How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

How do you eat healthy on an “instant noodle” budget?
When you’ve heard that healthy eating means spending more money, you might find it more difficult to commit – or even to get started – towards a better, much healthier diet. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

In fact, there’s a lot of ways to save money while still eating whole foods, and here’s how you can start doing it.

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

The Wet/Farmer’s Market
The local wet market or farmer’s market is your go-to place for healthier produce that’s fresh every time. You can find all kinds of fruits and vegetables that you can buy more cheaply when compared to buying in supermarkets.
It’s also important that you develop a good relationship with your favorite vendor,

Cooking, Storage, and You
The way you cook food affects the nutrients in them, and when it comes to vegetables, a lot of those nutrients can be lost when you cook them in water. But there are ways of cooking that can preserve it, such as:

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

• Microwaving – A great way to cook vegetables (just use a microwave-safe container and splash some water to keep them from drying out)

• Sautéing – While this does require oil in the pan, a light sear will improve the flavor and texture of the food while still retaining their vitamin and mineral content.

• Steaming – Retains the vitamin and mineral content in vegetables with the drawback being a lack of flavor, which can make you reach for additional seasoning.

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

Changing the Way You Eat
Aside from the groceries, the cooking, and the storing aspects of eating healthy, you also want to change the way you eat your food. Here are a few tips you can use to improve your eating habits while saving at the same time:

• Eat slowly. This lets you chew your food more thoroughly and enjoy it better. It also lets your body notice that it’s full, so it will have an easier time digesting.

• Use up what’s in your fridge before you start buying groceries. This will make it less likely for food to sit too long in your fridge and end up spoiling.

• Learn to pickle and preserve food. Not only will you have nutritious food all year for your whole family, but it’s also cheap hobby that you can start getting into.

The trick to a healthier diet is finding the right foods, cooking methods, and most importantly, the routine that you know will definitely work for you.

However, there’s no need to rush into the nearest wet market and start buying all kinds of vegetables you don’t know how to prepare – just start with a few when you go out, and slowly work your way to the ones that you like.

I survived New Orleans with less than $45.

Allie Lerner

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While a trip to New Orleans is incomplete without pit stops at the city’s most iconic cuisine hotspots, the aftermath of your NOLA food extravaganza might be startling as you glance at your credit card statement and choke on your midnight snack at of course, Cafe du Monde. Though it’s hard to hit all the NOLA classics without going broke, here’s an itinerary for how to eat in New Orleans on a budget, all in 24 hours.

7:00 am: New Orleans Cake Cafe & Bakery

Waking up bright and early, you head to New Orleans Cake Cafe & Bakery. The cafe offers a wide variety of options ranging from crab omelets to a Costa Rican breakfast, which includes black beans, rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, eggs, and tortilla chips. To make it even better, you can add a cupcake to your order for only $1. The restaurant ranges in price from $8 to $12.

My Order: Costa Rican Breakfast

10:00 am: Bearcat Cafe

As your morning caffeine need kicks in, you find yourself passing Bearcat Cafe. Although the name might be off-putting, this trendy coffee shop offers a great selection of coffees and teas, such as hibiscus, earl grey, and blue eyes. In addition, they sell house-made bottled drinks like cucumber mint lemonade, guava mint green tea, Valencia vanilla kombucha, and carrot ginger kombucha. All beverages range from $2 to $4.

My order: Skim Latte

12:00 pm: Parkway Bakery and Tavern

After a few hours of exploring, it’s time for lunch. Because a trip to NOLA is incomplete without a po’ boy, you head over to Parkway Bakery and Tavern for a New Orleans classic po’ boy sandwich. From fried shrimp and fried oysters to smoked sausage and fried sweet potato, Parkway offers a wide range of po’ boy combinations.

My order: Golden Fried Shrimp Po-Boy

3:00 pm: Hansen’s Sno Bliz

After a few hours in NOLA, it’s clear that the sun and humidity play a major role in New Orleanians daily lives, especially when choosing food. In order to cool off, you find yourself at an iconic sno-ball front– Hansen’s Sno Bliz. Hansen’s has been using the same machine since 1939, when it originally opened. All the flavors and toppings are made from their original recipes, like coconut, cream of wedding cake, mint chocolate, and honey lavender.

