DIET&FITNESS Published September30, 2014 By Staff Reporter

Healthy Meals on a Budget

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Contrary to popular belief, healthy eating does not have to be too expensive or time-consuming. In fact, health columnist Lacie Glover believes that healthy eating is possible for people with a tight budget and a packed schedule.

Creating a healthy meal plan on a budget requires some flexibility. Here are achievable ways to plan a healthy week without emptying your pockets or taking too much of your time:

Do a Needs Assessment

Effective meal planning involves ensuring that your plan is adaptable enough to fit your lifestyle and schedule. This can be done by looking at you or your family's agenda for the week. Are there any plans to dine out, are there habitual meals?  Also, it is important to check the days and hours of your local farmers' markets; the United States Department of Agriculture provides an online directory.

Take Inventory

According to Glover, three important factors need to be considered when maintaining a healthy, affordable shopping list- your budget, your pantry, and the season. It is also advisable to write down the items that are approaching their expiration. An inventory helps keep things hassle-free and can practically cut down on unnecessary expenses. Buying foods on sale is still a waste of money if nobody eats them.

Write a Meal Plan and List

Your list should ideally start with habitual meal items, staples, and preferred recipes, though not having concrete ideas yet is okay. Cookbooks and online recipes are very helpful, and even mobile apps can do wonders in helping you create a meal plan.

Shop Wisely

A plan is not that great if it is not executed well, and shopping takes up a huge percentage of the execution part. Glover recommends visiting the local farmers' market first (if it is part of your plan, of course). Food sold here are definitely fresher, free of additives, and lasts longer. Other items can be picked up at the grocery store. It is also important to stick to your list, with absolutely no room for impulse purchases.

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