When you’re on a tight budget, healthy eating can seem like a luxury out of reach.
But the truth is that there’s absolutely no need for you to go hunting for dinner in expensive health food stores to start getting healthier and losing weight. You can make a wide variety of tasty, flavorful, nutritious, healthy and low-calorie meals from cheap ingredients in the bulk bins section, dry and canned food aisles and fresh and frozen produce sections of any regular local grocery store.
Start collecting healthy weight-loss recipes like the ones below, that successfully combine lean, healthy and affordable sources of protein (like dry beans, peas, nuts, seeds, natural nut butter, canned wild salmon or etc.) with low-cost high-fiber whole grains (like wild rice, whole grain pasta, barley, buckwheat groats, quinoa, etc.) with some flavorful herbs, seasonings and fresh or frozen veggies.
These budget-friendly dishes aren’t just lean, scrumptious, quick and affordable, but they’re also right on track when it comes to sticking to a smart diet for losing weight and boosting your health.
Gluten-Free Vegetable Quiche with Mesclun Greens Side Salad
Eggs are an excellent source of complete protein, and the price is right at about $0.19 per egg. Stuffed with veggies and a quick-oats crust, this quiche makes for a great cost-effective meal while staying light, healthy and gluten-free.
For the Crust:
1 ½ cups quick oats (certified GF if looking to avoid gluten)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp water
For the Filling:
4 large eggs, whisked
2/3 cup low-fat milk
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 package frozen spinach, drained
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cups broccoli, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
½ cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ tsp dried chives
¼ tsp dried dill
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, combine the oats, salt, and baking soda. Pulse in the oil and water until you have a moist crumbly dough. Press the dough into a 9 1/2″ pie pan.
Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before filling.
Meanwhile, on the stove, heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions until translucent. Toss in the mushrooms, bell peppers and broccoli and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and spinach and sauté for 2 more minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chives, dill and spices. Stir in the sautéed veggies. Place the cooled pie pan on top of a baking sheet (to avoid spills), and then pour the egg mixture over the baked oat crust. Sprinkle in a bit more chives, dill, salt and pepper on top.
Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the eggs are set, the edges have lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow the quiche to cool somewhat, then slice it and plate a single wedge beside a mixed green salad.
Nutrition Facts per serving: 146 calories/8g total fat (1g saturated fat)/12g total carbs (2g dietary fiber)/6g protein
For about a $1.50 a can, black beans are an excellent source of cheap yet high-quality protein, fiber, calcium, potassium and folic acid. Cut your costs even more by buying dry beans in bulk and cooking them up yourself at home. And while quinoa is a bit more costly at about $2.00 per cup, one cup is enough to load you up with one of the cleanest sources of complete protein, fiber and essential nutrients available, minus the unhealthy fat and cholesterol. This is a budget-friendly nutrient-packed meal that’s incredibly easy to put together, get the recipe here.
Simple Salmon Croquettes with Zoodles
Get lean protein and heart-healthy omega 3s into your diet for as little as about $0.20 per ounce with canned salmon, and whip up some easy salmon cakes. Plate them beside a heaping scoop of zucchini that’s been julienned or spiralized into thin noodles and lightly steamed (learn how to make easy zoodles here.
15oz. canned salmon, drained
1 egg, beaten
1 bunch green onion, both green and white sections finely chopped
1 celery stalked, finely chopped
1 ¾ cup whole grain bread crumbs (optional: make your own by making whole grain toast and pulsing in the food processor)
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for frying
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat a splash of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery, cooking and stirring until softened (about 3 minutes). Stir in the parsley, and then remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, flake apart the canned drained salmon with a fork. Pick out any bones and skin. Stir in the egg and mustard, and combine well. Stir in the cooked onion and celery mixture, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, combining everything very well. Shape the mixture into 8 patties.
Place the skillet back on medium high heat, and heat another splash of oil. Cook each side of the salmon cakes until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Then use a spatula to place the fried salmon cakes onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the salmon cakes until golden on top and heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with a side of zoodles.
Nutrition Facts per patty: 239 calories/6g total fat (1g saturated fat)/30g total carbs (7g dietary fiber)/17g protein
Hearty Winter Squash Dinner Bowl
At about a $1.50 per pound, winter squashes get you big bang for your buck, loaded with nutrients, belly-filling fiber power and incredibly versatile menu options. Roast a squash, scoop out the seeds (keep these for a deliciously roasted and seasoned snack for latter) and fill it up with veggies, whole grains and beans, for an incredibly satisfying, lean yet hefty meal. And don’t forget to keep the squash skins to use as your dinner bowl!