Three Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Chef Jen Wanous offers cost-saving, healthy-eating tips plus a fish taco dinner for $4 per person.

Money Matters

18933240_mEating healthy on a dime, let alone 50 dimes, is not so easy these days. But with a few simple tips, you can save money and eat healthy.

1) Prioritize Your Organics

The price of organic foods is daunting. The good news is that not all food needs to be organic. Some foods are exposed to more harmful pesticides than others, and you can save money by prioritizing what you buy organic. This “dirty dozen” list outlines the most important organic items: Meat, milk, oil, coffee, peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, strawberries, lettuce, grapes and potatoes.

2) Buy in Bulk

Dried goods in bulk at your local natural market are a treasure trove of money-saving ingredients. The beauty of buying bulk is that you can get exactly how much you need.

You can save dollars per pound compared to the canned or boxed versions. (Plus it’s a lot less sodium.) And the silver lining is that there is no silver lining (canned food is almost always coated with BPA)!

3) Penny-Pinch Proteins

Anyone who has perused the meat case lately can tell you that grass-fed beef is worth a pretty penny. One way to save money is to re-think what the star of the plate is. With bold flavors and creative portioning, you can have the protein in the meal make up 25 percent, vegetables 50 percent and grain 25 percent. This will help keep your heart healthy too.

You can also select cuts of meat that are less expensive, such as chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. When making fish, tilapia or catfish can be substitutes for cod or the more expensive mahi mahi. Both talapia and catfish are rated as “best choice” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Food Watch website.

Using selective organic ingredients, bulk dried goods and more economical proteins, you can create menus that are gentle on your bank account and good for your health.


Affordable Fish Tacos

Serves 4 (gluten-free)


2 limes, zested and juiced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder (try chipotle if you have it)

2 gloves garlic, pressed or chopped very fine

1 teaspoon salt (less if desired)

1 pound tilapia

1-2 tablespoons cooking oil


1) In a baking dish, combine lime, cumin, chili powder, garlic and salt. Leave out to marinate for 15 minutes, making sure all sides are coated.

2) Warm a slated grill pan or regular skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, wait a few minutes for the oil to warm, then place the pieces of fish down.

3) Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until the fish is cooked through. You can tell the fish is ready by sticking a fork in the thickest part – it should be completely opaque (white and not shiny) and should flake off easily.

4) Break fish into small pieces and place on a serving platter.

Purple Slaw:

2 cups purple cabbage, shredded

2 limes, zested and juiced

2 green onions, sliced thin

½ cup cilantro, chopped

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt (less if desired)


1) Combine all ingredients and serve on top of tacos.

Black Beans:

– 2 cups black beans, picked over and soaked

– 8 cups water

– 1 onion, quartered

– 3 cloves garlic, smashed

– 1 tablespoon salt (optional)

– 1 bay leaf


1) Pick over dried beans to make sure there are no pebbles. Then, in a large pot, cover the beans with at least 2 inches of water and soak overnight.

2) Rinse the soaked beans in a colander. Cover with water, add all other ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. Taste the beans as they cook. You’ll want a firm but easily yielding bean. Alternately, you can put the soaked beans and other ingredients in a slow cooker to cook while you’re away

3) Cook on low for 8 hours.

4) Remove bay leaf and onion before serving. Keep any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

Use corn tortillas with optional sour cream, avocado, lime and hot sauce.


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