Life Lessons: Eating healthy on a budget

Nearly 47 million Americans rely on the federal food assistance program, but a study found it doesn’t cover half of what a healthy diet costs. So how can you feed your family nutritious meals on a skimpy budget?

Stephanie Thomas wanted to make healthy meals for her family, but it wasn’t easy on a tight budget.

“I had to get the cheaper brand, the less expensive brand, but the nutritional ingredients weren’t the same,” she said.

Like millions of American families, Thomas’ family relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The SNAP program is the largest federal food assistance program in the country,” explained Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, an assistant professor at the Department of Agriculture & Human Services at North Carolina State University.

Haynes-Maslow wanted to know if families on a limited budget can afford to eat healthy, so she led a study on SNAP.

“SNAP only really covers about 43-60 percent of food costs,” Haynes-Maslow stated.

The study found the most expensive diet consisted of meat eaters who only ate fresh fruits and vegetables.

And the cheapest? Eating a vegetarian diet with a mix of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables.

So what are Haynes-Maslow’s tips to stretching your food budget without skimping on nutrition?

First, buy in bulk whenever possible. Be coupon savvy, scan newspapers or download apps that do the work for you. And don’t forget to check food labels.

“No added sugar, no sodium added or reduced sodium,” Haynes-Maslow explained.

Thomas took a cooking class from her local food bank. She learned to make a fiber-packed meal for her family all under $10!

“It’s going to feed you that night, maybe the next night, maybe you send your husband to work with leftovers,” she said.

When looking for savings at the grocery store, look at the upper and lower shelves; stores often stock the priciest items at eye level.

For family-friendly recipes and tips on eating healthy on a budget, visit

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