The other day I was talking to one of my friends in Ukraine and she was telling me about the difficult economic situation there. Ukraine is suffering tremendously from the economic crisis especially if you compare it to the United States. If you think of this economic crisis as an iceberg then the top of it is the United States and the underwater part is Ukraine (usually about 7/8 of an iceberg is hidden below the waterline). She was telling me that it became almost impossible for her to fix healthy foods at home because all the ingredients are so expensive. I was surprised to hear that so I decided to make a healthy-choice CHEAP grocery list for her and give her a few healthy and easy supper ideas. The healthy and CHEAP grocery list is international from my point of view and that is why I decided to write this post. I use these ingredients regularly and my family loves everything I cook so hopefully you or your family will enjoy them as well. Saying that you can’t eat healthy because you do not have enough money is nonsense from my point of view. I agree that sometimes fixing a healthy meal can take a little bit more time then sticking Roman Noodles into the microwave but your body and stomach will greatly appreciate your efforts.
Beans are very tasty and filling at the same time. They are the kings and queens of vegetable protein. Rich in fiber, vitamins (vitamin C and folate) and minerals (calcium and potassium) they have an outstanding nutritional value combined with a delicious taste. Canned beans are super cheap and extremely easy to use but they might be a little too high in sodium so that is why I usually drain and rinse them before using them in any recipe. Some food companies now offer no salt added beans and this is the best healthy choice you can make. A lot of grocery stores have sales on them so it’s a good idea to buy 5-10 cans at once and save some money. I often use beans in different recipes but they can also be a great side-dish if you simply heat them and add a little bit of hot sauce. $1/can
Tomatoes whether they are fresh or canned can save any meal. Tomatoes are low in calories but rich in dietary fiber, Vitamin A and vitamin C and lycopene. A few years ago lycopene became very popular as it is considered to possess outstanding cancer-fighting properties. Lycopene can be better absorbed into the body from cooked tomatoes like tomato juice, ketchup, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Fresh tomatoes are good in salads and canned tomatoes add a wonderful flavor to soups, spaghetti, pizzas and a dozen other dishes. When I buy canned tomatoes I go for the no salt added ones whenever possible. $1/14.5 oz can or $2-$3/1 lb
Brown rice is often overlooked on the supermarket shelves as we are more used to regular white rice. When we choose white rice over his brown brother we lose a ton of healthy nutrients like vitamins B1, B3 and B6, iron, manganese, phosphorus and we completely deprive ourselves of dietary fiber that is responsible for our good health and the feeling of being satisfied. When I use brown rice in a recipe that calls for white rice I usually add an extra ½ cup of water and extra 10-15 minutes of cook time. $2.69/28 oz
Whole-wheat pasta (spaghetti, shells, rotini, macaroni, and noodles – anything you like) as well as the brown rice described above is not often a guest in many households around the United States just because most people are not used to it. Whole-wheat products are excellent sources of fiber that protect against cancer, heart disease and type II diabetes. They also help with weight management and are essential for proper bowel function. Being rich in manganese and selenium whole-wheat pasta helps to boost the immune system and provides essential nutrients for bone building. Whole-grain products are a little bit more expensive than regular ones but they are also more filling so you will end up eating less than if you were eating regular white flour pasta. Different pastas can be used as a side or as a main dish, they make a perfect comfort food and can energize you even after the most exhausting day. $2.5/14.5 oz
Potatoes are one of my favorite foods. My husband once said that it’s one of those foods that you can hardly mess up because no matter what you do to them they are always good. I think that many people “abuse” potatoes by deep-frying them, smothering them in fat and cream and turning them into say-hello-to-heart-disease chips. Potatoes are a wonderful comfort food that despite common opinion are not bad for your diet and weight management. You just need to cook them right. These vegetables are high in vitamin C (I personally never thought of mashed potatoes as an alternative to an orange), potassium (responsible for water balance in the body and healthy blood pressure), vitamin B6 and fiber. Most of the nutrients are stored in the skin that we recklessly throw into the trash can. In order to get the best out of a potato I prefer to cook them with the skin without adding extra fats. Mashed potatoes can be healthy if you cook them with the skin and use skim milk or water instead of cream and butter. When you bake or roast potatoes you need to watch the amount of fats that you add to them. That includes olive oil, butter, cream, mayo, cheese and bacon. $4/3 lbs
