re easy? Scrambled eggs take less than five minutes to cook, and they’re an effortless way to get some vegetables. Spinach, scrambled eggs, and tomato are one of the limitless combinations you can play with.

About once a month, I like to make an easy breakfast casserole: eggs, spinach, garlic powder, sweet potatoes, and onion. I’ll section it into six slices and eat it for breakfast or lunch throughout the week.

Peanut Butter

Though not quite as nutritious as its nut butter cousins, peanut butter is a delicious, nutrient-rich, and cost-effective snack. It also contains healthy fats that make you feel full for longer. With a good mix of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, peanut butter can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Most grocery stores sell fresh ground peanut butter, which is usually less costly than what you would buy in a jar. It also doesn’t contain the added sugars and salt.

Bananas

Bananas are the perfect complement to your peanut butter! A 2015 study reported that 80% of Americans eat less than the recommended servings of fruit. Don’t be one of them!

It’s easy to incorporate bananas into almost any meal. Breakfast? Try some banana pancakes. Snack? Banana boats (banana, peanut butter, and chocolate chips). And then there’s the obvious banana sundae for dessert!

I used to throw bananas out by the hand. (Fun Fact: that’s what a group of bananas is called – a hand.) Then I realized I could freeze them and use them later for scrumptious smoothies! (Don’t forget to peel them before freezing!) My favorite combinations so far are banana and cocoa and banana berry mix.

If you don’t freeze your bananas in time and they get too ripe to eat, don’t throw them out yet! Some recipes call for overripe bananas. Sometimes I intentionally let my bananas go a little too far so I have an excuse to make my favorite banana bread.

Spinach

Spinach is rich in vitamins as well as iron and calcium. And it’s a versatile ingredient that makes eating your veggies fun!

You can eat spinach raw in a salad, cook it up with some eggs for an omelet, or blend it in with a green smoothie. Adaptable vegetables like spinach make it easy to get your recommended 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day.

I try to incorporate this healthy staple into at least one meal per day.

For those of you with green thumbs, it’s also fairly easy to grow spinach indoors.

Tomatoes

Versatility is key when it comes to sticking to a budget, and that’s one of the greatest benefits of tomatoes. They can be used for pasta sauce, salads, sandwiches, side dishes, appetizers — you name it.

Tomatoes are also a good source of Vitamin C, which is important for the growth and repair of tissues.

Related Recipe: Roasted Tomato Salsa

Root Vegetables

Carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and turnips are a few fantastically frugal ingredients every kitchen should have, especially during the winter season.

Root vegetables are full of fiber, nutrients, and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs take longer for the body to break down, and therefore provide a more consistent amount of energy. They can also help curb “carb cravings” when your body is low on sugar and you’re most likely to succumb to bad eating habits!

Related Recipe: Roasted Balsamic Carrots

Final Thoughts

As you can see, eating healthy on a budget is possible, and it’s easier than you probably thought. The trick is always having a supply of nutritious, versatile ingredients that make for tasty, quick meals. Once you have your favorite staple ingredients and recipes, you’ll be eating healthier for less than you ever imagined, and your body and budget will thank you.

What are your favorite frugal pantry items?

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Post Author: The Food Brood

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