Melissa d’Arabian’s Tips for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot

Make healthy, flavorful food on a budget with these pro tips

Melissa proves that healthy eating can be easy, affordable, and achievable.

Most of us want to eat healthier, but sometimes it feels like there are too many hurdles to cooking and eating well. Whether it’s the extra trip to the your local farmers market, the cost of niche ingredients, or learning how to cook with a new and unfamiliar type of produce, there are a number of ways that healthy cooking becomes inaccessible. Fortunately, Food Network star and New York Times bestselling author Melissa d’Arabian proves that healthy home cooking can be easy, affordable, and achievable using ingredients that you can easily find at your local grocery store.

Her new book, Supermarket Healthy: Recipes & Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot, is all about making wholesome and flavorful food on a budget. Whether you start your day with her Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce, pack some tasty Chicken Chile Pozole for lunch, or make your family a hearty dinner of Greek Pork Chops with Zucchini and Feta, you’ll be eating well all day long more than 130 family-friendly and easy-to-make recipes.

Supermarket Healthy

We were lucky enough to talk to Melissa about her new book and what it means to eat well. Here’s what she had to say:

Your newest book is all about eating well without spending a lot. Tell us more about your concept of eating well.
We all want to feel good about the food we use to fuel our bodies. I wanted to make this goal accessible, affordable, and do-able by using ingredients we can find easily at our neighborhood supermarkets. A recipe is only great if you make it! I wanted to create a book full of food that people can actually make.

I made it my job to figure out a way to create food for my family that is just as healthy and good as what is being sold in fancy, premium markets, but that also respects my need to be a smart, price-savvy shopper.I love that the book emphasizes that fact that you don’t need to go to a fancy or expensive food store to get the things you need to eat well, and I love how much flavor you’re able to pack into each recipe using really accessible ingredients. What are some of the best supermarket ingredients to cook with (when it comes to building flavor), and why?
My best supermarket tip is to start in the produce aisle and load up with what is least expensive. Why? Because the produce aisle is where the best in-season items are also the cheapest. In-season produce is one of the least expensive, most flavorful, and most nutritious ingredients in your cart, so start there! (A bonus: filling up your cart with bulky, inexpensive produce means you are actually less likely to be tempted by the expensive, less-healthy processed foods later in the shopping trip.) I love veggies so much that I created a whole chapter on veggie mains in Supermarket Healthy!

(Melissa's Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

Supermarket Healthy/Tina Rupp

You also mention the importance of buying ingredients that are grown locally. How do you keep costs down when you’re buying at the farmers market?
These days, you can find local produce right in the grocery store. Many stores mark which produce is local — just look for the signs. But I’ll admit — I do love visiting farmer’s markets with my kids and getting to meet the folks who grow my food. Prices are usually fairly competitive, but even if I pay a bit more, I consider it a worthwhile expense to pay for an hour or two of entertaining the family (and educating my kids). I figure it’s still cheaper than going bowling, for instance!

When it comes to sticking to a budget, what are a few of the ingredients that are worth the splurge, and why? 
I love splurging on unusual varieties of produce — even a handful of wild mushrooms will add so much pizzazz to a dish and yet only cost me an extra buck or two.

Anything else we should know about your new book? Anything I’m forgetting to ask about cooking healthy and flavorful meals on a budget?
One of my favorite features of Supermarket Healthy is the blueprint. I created a number of plug-and-play-type recipe formulas — or blueprints — to help readers see beyond just one set of ingredients. I love hearing from readers that they have more than just the 130 recipes that are in the book but literally countless other possibilities in their cooking repertoires!

(Melissa's Greek Pork Chops with Zucchini and Feta)

Supermarket Healthy/Tina Rupp

Click here for more about Melissa or her new book, Supermarket Healthy: Recipes & Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot.


Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.