That organic rice pilaf mix might cost almost $7 per pound and is not even a whole grain, while organic brown rice is roughly $1.50 per pound and brown rice is about $1 per pound. Even if you account for flavoring the rice with some herbs, it will be much cheaper to buy brown rice and season it yourself, not to mention much healthier to buy a brown rice instead of a white rice.
Some inexpensive buys in each food group are:
Vegetables: Carrots (fresh, large bag, frozen) and canned diced tomatoes, under $1 per pound.
Fruit: Bananas, unsweetened applesauce and pineapple canned in juice, all under $1 per pound.
Grains: Oatmeal (large canister) and whole wheat pasta, both just over $1 per pound.
Dairy: A tub of nonfat yogurt and a gallon of skim are both a great buy.
Meat and beans: Canned and dried beans are both typically under $1 per pound.
These are all nutritious foods from each food group that are generally inexpensive. The more often you work cheaper or sale items into your meal plan, the more you save — and hopefully have more money for more expensive healthy items, like salad greens or lean meat.
Other ideas include buying in bulk, which is often, but not always, less expensive cheaper. Be sure you have the room to store what will not be used immediately, and get fresh food frozen if you won’t use it before it expires or rots.
Cook some meals ahead or partially prepare recipes to make a home-cooked meal possible on a busy night. Eating in will save you money.
Be sure to use any and all leftovers; any food that goes to waste is a waste of money. Use extra chicken for sandwiches, add leftover rice to a soup, and freeze ripe fruit for making smoothies.
Cost can certainly be a barrier to healthy eating, but with a little preparation, planning, flexibility and creativity, healthy meals can be affordable and delicious.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.