My order: Chocolate Mint Sno-ball

6:00 pm: New Orleans Social House

While dinner in New Orleans is typically expensive, if you go to the New Orleans Social House (NOSH) between 4 pm and 7 pm, all the food on the happy hour menu costs $5.00. NOSH offers modern American food like cheese flatbreads and tuna and avocado boulette, and even has 75 cent oysters (that you can’t leave NOLA without trying). If you’re looking for something to take the edge off, brews cost $5, while wines and cocktails cost $7.

My order: Tuna and Avocado Boulette and Oysters

12:00 am: Cafe du Monde

As it approaches midnight, you can guess what’s next – time to grab a midnight snack with friends at my personal favorite, Cafe du Monde. Famous for their fresh, sugary beignets and coffee, Cafe du Monde is a tourist hot-spot and is always perfect for the best kind of late night high– a sugar high, obviously. Three beignets come in one plate, which makes it great for sharing.

My order: Beignets

3:00 am: 13 Bar and Restaurant

After hitting the clubs and bars, your drunk cravings kick in (if you’re 21, of course) so you make your way to 13. Whether you indulge in the tacos, which are loaded on crispy tater tots, or you devour the breakfast burrito, 13 has you covered. To make it even better, the restaurant is vegetarian-friendly, so bring your tree-lover friends along. The food ranges $7 to $12.

My order: Borrachos Tacos

While New Orleans cuisine may seem expensive, I ate my way through NOLA in 24 hours and only spent $45.00. Whether you’re a college student on a budget or you have family coming to the city for a day trip, you’ll survive New Orleans without leaving in debt with these tips and recommendations. Good luck and happy eating.

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

Healthy eating doesn’t have to cost more. You can choose many different healthy foods when eating on a budget.

How to eat healthily on a budget

Healthy eating on a budget can be made easier with these ideas:

Stick to your list

Buying only what is on your grocery list will help you cut down on impulse buys.

Shop for sales

Check out flyers, coupons, mobile apps and websites for deals on foods that are on your list.

Look for reduced prices. Products getting close to their best before dates and oddly shaped or slightly bruised produce may be offered at a lower price or discount. These products are just as healthy as “perfect” varieties and buying them also helps reduce food waste.

Compare prices

Compare the unit price on the label to know which product is less expensive.

In grocery stores where price-matching is offered, use flyers to price match products on sale.

Scan different shelves. Companies pay more to place their products at eye level. You may find other versions of the same foods on higher or lower shelves.

Compare prices on generic and brand name products to see if there is a difference before choosing.

Foods sold in single-serve packaging can cost more. Buy the full size or family size version and divide it up yourself.

Stock up

Stock up on canned goods and staples when they are on sale.

Extend the shelf life of sale products. Freeze:

  • fish
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • whole grain bread
  • lean meats or poultry

Buying foods in bulk can help you save money. Be careful not to buy more than you need, because this can lead to waste.

Consider the season

Fresh vegetables and fruit are usually less expensive when they are in season.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits are also healthy options. They can be less expensive than fresh produce when it is out of season.

Choose plant-based protein foods more often

Beans, lentils and other legumes are inexpensive protein foods. Use them in your meals several times a week.

Limit highly processed foods

Limit highly processed foods. These are usually low in vitamins and minerals and can cost more.

Prepare foods at home. Although they can save time, prepackaged foods such as grated cheese and pre-seasoned meat cost more.

Set a budget

Decide how much you will spend on groceries each week or month.

Explore grocery stores

Shop at discount grocery stores, which offer lower prices.

Avoid grocery shopping at convenience stores, which are more expensive.

Check with your grocery store to see if it offers any discounts. Some stores feature a “seniors’ day” or a student discount day with special discounts.

Make a healthy choice

What you eat on a regular basis matters for your health.

  • Choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
  • Compare the nutrition facts table on foods to choose products that are lower in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

Making healthy food choices can be difficult. And because people with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke, there is often the added pressure of juggling diet needs for two separate conditions.

Making matters worse, these healthy choices become increasingly difficult to make when money is tight. To help you stick to your eating plan without breaking the bank, frugal living expert Jonni McCoy has provided the following tips for eating healthy on a budget.

