ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Cheap Healthy Meal Plans

Updated on June 19, 2013
oatmeal ingredients
oatmeal ingredients | Source

Planning your food expenditures can be one of the more difficult aspects of budgeting, particularly when you wish to maintain a healthy diet. Healthier food is often either more expensive or more time consuming to prepare. Sometimes it is both! Moreover, if you are anything like me you will find yourself overestimating your time and commitment to preparing meals, which will ultimately result in a busted budget and a busted diet. So, to help you avoid the traps I fell into when I first started budgeting for a healthy diet here are some tips.

Be Realistic

First, be realistic about your expectations. If you are unused to preparing meals or making food that require large amounts of preparation recognize that about yourself. Otherwise you will find yourself with a refrigerator full of groceries you are to tired to use and a fast food bill for a diet that would be difficult to categorize as healthy by anyone's standards.

Start Small

Begin with only one or two small changes. Consider adding one higher preparation meal to your meal rotations. Switch one or two items in your cart for healthier alternatives (i.e. buy whole grain bread instead of white bread or buy a whole grain cereal instead of marshmallow cereal). After a month with the new change add another meal to your repertoire. To help you get started I've include four healthy, inexpensive meals to help you get started.

Hot Cereal Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup per person 7 Grain Cereal, Rolled Oats, Brown Rice or other hot cereal
  • 1/8 cup per person apples, blueberries, cranberries, raisins, or other fruit, dried (see insturctions for fresh)
  • 1/16 cup per person walnuts, pecans, or other nuts, chopped
  • to taste cinnamon, maple, orange zest, nutmeg, or other spice
  • 5/8 cup per person water

Hot Cereal Instructions

  1. Add the water and dried fruit to a pan and place on the stove on high. (Use 1/8 less water per person in using fresh fruit and save the fruit to add with the nuts.)
  2. Go fix your hair or put on your make-up. When you are done the water should be boiling. Add the oats and spice(s), stirring for about five minutes. (If you are using rice the cover, reduce to simmer and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes.)
  3. Top with nuts and serve with milk.

Hot Breakfast Cereals

Oatmeal (or any hot whole grain cereal) is a healthy breakfast that only takes about ten extra minutes of your morning. Buy the cereal from the bulk foods section of your local grocery store or, if you have the storage space, consider buying larger quantities online. Wheat Montana sells 50lbs of hot cereal for only $38.29 - that is less than a dollar a pound. With only a ten minute time investment this can be a good place to start trimming the fat from your budget and your diet.

To the right I've listed some of your oatmeal options from which you can mix and match. My family particularly loves oatmeal (made with orange juice rather than water), cranberries, walnuts and orange zest. It is a breakfast that makes me love fall.

Also, if you are making rice, which I personally love with raisins and cinnamon, there is less preparation time but more total cook time so plan accordingly. Start the water boiling early, like when you hop in the shower. When you get out the water is boiling so add your rice, cover and simmer. The rice can simmer for 20 minutes before you need to worry about it so that should give you the time to dress. Then sit down to a warm meal before rushing into the cold world.

Homemade Chili Ingredients

  • Pinto, white, navy, garbanzo, kidney, black beans, or other beans dried or canned
  • Bell pepper, green chili, banana pepper, jalapeno or other pepper
  • Tomatoes, corn, garlic, onions, olives
  • Chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic salt or other spice to taste

Homemade Chili Instructions

  1. If you are using dried beans you will need to soak them overnight.
  2. Rinse your beans and add to your slow cooker. (Unless you are using canned, spiced beans, in which case add spices and all to the pot.)
  3. Add your choice of peppers and any remaining vegetables.
  4. Add a chili spice package or spices of your choice.
  5. Cook on low for the day.

Homemade Chili

Chili is another inexpensive, yet healthy meal choice. Beans are an easy way to get protein at a fraction of the price. And, should you decide to splurge for a more expensive protein to add to the pot, it will go much further than a more traditional meal of meat and potatoes. Moreover chilies are chock full of vegetables.

Dried beans are cheaper with less sodium than canned varieties. However, dried beans require more preparation and canned beans can often come pre-spiced, which can be a boon when you are not yet confident of your cooking choices. The link to beans under ingredients will give you a whole list of beans to choose from. If you are nervous begin with pinto beans, which are a traditional chili bean. In my family we like to mix our beans - most recently pinto, white and garbanzo with green chilies and olives in a chicken stock.

