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Eating healthy on a budget

Alicia Colombo

By Mary Anna Rodabaugh

According to a recent report by Consumer Affairs, Philadelphia was one of the cities experiencing the highest grocery price increases in the report found that Philadelphia shoppers who buy grain, beans and pasta are paying 3.7% more than a year ago. The price of pre-made meals has risen 5.1%. With the rising cost of food prices, older adults may find it difficult to afford fresh fruits and vegetables to support a healthy diet. Beyond Philadelphia’s food distribution centers and older adult meal providers, there are additional ways you can eat healthy on a budget.

Be selective
It may be time to mix up your diet to make sure you’re incorporating healthy fats and protein without the hefty price tag. You can choose less expensive sources of protein, such as canned fish, peanut butter and cottage cheese.

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive, especially if they are out of season. Instead, choose frozen
vegetables, canned vegetables or canned fruit in juice to supplement your diet. Frozen and canned vegetables have a much longer shelf life than fresh vegetables. You can enjoy string beans, asparagus, potatoes, carrots, and more. These canned staples complement a chicken dinner or come together for an easy vegetarian medley. Sweet potatoes tend to be inexpensive and can be used in salads, side dishes and snacks.

When grocery shopping, keep an eye out for generic or store brands, which typically cost less than their name brand counterparts.

Plan ahead
Look for ingredients that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, rice or whole grain pasta can be used to make a variety of different meals. By cooking meals in advance and freezing them for later, you will be less tempted to find quick and unhealthy alternatives, such as takeout or high sodium snacks. A little meal prep can go a long way. Pick meals that are very easy to put together with ingredients you have around the home or can easily purchase when they are on sale.

Watch for sales
Major grocery chains have mobile phone applications that allow shoppers to save digital coupons to their account. Otherwise, keep an eye out for your weekly circulars to see which store near you has the best prices. Sometimes, it may be less expensive to buy chicken from one store, but pasta sauce and rice from another.

Use community resources
For people who are unable to afford food, community food banks and meals programs may be able to help. The City of Philadelphia maintains a database of food distribution centers, meal programs and public assistance programs at 311 or Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) serves group meals at senior community centers and offers meal delivery services for older adults. For more information, click here, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to

Easy, low-cost recipes

Chicken Salad
Cook, then shred, three chicken breasts. Dice three stalks of celery. Mix shredded chicken and diced celery with ½ cup of low-fat mayonnaise. Add any additional ingredients that you like, such as chopped walnuts,
sliced grapes, salt or pepper.

The chicken salad can be eaten with crackers, on bread for sandwiches, or wrapped in lettuce leaves. Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for three to five days.

Chickpea Bowl
Heat up a can of chickpeas either in the microwave or in a skillet on the stovetop. Dice an onion. Cook two cups of rice. Add a cup of cooked, diced chicken. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Put all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.

Greek Yogurt French Onion Dip
For a healthier spin on chips and dip, use plain Greek yogurt as your base. Add a package of powdered onion soup mix to the yogurt and stir to blend properly. Dip your sliced vegetables in this healthy, protein-packed dressing.

Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.

Categories: Finances Food Health


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