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How to Eat Healthy On A Budget

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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. Read my post about how I save money for healthier food.

Common reasons for expensive healthy food:

  • Buying produce out of season
  • Eating out too often
  • Not planning meals
  • Impulse buying
  • Thinking it’s 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 if we mindfully think about what we need to do and what we should eat. Hmm, maybe I should pack a lunch today rather than going out for pizza? That would save money and it would likely be healthier.

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How To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Plan Meals

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
    • Even if you aren’t the “planning type” of person, it’s not hard
    • Stick to a list of healthy items and you won’t be prompted to buy other things
    • Waste less food because you’ll only buy what you need
    • Put a calendar right on your fridge
eat healthy on a budget
Meal planning

Discount Stores

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% off healthy, natural food. 
    • They also give free products with orders over a certain amount (I wait to order until I need a lot and something good comes up!)
    • Try Thrive Market here
Save money eating healthy
Thrive Market Finds
  • Other Discount Groceries
    • 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.
    • Costco has a lot of healthy items and at a great price
    • Any local store should have produce and every basic thing you need

Shop In-Season Produce

Eating food out of season will drive cost up. Not to mention that the produce will be old. Learn what is in season and when.

  • Go to 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.
  • Try Community Shared Agriculture (CSA)
    • It is a great deal for local, in season produce
eat healthy on a budget
Farmer’s Market Produce
  • Store Produce
    • At any store, you’ll notice some produce is cheaper or on sale, buy those! Those are likely what’s in season. 

Cut Funds

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). 
eat healthy on a budget
But it’s so delicious
  • 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.
    • This includes buying coffee, try homemade versions instead.
  • Buy Secondhand Items 
    • Truly health is the number one thing so try buying secondhand clothes or other items at a discount. It’s more important what goes in the body than on the body. Try Swap for example.

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 probably 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. 

eat healthy on a budget

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 and Costco are 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. 

  • Vegetables
  • At least 1 green leafy vegetable
  • Fruits
  • Meat or fish
  • Eggs
  • Basic condiments (watch ingredients)
  • Bulk grains, like oats
  • Milk, yogurt or cheeses
  • Nuts 
  • Broth for soup
  • Seasonings

Examples of Cheap and Nutritious Foods

  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggs
  • Broccoli 
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Cabbage
  • Dry beans

Make sure to check out my similar post on How I Save Money For Healthier Food!

Eat Healthy On A Budget

Other Sources:

Budget Bytes

25 Tips to Making Eating Healthy Affordable

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Fresh Idea: Buying real, whole food is not expensive. Make it a priority to eat healthy through meal planning. 


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