  • Limit red meat in favor of healthier and less expensive sources of protein. Eat at least 8 ounces of non-fried fish (particularly fatty fish) each week, which can be divided over two 3.5- to 4-ounce servings. Choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Unsalted nuts and beans have a lot of protein also, but make sure you review the salt content and eat appropriate portions since nuts tend to be high in calories.
  • Enjoy frozen vegetables and fruit. They are just as satisfying, and typically just as healthy, as fresh produce. Just make sure to check the nutrition facts to confirm that no extra sugar or salt was added.
  • Avoid eating out, as most restaurants come with extra large portions and extra large price tags. And options at fast food restaurants are typically loaded with excess saturated fat, salt and sugar.
  • Eat before you go shopping. Going to the grocery store on an empty stomach will leave you more likely to buy on impulse.
  • Grow a garden! Not only will you save on vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes, but you’ll stay active with this new hobby. And regular exercise is another important part of managing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Scout your local newspaper for coupons before you go shopping. It may cost $1-2 to purchase the Sunday paper, but your savings will likely exceed this amount.
  • Shop for seasonal produce – fruits and veggies are less expensive during their peak growing times, and they’re also tastier!
  • Look for the generic brands. The ingredients are usually similar to the brand name versions, but they’re much more affordable. Compare the ingredients list and nutrition panel to see for yourself.
  • Make your own pre-packaged snacks by buying a large container of raisins, unsalted nuts or or popcorn (no salt or saturated fat) and separating them into individual portions yourself. By checking the nutrition facts on the food label, you can gauge how much to eat at one time based on the saturated fat, salt, and sugar content. Remember to look for “hydrogenated oils” on the ingredients list to avoid trans fats (even if the package says “0g of trans fat”).
  • Plan your meals each week. By planning ahead, you can check the nutrition facts of a meal before you decide to make it and create a detailed grocery list for easy shopping. Planning also helps avoid impulse shopping.

Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

We all realize the fact that healthy food is often more expensive in comparison to organic food or healthy food, and this is also quite prominent in Malaysia. Often we find that all these unhealthy alternatives, they tend to be much cheaper in comparison to lets say, a salad. Organic food is something people should be getting more of, and especially in Malaysia where many people’s eating habits are not always the best. This can truly get pretty frustrating for people looking to change their eating habits. But, do not lose hope because there is some light at the end of the tunnel. In this article, we will be taking a look at how can you start eating healthy on a budget. Eating healthy does not always mean that you need to break the bank!

Broccoli is a cheap vegetable with an average price of RM 3 per head, and it tends to provide you with some of almost every nutrient that you need. It is particularly rich in vitamin C, which will act as an antioxidant and it also may boost your immune system. Just one cup can provide you with 135% of your daily needs. Additionally, it is also rich in vitamin K and folate, both of which will play a role in blood clotting and also preventing certain neural tube birth defects. Studies have shown us that the nutrients and antioxidants in broccoli may also help in preventing chronic illnesses such as cancer and even heart disease. You can enjoy broccoli either raw or cooked. It is also often added to salads, casseroles and soups.

Sweet potatoes are known for being extremely healthy and one of the cheapest vegetables you can purchase. For a relatively cheap price, they tend to provide you with an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals that have many health benefits. They are particularly high in beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your body. Just one sweet potato will provide you with 369% of your daily need for vitamin A, which plays an important role in eye health. Sweet potatoes also tend to contain a decent amount of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium and even fiber. Studies show they may have anti inflammatory effects, which help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and also diabetes. You can try pairing sweet potatoes with just about any dish, and they are quite easy to prepare by steaming, baking or even roasting.

If your budget is tight, carrots are definitely a cheap and nutrient dense vegetable to include into your diet. They can be purchased for an average of only RM 3 per pound. Carrots are known as one of the richest sources of beta carotene, which is responsible for their impressive vitamin A content. Just one cup of carrots will provide you with 428% of your daily needs for vitamin A, which then promotes good eyesight and immune health. Furthermore, carrots tend to contain a significant amount of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and even manganese. Due to their high antioxidant content, eating carrots regularly can possibly help in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, which includes prostate and stomach cancer. You can reap the health benefits of carrots by enjoying them either raw or cooked. They will also make an excellent addition to your salads and cooked dishes.

