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Quick Tips for Healthy Meal Planning that Won't Break Your Budget

by Thais Harris, NC
Nutrition Education Manager, Ceres Community Project
April 2016

Effective meal planning is both rewarding and cost-effective. It might seem daunting to take the time to think ahead but, once you get into the swing of things it's actually a great time saver. Follow these tips and you'll be amazed at how easy it is to cut costs without sacrificing nutrition.


  1. 1. Make a meal plan and a simple shopping list for your weekly meals.

    Take time once a week to plan out 4 to 5 dinners

  2. 2. Make a list of all seasonal ingredients to take advantage of lowest prices.

    Click here to find out which foods are in season.


  3. 3. Double the recipes for planned leftovers and freeze in individual containers.


  4. 4. Only use basic ingredients.


  5. 5. Organize recipes by season.


  6. 6. Coupons:

    Stop clipping coupons for things you don't need or wouldn't normally buy.


  7. 7. Buy when items are on sale.


  8. 8. Watch for the price per unit not the package price.


  9. 9. Shop at farmers markets.


  10. 10. Buy seasonal produce.


  11. 11. Buy frozen, canned or dried items.

    These items are less expensive than fresh items when out of season. Buy dried/frozen/canned fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness. Another benefit is that they are easy to store. Be sure to buy these on sale.


  12. 12. Score with seasonal specials at the supermarket.


  13. 13. Save more buying vegetarian options.

    Vegetarian options are often cheaper. Use half as much meat in your recipes, and add vegetable proteins like grains and legumes .


  14. 14. Plant a garden- start small.

    Grow what thrives, is hard to find or is expensive.


  15. 15. Buy big, pay little.

    Buy in bulk or mini-bulk, especially pantry items that hold for long periods of time.


  16. 16. Do not buy water.

    Use a water filter at home: filtered tap water is best.


  17. 17. Take five minutes to think about next day.

    Make sure to soak, defrost food items in the fridge, brew tea, the night before.


  18. 18. You bought it, so cook it.

    Buying in bulk shouldn't create waste. Make sure that you are mindful about portion sizes when you prepare meals.


If what keeps you from meal preparation is the fear and confusion about what to eat, and you think inspiration might come from knowing how different foods contribute to your wellbeing, sign up for one of our Healing Foods classes and/or watch our Healing Foods Basics film. You can also check out other nutrition articles for more information on eating a whole foods diet, understanding fats, and much more!