Making Cheap, Low Fat Meals

Healthy Budget Meals

Shopping on a Budget
Shopping on a Budget. Getty Images

When money is tight, many of us eat out less often. Given that many restaurant meals are high in fat and calories, this is probably a good thing in terms of weight management. At home, you can control what goes into a meal, and how much you eat. The danger, though, is that we may resort to admittedly cheap but over-processed packaged foods, which may also be relatively high in calories, fat, sodium, and other additives: packaged ramen noodles, canned condensed soups, boxes of meal helpers, boxed macaroni and cheese, canned stews, processed cheese products.

There are other, more healthful pantry products we can use to make great, inexpensive low-fat meals:

Canned tuna in water, whole-wheat noodles, whole-grain rice, canned tomatoes, dried or low-sodium canned beans, artichoke hearts, lentils, whole-grain couscous and other grains, polenta, and low-sodium broths can all be put to good use to make inexpensive, nutritious meals.

If you combine these standard ingredients with frozen or fresh vegetables such as spinach, peas, carrots, onions, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, and small amounts of bulk-packaged lean meat or frozen fish, you can put together a large number of tasty low-fat dishes the whole family will love.

If you're looking to make creamy sauces, you can use low-fat or nonfat milk and cornstarch. Use light tub soft cream cheese, reduced-fat hard cheeses, low-fat sour cream, fat-free half and half, and strained non-fat plain Greek yogurt.

Here are some example of inexpensive pantry meals you can make today with the following items:

  • Risotto: long or short-grain rice, fat-free broth, mushrooms, onions, garlic
  • Mac and Cheese: whole grain elbow macaroni, nonfat milk, cornstarch, reduced-fat cheese, mustard
  • Pasta With Marinara Sauce: whole grain spaghetti or penne, garlic, canned, no-salt-added tomatoes, dried herbs
  • Tuna Noodle Casserole: canned tuna, whole-wheat noodles, frozen peas, breadcrumbs, nonfat milk, cornstarch, reduced-fat cheese
  • Cajun Rice and Beans: whole grain rice, low-sodium canned beans, onions, salt-free Cajun seasoning
  • Chick Pea Curry: onions, garlic, fat-free vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, garbanzo beans (chick peas), curry powder
  • Baked fish/chicken: fresh or frozen skinless chicken breast or lean white fish, dried herbs/spices, fresh or frozen vegetables, rice, canned tomatoes
  • Baked potatoes: russet potatoes, canned vegetarian baked beans, small amount reduced-fat cheese; or salsa and fat-free sour cream
  • Chili: with or without extra-lean ground beef/turkey, onions, chili powder, cumin, beans, canned tomatoes, canned jalapeno pepper

These are just some basic ideas. How are you managing to eat healthy on a budget?