How much can you save by not eating fast food?

Preparing Healthy Foods on a Budget

Eating healthy can be expensive, which is why many turn to fast food. But, healthy food doesn't have to cost more than fast food. True, the things that are best for you -- lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables -- always seem to add the most to your grocery bill. But if you know how to eat healthy on a budget, you will actually spend less than opting for a convenient drive-through.

Using smaller portions is a great way to add to your savings. Restaurants have really set a bad example for portion sizes. Since we are given such large portions when we go out to eat, we often believe our portions at home should be the same size. If you pay attention to the nutrition facts on the ingredients you're using, you will probably end up cooking less than what you think you should, and you'll still be full and content at the end of the meal. Smaller portions help you save money and unnecessary calories. It's a win-win.

It might be easy to see the savings of not eating fast food when considering a family of four, but what if you're just cooking for yourself? You may spend money on fresh ingredients only to have them go bad before you can enjoy them. Or, you may waste a perfectly good meal because you don't want to eat the same thing for dinner every night of the week. However, with a little planning, you can save both time and money by using the same main ingredients throughout the week.

If your recipe is for four servings, but you only want one, try to be creative about how to transform the dish into something else each night of the week. If you cook several chicken breasts for dinner one night, you can also use what you don't eat to make chicken salad for your lunch the rest of the week without spending any extra money -- or time cooking. If you're having London broil, use the leftovers for steak salad or fajitas.

Even if you don't use all of the same ingredients, you can prepare your meals for the week by prepping and chopping all of the ingredients on Sunday and storing them in the fridge or freezer for easy access after work. If you won't be able to use all of an ingredient before it goes bad, freeze it for the next time you make the dish instead of letting it spoil and go to waste.

On the next page, we'll discuss the types of foods to buy on a budget and other helpful tips.