8 Ways to Save on Healthy Meals
Celebrity chef Charles Mattocks's top tips for creating healthy meals on a budget
Plan ahead. Going to the grocery store without a game plan is like giving in to processed-food temptations before you step in the store. Mattocks prevents impulse buys by planning a week’s worth of meals at a time. “By the time I get to the grocery store, I know what I need,” he says. “If I spend a lot of time walking around, I might buy a bag of chips.”
Use veggies wisely. If you buy every vegetable under the sun, chances are you’ll forget about a few or let others go bad before you get a chance to cook them. Instead, when planning your meals, use the same vegetables. If you put red pepper slices in soup, use what’s left for your tilapia dinner the next night.
Clip coupons. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but it has lasted for a reason: It works. Instead of searching for coupons to fit your menu, form a weekly menu around the foods you can get great discounts on.
Embrace the freezer case. Frozen vegetables (without sauce or added salt) can make cooking faster and easier, never mind cheaper. The same goes for fish, which is cheaper when frozen and may go on sale more often than fresh fish. “Frozen-fish quality is good,” Mattocks says. “I would rather have that than no fish.”
Get to know your butcher. If you can’t find small enough cuts of meat, ask your butcher to chop something in half for you. Chatting up the butcher can also come in handy when you have a specific meal in mind, especially if the cut of meat you need is too expensive. He or she can suggest a different (and cheaper) cut that will yield similar results.
Skip the supermarket. If you’re looking for fruits and veggies for cheap, scope out your local farmers market, farm stand, ethnic grocer, or small market instead of a superstore. “There are scores of fresh markets where you can pay half price for the fruit and vegetables,” Mattocks says.
Use ready-made ingredients. You don’t have to make everything yourself. Mattocks likes to add fresh foods to already-prepared ones for a healthy and delicious twist. Instead of buying all of the ingredients for mango salsa, for instance, he adds diced fresh mango to a jar of salsa verde to create a dip that’s lower in carbs than its store-bought cousin.
Cook filling meals. Mattocks is a fan of rice and beans because of his Jamaican roots, but that’s not the only reason. Beans are full of fiber, so they help you stay full longer. Bonus: Dry beans are one of the cheapest staples you can have in your pantry.