Brown rice most certainly a fantastic, cheap food that will provide you with fiber, vitamins and minerals. In general, stores carry it for as low as RM 4 a pound. It consists mostly of carbs, with about 4 grams of fiber per cup or 195 grams and a decent amount of B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and even manganese. The health benefits of brown rice include reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and even heart disease, and as well as promoting weight control. Including brown rice in your diet is quite simple. It is very easy to prepare and can be enjoyed with just about any of your meals.

Oatmeal is yet another nutrient dense whole grain that is typically affordable at about RM 4 a pound. It tends to contain an impressive amount of nutrients, including B vitamins, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and even magnesium. Additionally, it is rich in fiber with 4 grams per cup or 234 grams. Fiber will promote fullness and may help lower cholesterol and also blood sugar levels. The combination of fiber, vitamins and minerals in oatmeal may potentially help in reducing the risk of developing several diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In general, oats are normally enjoyed as a breakfast food. You can easily combine them with fruit, milk, yogurt and also several other ingredients for a healthy and delicious meal.

In general, quinoa costs quite a little bit and that is amazing for such a nutritious food. Quinoa is a complete source of protein, which means that it will provide you with all the essential amino acids your body needs. This sets it apart from the other grains, which need to be paired with other foods in order to be considered complete protein sources. Also, quinoa tends to contain antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, manganese, zinc and as well as several other trace minerals, all of which will protect your cells from any damage that often leads to diseases. The health promoting properties of quinoa have been shown to promote brain health and it may also help in preventing the development of heart disease. The use of quinoa in cooking is very similar to that of rice. It is easy and quick to prepare and it can also be eaten alone or incorporated into your salads and cooked dishes.

At less than RM 10, chicken breast is definitely an excellent healthy and protein rich food to eat when you are on a budget. In just half a chicken breast, there are 27 grams of high quality protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body will need. Chicken breast also tends to contain high amounts of important vitamins and minerals, such as niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium and even selenium. Including chicken breast in a healthy, balanced diet has been linked to reducing the risk of developing obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It may also help to protect against the risk of cancer.

Eggs are well known for being one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, and they are very affordable at an average price of RM 6 a dozen. One medium egg will also contains six grams of protein and antioxidants that have anti inflammatory properties and it may protect eye health. Furthermore, eggs will provide some of almost every vitamin and mineral that your body needs. They are also one of the few dietary sources of choline, a nutrient that plays a vital role in brain function. You can very easily make eggs a regular part of your diet. And they also taste great and go with almost any food.

In a nutshell, eating healthy always comes down to personal preference. And this depends on what works best for you and your body. Do not shy away from experimenting with a few different healthy alternatives, make your choice to be healthier and it will be a wise one!

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

While Well+Good is the first to say that healthy eating doesn’t require buying trendy, expensive ingredients, the fact remains that eating well is harder when you’re on a tight budget. Even if you forgo the Instagram-friendly foods, it can still be difficult, with avocados often costing over a dollar each and organic, grass-fed meat being 10 to 30 percent more expensive than conventional meat.

Even still, functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, MD, says there are still ways to eat healthy even if money is tight. While it’s certainly true that Dr. Hyman hasn’t walked in the shoes of the 13.5 million people in the U.S. with limited access to supermarkets or the 38 million people who receive the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), there was a time in his life when he was supporting his family of four on his $27,000 a year residency salary. Yes, he still had access to grocery stores, but he still had to follow a strict budget, too.

In his new book The Pegan Diet ($22), Dr. Hyman shares the tips that helped him stick to a budget while still eating nutritious foods—and not spending tons of time in the kitchen, either. If you’re wondering how to eat healthy on a budget, his tips can come in handy and help you prioritize what to buy.

How to eat healthy on a budget according to Dr. Hyman:

1. Buy what you can in bulk

While buying ultra-processed convenience foods may seem like the cheapest route, Dr. Hyman says that in the long-term, making these foods the bulk of your diet could lead to medical problems and expensive medical bills. “If you stick to vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, and some high-quality meat, you’ll [actually] save money [in the long run],” he says. Lentils, rice, beans, oats, quinoa are all nutrient-rich foods that Dr. Hyman says are both versatile to cook with and that you can buy in bulk.