Chicken breast is a great source of protein that is low in both cholesterol and saturated fat (if cooked properly of course). I personally prefer organic chicken breast because it tastes better and usually has less fat, but if it is too pricy then you can substitute it with regular chicken breasts (only don’t forget to cut off all the fat and skin if there is any before you cook it). Chicken is my best friend in the kitchen because it’s easy to fix and it’s a great source of animal protein. Organic - $10/lb, regular - $7/lb
Carrots as any other vegetable are natural sources of vitamins and minerals. Carrots are the richest source of vitamin A that help us maintain good vision and also protects us against free radicals. Carrots are good for almost anything that I fix in the kitchen, I add them to stir-fries and casseroles, use them in soups and stews, add them to salads and munch on them whenever I am hungry. $0.74/lb
Lean ground turkey is a good healthy alternative for red meat as limiting red meat consumption is very important for heart-healthy diet. I personally prefer the taste of turkey over the taste of beef but I guess most people won’t agree with me. I think that the best thing about turkey is that you can find 99% fat-free ground turkey that is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol – this is always my choice. One more good thing about turkey is that it’s cheaper than red meat, so my wallet wins together with my heart. $4.6/lb
Onions are used in so many recipes that I can’t even imagine my life without them. I would call onions the ultimate taste-booster because it can enhance the taste of almost any meal. Onions are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for many health-promoting effects like lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and fighting cancer. One of the most famous effects of onions is their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial activity. The recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that onions also boost bone health and prevent osteoporosis. Onions are a must in my kitchen. $0.66/lb
Garlic is a close relative to onions but it offers many more health benefits. Promoting cardiovascular health, protecting against cancer and viruses, fighting free radicals and carcinogens as well as aiding in weight control, garlic is a whole pharmacy on its own. But even if I didn’t know about all these positive effects of garlic I would still value it for its taste. Garlic goes well with almost every meal starting with spaghetti and finishing with a steak. I always use fresh garlic just because it has a richer taste and it possesses all of the listed above health benefits. $0.25/oz
Frozen vegetables like broccoli, corn, bell peppers, and sweet peas. Vegetables are necessary for a healthy diet and each vegetable has its own benefits and its own unique taste. Using fresh veggies is always better but you can’t store them for a long time that is why frozen vegetables are always good to have. $2/lb
2% cheese bars like Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack or any other. I prefer 2% milk cheese because I watch my calories and cholesterol but you can use regular types too if they taste better to you. Buying cheese bars is cheaper than buying sliced or shredded cheese and you can use this cheese for anything: slice it for sandwiches, shred it for spaghetti or salad or cut it in cubes for quick snacks. A little bit of cheese can enhance the taste of practically any meal and give your dish a hearty flavor. Even though cheese is high in saturated fat it is still a very good source of calcium and protein. $3.79/8oz
Lettuce is one of the evening traditions in my house. Crispy green leaves with carrots and tomatoes are the best beginning of any meal. When it comes to choosing the best lettuce it’s always better to opt for dark green leaves like Romaine lettuce or spinach. These greens are high in folic acid, vitamin A, K and C but are extremely low in calories. The combination of nutrients in lettuce is responsible for its cholesterol lowering activities that make it a heart-healthy food. $2/each
The thirteen products that I mentioned above are my best friends in the kitchen. No matter if I have 10 minutes or a few hours to fix a meal I can always create something interesting and healthy for my family using these ingredients. If you are wondering what you can do with these foods then you are welcome to check out Healthy Meals on a Budget – Week 1 to pick up a few healthy supper ideas.
Keep it balanced!
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