Eat Healthy on a Budget


Healthy Food Staples to Buy On Your Next Trip To The Market

The key to healthy and nutritious meals at home is a well-stocked freezer, refrigerator and pantry. There are two main goals of a well-stocked kitchen. The first is to have the basics on hand so that your weekly grocery trip is just produce and maybe some fresh fish, chicken or beef. This makes grocery shopping quick and inexpensive, which is important when you are trying to eat healthy on a budget. The second goal is to have enough ingredients on hand to throw together a quick and delicious meal rather than finding yourself in the drive-thru. Print out the list below to make sure you have all the most important healthy food staples on hand!

What to Stock In the Freezer

Frozen Vegetables
It is a big misconception that frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh. They are flash frozen immediately after harvest, which locks in all the nutrients. Although sometimes their texture changes when thawed, frozen vegetables are perfect for stir-fry’s, soups and even to throw into your morning smoothie.

Frozen Fruit
Speaking of smoothies, frozen fruit is a perfect addition to your morning smoothie. Or you can even blend them and top with a little cinnamon to create a sorbet to satisfy your evening sweet tooth.

Edamame is a great source of protein and is extremely versatile. You can add it to soups, mix it with quinoa and veggies or even blend it up with some garlic and use it as a spread.

Veggie Burgers
Veggie burgers are another versatile source of protein that cooks up in minutes. You can eat it as a traditional burger, or I like to crumble it up and sauté it with some veggies. I then melt a little cheese and add it to a whole-wheat pita. A delicious and balanced meal in less than 5 minutes!

Vegetable, chicken or beef stock is a great way to add a ton of healthy flavor to a meal. Consider freezing leftover stock in ice cube trays. A single cube will add zest to normal brown rice or a few cubes together can create the base of a quick soup.

You may be surprised that I am putting nuts in the freezer, but nuts will begin to go bad at room temperature after a few months. So if you are buying them in bulk or find that your family isn’t getting to them, stick them in the freezer where they will last for over a year. Nuts are a great source of fiber, healthy fats and flavor making them a great addition to most dishes.

What to Stock In the Refrigerator

We always think of eggs for breakfast, but they really shine at any meal and will stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to 5 weeks. You can add them to a salad for lunch or create a frittata with frozen veggies and cheese for dinner. Also try topping a hard-boiled egg with some roasted red pepper hummus for a filling snack!

Hard Cheese
Hard cheese not only lasts up to your 4 months in your refrigerator, it also has a ton of flavor so you only have to use a small amount. Even a few shaves can jazz up a salad or be a great topping for your veggie burger.

In the Pantry

Brown Rice/Quinoa
Brown rice and quinoa are packed with fiber and make a great foundation for quick stir-fry’s and veggie bowls. Consider mixing the two for a unique texture and to get the health benefits of each.

Canned Beans/Lentils
Although cooking your own beans and lentils is my preference, it can be time consuming and sometimes just not an option. That’s why I always have canned beans and lentils on hand. Make sure to opt for the low sodium version and give them a good rinse before eating. Try this great vegetarian and black bean dish.

A few key spices in your pantry will help you create quick and flavorful dishes. They will also keep you from relying on high sodium flavor packets or processed sides. If you are just building your spice rack, start with sea salt, ground pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, rosemary and cayenne.

Garlic is another ingredient that is packed full of flavor and is a powerful immune booster. If you store it in a well ventilated, cool area of your pantry, it should last a few months.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is packed full of anti-oxidants and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Be careful because many of these health benefits start to break down at a higher heat. Olive oil is best used when cooking at a low heat or at room temperature as a topping to salads and veggie bowls.

Coconut Oil
On the other hand, coconut oil can withstand a bit higher heat so is great for roasting vegetables or medium heat stir-fry. Not only does it add a sweet taste to your dish, there are also many health benefits associated with incorporating coconut oil into your diet.

Balsamic Vinegar
I always keep vinegar on hand because it is a great way to add flavor to marinades and can completely spice up an otherwise bland dish. Balsamic is my favorite but red wine and apple cider vinegar are other great options.

With the right ingredients on hand, healthy eating can come naturally. Are there any staples that I missed? Leave your favorite healthy kitchen staples in the comments below!

Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist with a private practice in San Diego, CA. She speaks nationally on the topics of health and nutrition and has been cited as a nutrition expert by media such as NBC, FOX, SELF, Cosmopolitan and Dr. Oz The Good Life. Download her FREE 4 Step Nutrition Quick Start Guide and start feeling better today!

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