2. Go for canned and frozen foods

Guess what: frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as buying them fresh and they last longer. “I like buying frozen berries to add to simple smoothies,” Dr. Hyman says. When buying canned foods, he recommends buying brands that are BPA-free; if you’re buying canned beans, rinse them well to remove excess sodium. One category of canned foods Dr. Hyman says is overlooked is fish, which is high in heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s. “Canned salmon, sardines, and anchovies are great options for adding to salads when you’re in a hurry,” he says.

3. Cast a wider net when buying fish

Besides canned, Dr. Hyman says there are also several places online to buy high-quality fish at a lower price than what’s at the grocery store. “My favorites are Vital Choice, Thrive Market, and Butcher Box. These websites make it pretty affordable to get quality fish,” he says.

4. Shop at places that sell organic foods for the same price as non-organic

In Dr. Hyman’s book, he calls out Walmart, Costco, Trader Joes, and Thrive Market as specific places that sell a wide range of organic foods without the expensive markup at some other grocery stores. He also recommends joining a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) for local, farm-fresh foods at a better price than what’s at the store.

5. Master 3 quick healthy meals for super busy nights

Often, people rely on fast food when they’re too tired to even think about cooking, but Dr. Hyman says eating out—even at a fast food restaurant—isn’t as cost-effective as cooking with the foods he’s highlighted here. And it’s certainly less bang for your buck nutritionally too. This is why he recommends mastering a few super quick meals you can get on the table in mere minutes.

He personally has three in his rotation: a simple smoothie, an easy salad, and a “kitchen sink” stir-fry, all of which can easily be adapted based on what ingredients he has on hand. Below, he gives the deets on what’s in them:

Simple smoothie:

Blend eight ounces of unsweetened non-dairy milk, half-cup of frozen berries, one handful of spinach or other leafy green, one tablespoon of nut butter, and one tablespoon of flaxseeds or chia seeds. That’s it—a perfect smoothie.

Super easy salad

To a salad bowl, add one bunch of chopped greens, as many non-starchy veggies as you like, a can of wild salmon or two to six ounces of cooked chicken, three tablespoons of your favorite herbs and spices, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and one to two tablespoons of lemon juice, balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Toss everything together and serve.

Kitchen sink stir-fry

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for two to three minutes, then add chopped or pressed garlic, a little ginger, and three cups of chopped vegetables. Try fennel, leeks, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, broccoli, or pretty much anything else that you like. Add spices like paprika or cumin. Make it Asian-inspired with a little bit of toasted sesame oil, tamari, and mirin. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes or less. Top with lemon juice and fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro, and add salt to taste. Add your favorite protein like cooked ground meat or sliced chicken, beef, tempeh, or tofu.

While it’s true that eating healthy on a budget requires more thought than if money were no object, putting these tips to practice makes it much easier to know what to prioritize. That’s why Dr. Hyman recommends buying the best you can with what you have, and as these tips show, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

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Mark has received a number of requests from you savvy readers asking for budget-friendly foods that are nutritious. Want to know how to eat healthy on a tight budget? Look no further. Start with these 5 tips for cheap eats, and stay tuned for more great grocery money savers next week, too!

1. Frozen vegetables ice the competition

We’ve pretty much beat this one into official dead llama status around here (if you’ve been hanging around here, you also know we’ve pretty much beat the dead llama phrase into dead llama status as well). Wait, where we we? Oh, yes! Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious and in fact are often more fresh than “fresh” produce. That whole “picked at the peak of flavor” marketing yarn is actually true for frozen veggies. Major grocery chains frequently offer large packs of frozen plants for just a few dollars; and scoop up those “5 bags for 4 bucks” deals, too. The most nutritious and cheap vegetables are usually broccoli, peas and spinach, but look for brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus spears, and stir fry blends, as well. (Note: make sure that the blends you’re buying don’t have added unhealthy sauces full of oils or corn syrup.)

2. See ya, snobs: go for salad packs

So packaged greens can be pricey. And you’re supporting the Man. And they come in plastic. In fact, packaged salads are scientifically proven to be evil. Still, in the long run, salad packs might actually be more economical for you. If you’re the type of person who routinely buys loose lettuce because it’s cheaper, only to see it wilt in the crisper because you don’t have time to deal with washing, drying, and chopping it, you’re wasting money and avoiding nutritious meals. If you are this person, bags are for you. Sure, some of the blends are expensive, but it’s not difficult to pick up romaine or spinach. They’re perpetually on sale at 2 bags for 4 bucks.

