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Healthy Eating on a Budget: A guide for seniors

    • April 1, 2024
    • Eat Well
    • 4 minute read
  • Theresa Coleman RD, LD

We are all feeling the sting of higher prices, especially at the grocery store. For older adults on a fixed budget higher prices can cause stress and make it harder to prepare healthy, fresh meals. But there are many tricks and ideas that can help us prepare budget friendly, quick, and nutritious meals.

Eat more meals at home

People who eat meals at home typically eat more fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber. They eat less saturated fat and sodium and spend less of their fixed monthly budget on food. You do not need to be a seasoned chef to enjoy delicious meals at home. And while there is nothing wrong with occasional frozen or boxed meals, you can take advantage of a “semi-homemade” meal that takes the same amount of time to create and offer more nutritional benefits.

Some of my favorite shortcuts to creating a healthy meal at home are rotisserie chicken, tuna packets and hard-boiled eggs. I also use canned beans (rinsed), microwave or instant rice, bagged salads, and steamtable frozen vegetables. Using 1-3 of these shortcuts can deliver a balanced, high nutritive meal in the same amount of time it takes to microwave a frozen meal, with more servings!

My newest love is microwave rice packets that are ready in 90 seconds. There are a variety from which to choose, from jasmine rice to brown rice and quinoa blends. Never had quinoa before? This could be a wonderful way to try it! While these foods cost more per serving than cooking from scratch, they can help with making nutritious meals at home.

Keep inexpensive staples in your pantry

There are inexpensive staples you can keep on hand like:

  • Dried beans and lentils - which are high in protein and fiber
  • Oats – they can be for more than breakfast
  • Rice – try brown and white varieties
  • Pasta– stock up on whole wheat pasta when your grocery store has a deal

A fantastic way to stretch your food budget is to use less meat and add these beans, grains and other vegetables to your meal. For taco nights, add beans to your meat or add mushrooms or vegetables to your pasta sauce for pasta nights.

Soups, pasta, and casseroles are a terrific way to include extra vegetables in your day, as well as use up leftovers to reduce food waste. Nothing is more frustrating than throwing money in the trash!

Reduce food waste

Speaking of waste- try not to buy more than you can use. I look at the week ahead and determine how many meals I need to make, how many need to be quick and easy, and how much food is available for leftovers. Sometimes, when making changes to your diet, it is easy to go “all in” and buy all kinds of produce. But your fruits and veggies may wilt in your fridge before you get to them. I suggest incorporating extra fruits and vegetables gradually, so you can gauge how much you can realistically eat. Another idea is to buy a nice blend of fresh and frozen, so there is something on hand in a pinch.

Use community resources

Finally- take advantage of programs that help. Local food banks, SNAP, and potential benefits through your Medicare insurance are three ways to get some additional food items that can supplement what you buy at the store. Always shop local and seasonal for the best prices and quality.

ArchWell Health can help connect you with organizations and benefits to help you meet your nutritional goals on a fixed income. Just call your local center today.

Talk to your doctor

ArchWell Health offers nutrition education programs that can help you incorporate low-cost meals into your day. This is especially important if you are managing diabetes, heart disease or other conditions that impact what you eat.

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About the Author

Theresa Coleman RD, LD, Nutrition Education Program Manager

Theresa Coleman is a St. Louis native and registered dietitian of 17 years. Prior to joining ArchWell Health she spent her career assisting with nutrition in nursing homes. Theresa says loves ArchWell Heath because she, “can make a great impact on lifestyle changes to promote healthy aging. In her free time she enjoys traveling and hiking her with family and dog.

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