Cheap & Healthy Meal Ideas

by Jeffrey Brian Airman

Cheap and healthy meals will keep you feeling great, while leaving money in your pocket. Buy your meats in bulk, and portion them out for multiple meals. Choose the freshest produce you can find to add healthy variety. Use your oven or slow cooker to make a one-dish meal. Reheat leftovers without adding fat for an inexpensive, healthy meal.

Bulk Meats

Buying meats in bulk can help you create several meals at a low total cost per meal. Warehouse stores and grocery stores offer "value pack" meats at a much lower price per ounce than smaller packs. Healthy protein sources such as boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, ground turkey and lean ground sirloin are all sold for nearly half the price per ounce when purchased in larger quantities. When you get the meat home, divide it up for separate meal plans. Whatever won't be cooked right away can be frozen or refrigerated in a marinade for future meals.

Fresh Produce

Fresh produce is an inexpensive and healthy option to build a meal around. Visit your local fresh produce retailer with an open mind, and look for the freshest and best items they have. Farmer's markets offer inspiring rare vegetables and fruits. Ask the produce manager for suggestions on what to buy and how to prepare a dish using it. They will often have insight on combinations of vegetables and flavors.

Main Course Salads

Main course salads are primarily lettuce, which is both cheap and healthy. Build a salad base that includes at least two different lettuce types. Iceberg and romaine lettuce give a crisp crunch, but are mostly water. Find a more nutrient-rich lettuce such as green or red leaf to mix into the salad base in equal amounts. Choose healthy flavorful toppings that can dress the salad, either in combination or separately. Serve all the topping ingredients separate, along with the lettuce mix, and allow everyone to build the salad according to her preferences.

One-Dish Meals

One-dish meals can be made with limited ingredients, but still satisfy a whole family. Crock-Pots and slow cookers can be filled with healthy vegetables and lean meats and prepared in the morning for a one-dish evening meal that takes only a few minutes to serve.

Casseroles can be made several at a time with healthy items purchased in bulk to reduce cost. These casseroles can then be covered tightly in aluminum foil and frozen for up to a month before use. Label the dish with its contents and the date it was frozen.

Leftovers

Heating up leftover food from your refrigerator can be a healthy meal option that saves you both time and money. Don't add oils or fats when you heat up your leftovers. Microwaves can be used to warm up last night's meal without added butter or oil. Use a microwave-safe dish or even the plate you plan to eat on. A nonstick pan can be used to reheat leftovers without adding fat. Check the seasoning, once your leftovers have reached your desired eating temperature, and add salt and pepper accordingly.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Brian Airman is a writer, musician and food blogger. A 15-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Airman has used his experience to cover food, restaurants, cooking and do-it-yourself projects. Airman also studied nursing at San Diego State University.