3. Better yet, find a farmer’s market

If you don’t mind washing your veggies, you’ll save a lot of money if you visit the farmer’s market once a week. Snoop around to find the best one with the lowest prices – you’ll be surprised at how cheap things like peppers, lemons and avocados can be when you don’t have to walk through air conditioned doors to get them!

3. Water: nectar of the healthy

The easiest way to reduce your grocery tab and simultaneously enjoy good health is to stop buying anything that isn’t water. Don’t pay for hydration! You’ll be fine without milk, really. Your kids don’t need juice. No one needs soda. Energy drinks, fizzy fillers, juice blends – all terrific ways to drain your bank account. These corn syrup chemical mixtures are the ultimate rip-off. They cost manufacturers just pennies to produce and, gallon for gallon, are more expensive than filling up your Suburban. Again.

4. No processed snacks and meals

Buying meats, fruits, and vegetables can initially seem very expensive. After all, a pack of salad only lasts for one meal, whereas a pack of mini bagel bites lasts for…wait, one meal! Processed foods come in packages, and those confounded things cost a lot of money to make (possibly more than the actual food contained within). They are also incredibly annoying to open. Not only are most processed snacks and meals completely unhealthy, they don’t go far and they’re a dollar-chomping rip. Fruit roll-ups, Pop Tarts, frozen pizzas, taquitos – this junk adds up. Worse, these foods are terrible for your health and leave you craving more junk instead of truly satisfying your body’s needs. On your next trip, make it a goal to have a box-free grocery cart.

While we’re on this topic, avoid breakfast cereals – aka worthless sugar flakes gummed up with additional sugar bits – like the plague that they are. No, seriously, they really are a plague. We just call it type 2 diabetes instead of something more exotic-sounding like diabola. Sure, the box says it has a dozen servings, but as any parent knows, no child shakes out a half-cup of cereal.

5. Grow your own flavor

You know what else is a total, utter, ridiculous rip off? Condiments and sauces. You’d think these things were full of waterproof lottery tickets and hydrogenated diamond syrup instead of soybean oil, corn sweeteners, and artificial flavors that taste kinda-sorta like something known as actual herbs and spices. Save yourself a lot of money by avoiding anything that comes in a tube or a jar. (Except toothpaste, obviously.) Even buying from the healthy “outer aisles” can still be expensive if you’ve got bottomless stomachs and hollow legs to fill. So avoid the fatten-belly-starve-budget flavorings. We often forget about the cost of all the stuff we add to our food to make it taste better. Well, that stuff is technically food (although that’s debatable), and it’s the most expensive of all food. To add flavor to all your meals, use onions and garlic instead – super cheap. And buy an at-home herb kit, pick up some cheap planters at the hardware store, and get to know rosemary, basil, oregano, sage and all the rest. This is not only cheap, but incredibly healthy for you. Then go to Costco and buy yourself some giant jugs of olive oil and vinegar.

Bonus: taking care of herbs is an excellent chore for you kids. Who now love Mark’s Daily Apple. You’re welcome, kids!

Are you are ready to eat in a way that supports your physical and mental health? Then you probably know there is a strong connection between nutrition and your overall wellness, and understand the dietary strategies you can implement.

There is one main obstacle: finances. It is a common experience to feel like finances and health are competing priorities. On the surface, shopping for healthy food and staying within a healthy budget can be at odds.

The positive news is that it does not need to be an either/or decision. There are several strategies that allow you to focus in on choosing the foods that will best support your wellness and help you stay within your money saving parameters.

  1. Seasonal Eating

Focusing on foods that are in season is a great strategy to lower costs as well as get the most nutritional value. When produce is at peak season, it offers the most micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) while simultaneously being at a lower overall cost because the crops are in abundance. More bang for your buck! A great resource for understanding peak seasons for various foods is Seasonal Food Guide ( If you’d prefer to skip the reading, you can also find out what foods are in season by heading over to your local farmer’s market and taking a look at what produce they’re selling.