There is also a link to peppers in the ingredient list. It includes pictures and a brief description of the peppers. As a place to start know that bell peppers will make a sweeter chili, while mild green chilies will add just a touch of heat (which paired nicely with the cooler taste of the olives).

As to your other vegetable options corn will provide a sweeter chili. Onions will bring out the flavor. Tomatoes have a more acidic flavor. Olives can provide a touch of contrast to your chili. Garlic has a very strong flavor so use sparingly.

Chicken broth provides a nice base for your chili and will pick up other flavors well. I usually skip the salt as I often buy canned beans. But I will add a little cumin for a milder flavor or chili powder and/or paprika for more of a bite.

I tend to make an entire pot of chili. Then I freeze the leftovers in freezer bags. That way I can portion out family sized amounts, which will freeze flat. And when next we want chili all I have to do is heat and serve.

Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients

  • tomatoes diced or stewed
  • tomatoe sauce
  • onions, green olives, black olives, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach or other vegetables
  • garlic
  • ricotta, Parmesan or mozzarella cheese
  • garlic salt, bennel seed, basil, oregano or other spices

Spaghetti Sauce Instructions

  1. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, garlic, other vegetables and spices to the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low till dinner.
  3. Add cheese and serve over your favorite noodle.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

One of my favorite dinners (and one which my husband is particularly good at making) is spaghetti sauce. Before you get started remember the rules: be realistic and start simple. Don't attempt to make the sauce completely from scratch if you've never made homemade sauce before. Choose an organic canned sauce as your base.

Here are a couple of notes on ingredients before you get started. The green olives will add a very tangy flavor, which not everyone will enjoy. (I love it myself and find this difficult to fathom but apparently it's true.) I've often used fennel with a little hamburger to give the impression of sausage. Spinach and ricotta cheese are another good combination.

Pair the sauce with a whole wheat or vegetable noodle for full nutritional value.

Burrito Ingredients

  • Cooked pinto, black or refried beans and brown rice
  • Olives, tomatoes, corn, lettuce (romaine, oak leaf, or other lettuce), peppers, green or white onion
  • cheddar, Monterrey jack, pepper jack or mozzarella cheese
  • cumin, paprika, chili powder or other spices
  • whole wheat, corn or vegetable tortilla

Burrito Instructions

  1. Heat beans and rice (if you are using it) with spices.
  2. Place on warm tortilla.
  3. Top with vegetables and cheese.
  4. Wrap and serve.


Burritos are fast and easy. Because you are dealing with food that has either already been cooked or does not need cooking this meal can be put together in a matter of moments. And again, because you are using beans instead of a more expensive protein this is a very inexpensive meal. In addition this is a meal that can be made to fit a variety of palettes. Wash and chop the vegetables then set up a burrito bar so that each family member can choose the ingredients that he or she likes best. Top with a little sour cream and salsa and you have a very satisfying meal.

These are four meals that my family uses to trim our budget and maintain healthy (or at least healthier) diets. The whole family enjoys them and they preparation times work with our busy schedule. I hope they work as well for you and your family.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Simone, if I didn't find fast inexpensive ways to eat healthy we never would. :)

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Watergeek, I love groanola too. But I didn't want to overwhelm people with to many options. :) I'll have to try your granola recipe though - we usually use dried fruit.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      What wonderful ideas! I find it odd that so many people think it's expensive to eat healthy- as you've shown very well, it doesn't have to be!

    • watergeek profile image


      6 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I would add granola to this list. I think you might like it, since I totally resonate to your first recipe of hot oatmeal. Try this recipe:

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      6 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Spaghetti is fairly easy to put together - unless you are starting completely from scratch.

      Yes, all these meals have been approved by my own kids. :)

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      6 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Four terrific ideas, all of which sound delicious and kid friendly. It makes a difference when kiddos are involved. I love the hot cereal idea because my kids are always asking for hot cereal. Starting small sounds do-able as well. Well done Joy. -K

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      Nice hub! I've never made my own spaghetti sauce before. Can't wait to give it a try :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Love these hubs......learning so much every day....when work permist!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)