What do you consider to be a cheap and healthy meal?  Cheap and healthy are subjective.  For practical purposes, I’ll try to put some parameters around these terms.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that included “Plate Math.”  Whether or not your you’re making a one dish meal, or preparing elements separately, the new wisdom (is that an oxymoron?) is that half of your meal should be vegetables, a quarter should be protein or about 4 oz, and a quarter should be starch.  The vegetables should be colorful, the protein should be lean, and the starch should be fibrous.

Now that we’ve defined healthy, can we define cheap?  I’m going to borrow from money-saving maven Erin Chase at $5 Dinners and say that $5 for four servings is cheap.

Is this doable, a properly proportioned plate at $1.25 per serving?  The answer is yes.  Here are three simple tricks.

1.  Always buy protein on sale

I receive the specials from my local grocery store via email on Wednesdays and I am amazed at the difference between the sale price and the regular price.  This week, I saved $4/pound on top sirloin, regularly $6.99/pound.

2.  Eat fruits and vegetables that are in season

Have you been in the grocery in December and found a quart of strawberries for $6.99?  You splurge, get them home, and they’re tasteless!  When you buy things in season, they cost less and taste better.  That’s a win-win.  Find a list of seasonal produce here.

3.  Look for unprocessed foods

When you’re looking for a starch to occupy the remaining quarter of your plate, shy away from food that has been processed.  In general, the more labor and effort that goes into a product increases the price.  If you have a choice between pasta and another starch – like beans, brown rice, or quinoa – choose the latter.  They haven’t been processed so their nutrients are closer to their natural state.

Ready to get started?  Check out these $5 Dinners:

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