  1. Meal Planning

Meal planning and preparation is more than an Instagram worthy pass time. It can be an essential step to reduce food costs all while saving time and stress with cooking. Thoughtfully planning and preparing meals ahead of time can reduce waste, allow you to revolve around sale items and utilize what you already have on hand as well as cultivate less last-minute scrambling. For example, spend 30 minutes each week to take inventory at home, research recipes, write out your weekly plan and associated grocery list. Although this might be technically a time consuming activity, the dividend for time and money saved is three-fold. For added support there are many free templates and online apps such as Yummly (

  1. Bulk Buying

According to the Bulk is Green Council, in comparison to packaged foods, bulk foods can cost up to 89 percent less. Many grocery stores now offer a variety of foods in bulk such as nuts, seeds, flours and spices. Browsing this aisle can also help exposure to health foods that you might not normally consider, like Omega-3 rich walnuts. Buying in bulk for a two pound bag brings the cost down to about 38 cents an ounce, in comparison to 90 cents per ounce for a smaller package. With an increasing produce and organic meat section, stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club can additionally be huge wins when it comes to purchasing food on a budget. Want to save without leaving your couch? Thrive Market ( is a fantastic online resource for healthy and budget friendly food and household products that will ship right to your door.

  1. Keep Organized

Keeping organized at home and with your schedule can be a huge value add to life. As discussed in there are significant benefits to your mental wellness by keeping a tidy life. This can also extend to financial health. When your freezer, pantry and refrigerator are well organized, you are more likely to know exactly what you have on hand and avoid buying more stuff you don’t need. A great strategy is the 1st day of every month, spend 30 minutes to go through your kitchen. Label containers, take note of what’s missing, and throw out expired items. You can even write down the foods that you may have forgotten you had, so you can use them in an upcoming recipe!

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify

A simplified approach of cooking focuses on balanced nutrition, keeping preparation basic and optimizing your ingredients. Many find it helpful to plan their weekly grocery list around the most essential categories- vegetables, fruit, protein, starch/carbohydrate sources and healthy fats. To lessen food prep overwhelm, simply pick up a few items of each category each week until you get a better sense of how much and what you need. It can also be helpful to repurpose foods. An example could be grilling chicken breasts with your favorite sauce for dinner tonight, and then using leftovers for chicken salad lunches, or fajitas on Tuesday night.

6. Find your why

Although budgeting for food can be challenging, it is made easier by finding and continuing to discover your why. Why do you want to eat healthy? Why do you want to save money? Your why is different than mine and might change over time, but if we can continue to reflect on our greater purpose for the tough sacrificed, it tends to make the hard stuff a little, or a lot, easier. A significant reflection we all can lean on is focusing on a healthy lifestyle. A real food diet NOW can be at the sacrifice of some funds, but the saving potential for our health and happiness LATER is immeasurable. Pay the farm now or pay the pharm later!

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

An eating plan that helps manage your weight includes a variety of healthy foods. Add an array of colors to your plate and think of it as eating the rainbow. Dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes—even fresh herbs—are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Adding frozen peppers, broccoli, or onions to stews and omelets gives them a quick and convenient boost of color and nutrients.

  • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Includes a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts, and seeds.
  • Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
  • Stays within your daily calorie needs

USDA’s MyPlate Plan external icon can help you identify what and how much to eat to from the different food groups while staying within your recommended calorie allowance. You can also download My Food Diary pdf icon [PDF-106KB] to help track your meals.


Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are great choices. Try fruits beyond apples and bananas such as mango, pineapple or kiwi fruit. When fresh fruit is not in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety. Be aware that dried and canned fruit may contain added sugars or syrups. Choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in its own juice.

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)


Add variety to grilled or steamed vegetables with an herb such as rosemary. You can also sauté (panfry) vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish—just microwave and serve. Look for canned vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. For variety, try a new vegetable each week.

Calcium-rich foods

In addition to fat-free and low-fat milk, consider low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars. These come in a variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute.


If your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations by baking or grilling. Maybe even try dry beans in place of meats. Ask friends and search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories ― you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

Comfort Foods

How to eat healthy on a budget (the definitive guide)

Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods, even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while and balancing them with healthier foods and more physical activity.

Some general tips for comfort foods:

  • Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month.
  • Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
  • Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe includes whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, low-fat cheese, fresh spinach and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size.