Healthy Eating and Food Costs

Most of us are painfully aware that food costs in the past year have risen. A survey by The Hartman Group found that 85% of consumers feel the pinch in their pocketbook. Over half of those people say rising prices have impacted their ability to purchase foods, beverages and other grocery items “at least somewhat.” Nearly 1 in 4 report they’ve “really had to rethink how they shop for groceries.”

Here are some strategies for healthy eating on a tight budget:

No. 1: Eat out less. We all got used to eating at home more during COVID-19. Let’s keep up those cooking skills. The first step is to plan your meals, so you don’t think about what’s for supper on your way home from work — and opt for a frozen pizza. 

No. 2: Choose less expensive foods selectively. Frozen foods can be cheaper than fresh if fresh foods aren’t in season. Skip or reduce soft drinks and energy drinks; swap a couple meat-focused meals each week to include dishes based on canned beans or lentils. Or add those canned beans, mushrooms or lentils to ground beef to stretch your meat budget for items such as hamburgers, pasta sauce or meatloaf. Choose a larger container for foods like unsweetened yogurt and mix each serving with fresh or frozen fruit. Choose canned or frozen seafood such as tuna or cod. 

No. 3: Reduce food waste. Repurpose that leftover chili into a chili mac; buy a whole chicken, cook it in your slow cooker for your first meal, then use it the next few days in quesadillas, white chicken chili or chicken salad. Take an inventory of what’s in your freezer and plan your meals based on what you’ve already purchased.

No. 4: Use sales and coupons wisely. My mom used to plan her menus around the weekly grocery store flyer. Now you can do it based on your grocery store app — and what’s on sale. 

No. 5: Make a list before you shop. Most of us tend to impulse shop when we go to the grocery store. If you have a list, you’re more likely to purchase the things you need rather than what appeals to you in the moment. It’s also important to eat before grocery shopping. Planning helps you avoid overbuying and helps you know when to cook a little extra for use in another dish. Q and A

Q: How much calcium do we need, and what foods contain calcium?

A: The National Academy of Medicine recommends 800 milligrams a day for women under age 50 and men up to age 71, and 1,000 milligrams per day thereafter. For women, the additional calcium after age 50 is needed to help offset the loss of estrogen at menopause. The estrogen loss triggers more rapid bone loss. A serving of milk, yogurt or a yogurt drink (like kefir) supplies around 300 milligrams. An ounce of cheddar cheese has 200 milligrams. In addition, many foods are fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals, plant milks and orange juice. Vegetables (like cooked greens and broccoli), legumes (chickpeas), nuts (almonds), seeds (sesame seeds) and dried fruit (figs) also offer calcium. 


Here’s a quick grab-and-go breakfast. These blueberry muffins are full of protein and low in calories. They only take five ingredients, including almond butter and vanilla Greek yogurt. The recipe is from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. 


  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 6 muffin cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together banana, quinoa, yogurt and almond butter until well blended. Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and set in center. Let cool completely. Makes 6 muffins. 

Per muffin: 140 calories; 5 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrate; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 3 grams fiber; 7 grams sugars; 30 milligrams sodium. 

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. .


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