How to Eat Healthy On A Budget
An argument I often hear is “eating healthy is so expensive”. I’m here to tell you that you can eat healthy on a budget. It’s all about good choices, planning, and avoiding packaged foods. Making good choices with food goes well with making good choices financially.
Common issues that increase cost where you won’t be able to eat healthy on a budget include:
- Buying produce out of season
- Eating out too often
- Not planning meals
- Impulse buying
- Thinking its necessary to buy all organic food
- Wasting food because it is left uneaten or stored improperly
- Buying convenience foods
All of these things can be easily avoided. You need to prioritize your food choices and budget for food or you’ll be paying it later in medical bills and prescriptions.
Eat Healthy On A Budget
Planning meals decreases food waste, impulse buying, and cost. It is easier to be healthier when you decide ahead of time and know what you will buy and eat. Think about it, if you are suddenly SO hungry, what will it be first? The quick bag of chips? I talked about meal planning in a previous post and how important it is.
- Plan your week & make a list
- If you stick to a list of healthy items, you won’t be prompted to buy other things
- This results in less food waste because everything is planned out
- Even if you aren’t the “planning type” of person, you should give it a shot
Don’t think you have to make a trip to Whole Foods to get the right food. Look for deals. Expand your horizon by buying online or in bulk. Many stores and brands will mark up prices.
- Thrive Market
- This online store gives 30-50 percent off healthy, natural food.
- They also give free products with purchases (I wait to order until something good and expensive comes up)
- Discount Grocery Stores
- Stores like Aldi are now going organic and have plenty of produce to eat. I find I save almost half as much as other stores on produce.
Shop In-Season Produce
Eating food out of season will drive cost up. Not to mention that the produce will be old. Find out what is in season.
- Farmer’s Markets
- Produce here is much cheaper and grown locally. Can’t get much better than that. And you’re supporting farmers and not corporations.
- Community Shared Agriculture (CSA)
- I have not tried this yet but it is a great deal for local in season produce
I can’t tell you what’s important to you, but health should be your number one priority. That expensive pair of jeans won’t get you anywhere. You can’t enjoy things the same without proper nourishment. That being said, everyone is different. I do not budget my food; I buy what I need sensibly.
- Go out to eat less
- Each visit out is probably the price of your healthy groceries for a week. It also probably will make you feel like garbage (sometimes).
- Make your own lunch for work
- This costs significantly less and you’ll be eating healthier than just deciding on whatever takeout is nearby
- The best way is to make extra dinner, put it in a container and lunch is ready.
Buy Whole, Real Food
- Healthier food is more nutrient dense
- A bag of chips cost the same as a pound of apples but one clearly gives more nutrition than the other
- Focus on real, whole food and not packaged and pre-made food
- To start out, worry more about eating real, whole food. Avoid the middle aisles and buy more fresh items on the perimeter of the store.
- Ideally, less things should have labels that you buy
- It doesn’t have to be “organic”
- You will still get the same nutrition if organic is not in your budget
- For example, organic canned tomatoes cost a lot, so buying a fresh regular tomato might fit the bill better.
Stop Buying Drinks
Most drinks are unhealthy and filled with sugar or other additives. Spend your money on food instead. Water is free and all you need. Tea and coffee are relatively inexpensive too.
Buy in Bulk
Maybe a higher cost upfront but definitely less in the long run. Do this for things that don’t go bad quickly and that you will use. Amazon is great.
What Should Be on Your List?
My list is heavily produce, which isn’t that expensive. The higher cost items are meats and other proteins. This is a general list. If you don’t do grains or dairy, that is totally fine.
- At least 1 green leafy vegetable
- Meat or fish
- Basic condiments (watch ingredients)
- Bulk grains
- Milk, yogurt or cheeses
- Broth for soup
Examples of Cheap and Nutritious Foods
- Sweet potatoes
- Dry beans
Check out my list of ways to save money!
Fresh Idea: Buying real, whole food is not expensive. Make it a priority to eat healthy through meal planning.