Eating nutritious food is important, but it can be tricky to do without spending a lot of money. Study these 52 tips for eating healthy on a budget!
Tips for Starting
- Create a Budget
Stop procrastinating, be realistic, and practice some self-control. It can be tough to kick a free-spending habit, but you’ll be happy once you do.
- Make a Grocery List and Stick to It
You’ll save a ton of money and time when you make a shopping list— and stick to it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wandering the aisles aimlessly and buying on impulse—neither of which are conducive to saving money while shopping.
- Eat Before You Shop
If you’re hungry when you head to the grocery store, you may as well say bye-bye to your budget and healthy-eating goals.
- Sign Up for Rewards
Grocery store loyalty points (or credit cards that offer cash back) are a great way to rack up the savings on your bill.
- Clip Coupons
Many coupons are now available right in your grocery store’s online app (including Kroger), making it less cumbersome to use them.
- Consider Price per Nutrient
Rather than focusing on how much food you get for the price, shift your thinking to how many nutrients you’re buying—and which ones are worth your dollars.
- Shop Alone
Your spouse and kids will likely always convince you to buy something you don’t really need. Leave them at home when you shop.
Tips for Shopping
- Calculate as You Spend
You’ll be surprised to see how fast the little things add up. Awareness of your spending is half the battle to sticking with your budget.
- Take Advantage of Online Shopping
Online retailers such as Amazon Pantry and Walmart are changing the way we grocery shop—for the better. Now you can opt for recurring deliveries or curbside pickup, which is not only convenient, but your cart’s running total will help you stay on track.
- Shop at Farmer’s Markets
Local farmers are a healthy—and often affordable—food resource. Do your best to support them.
- Buy In-Season Produce
Produce that is out of season has been transported halfway around the world to reach your supermarket—and the cost is passed on to you.
- Buy Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Flash-frozen while at the peak of ripeness, this is a great option year round and generally costs much less than fresh produce.
- Buy Less Expensive Fruits
Berries, for example, can be quite expensive, but watermelon, bananas, plums, pears, and apricots are usually not.
- Buy Unprocessed Foods
The less your food is handled before it reaches the store, the less expensive it will be. The truth is, unprocessed foods taste better, too. Buy blocks of cheese instead of pre-grated, and rolled oats instead of instant.
- Use Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Some of the most affordable cuts of meat are stew meat, flank steak, bone-in chicken legs and thighs, ground turkey, and Italian sausage links.
- Look for Alternative Proteins
Compared to other proteins, meat is very expensive. Expand your protein repertoire with legumes, quinoa, eggs, hemp, cottage cheese, canned tuna, and tofu.
- Buy Generics
Most stores offer equal-quality alternatives to name brands. If you’re nervous, compare the ingredients list and see for yourself.
- Buy in Bulk
Yes, you can shop at Costco Wholesale and put the extra stock in your food storage, but also remember the bulk bins at your regular grocery store.
- Read food labels
Check the number of servings and note the calorie and fat content per serving. Also, check the ingredients list for high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives. Generally, the longer the list, the less healthy the food. And oftentimes, all those preservatives add to the price.
- Check the Unit Price
Compare unit prices between sizes and brands to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
- Use Supplements
Whey protein, fish oil, and multivitamins are a cheap way to add more nutrients to your diet.
- Buy Items with a Long Shelf Life
Don’t be afraid to stock up during a sale, because canned foods and packaged ingredients will last a long time. These extra food items will come in handy during weeks when you are strapped for cash. Just be sure to actually use them before they expire!
- Buy Low-Fat Dairy Options
Yogurt, ice cream, and milk all come in tasty low-fat versions—study your store’s selection to find the most economical brands, and give them a try.
Tips for When You’re at Home
- Grow Your Own Food
In addition to being a fraction of the cost, garden-grown produce tastes far superior to store bought. Easy-to-grow varieties include basil and thyme, green onions and peppers, carrots and pumpkins, and raspberries and blackberries.
- Learn How to Preserve
Canned peaches, pickled cabbage, strawberry jam, and many other foods can be canned right at home.
- Meal Prep Ahead of Time
Scan of the contents of your fridge and pantry, wrap your head around your weekly calendar, and decide what you are going to cook on each night. With those details decided, dinnertime will become less frantic, more routine, and actually enjoyable.
- Learn How to Cook
Like most things in life, cutting out the middle man can be a great way to reduce costs when eating healthy on a budget. Not many things are more satisfying than cooking delicious meals for yourself and your family. Plus, homemade meals can easily cost a third of what you would spend eating out. Peruse cookbooks at the bookstore, choose one with plenty of pictures for guidance, study the recipes (along with any tips and advice), and get cooking. The time spent will be well worthwhile.
- Repurpose Leftovers
Stretch your food budget and decrease waste by using leftovers. Roast chicken easily transforms into tacos the next night, and chicken noodle soup on night three.
- Keep It Simple
Not every meal needs to be a full affair of appetizers, entrees, and sides. A quick salad or a beautiful spread of cheese, salami, and grapes can be just as satisfying as a full-course meal.
- Get Your Family on Board
You’ll have much more success if your family members are supportive and willing to follow along with the healthy food and budget program.
- Be Adventurous in Trying New Flavors
There is a world of flavor right in your pantry. Add new and exciting tastes to old standbys. For example, turn your standard chicken salad into an Indian-spiced chicken salad feast.
- Correct Portion Distortion
Study and follow correct portion sizes.
- Don’t Eat Out of the Bag
Place a single portion size into a bowl or a bag, rather than keeping an entire bag or box of food right in front of you.
- Weigh the Rewards
If you want to splurge, take a moment first to be sure the reward is worth the calories, as well as the expense.
- Substitute Your Carbs
Instead of noodles, try sliced zucchini. Instead of potatoes, substitute mashed cauliflower. The more versatile your cooking becomes, the more you’ll be able to opt for healthy, in-season foods that provide nutritional benefits and cost less.
- Always Eat Breakfast
Skip the high-sugar breakfast foods that leave you quickly craving more, and eat satisfying high-fiber cereal, whole-grain baked goods, eggs, and fruits and vegetables instead.
- Try Mini-Meals
Eat smaller meals, more often. Doing this will keep you out of the “famished-and-will-eat-anything” zone.
Tips for When You’re at Work
- Pack Your Own Lunch
Let’s say you spend $8 on lunch every weekday. Over the course of a year, those lunches will cost you over $2,000! If, instead, you spend $3 on a packed lunch from home, you’ll save an easy $700 annually.
- Don’t Stop at the Vending Machine
Just walk on by—saving precious money and keeping junk food out of your diet.
- Get Your Co-Workers on Board
Make healthy eating a team effort, and try potluck lunches a few times a month.
Go halfsies on sandwiches or cut your pizza into more, smaller slices.
- Encourage Healthier Meetings
How about sliced fruit instead of donuts? As a healthy-eating initiative, your company may even foot the bill for nutritious snacks. It's definitely easier to eat healthy on a budget when someone else pays for the healthy stuff.
Tips for When You’re On the Go
- Buy a BlenderBottle® Shaker
Make great-tasting shakes and smoothies to go with a BlenderBottle® Classic™ Shaker, and elminate the urge to buy pricey, overly-processed snacks.
- Eat Less
Skip the appetizer, side dish, dessert, and midnight snack.
- Stick with Water
For an extra boost, add pineapple, cucumber, or fresh citrus slices. Herbal tea is also a good alternative.
- Stop Buying Snacks
Avoid the concession stands, middle aisles of the grocery store, and stacks of snacks at the convenience store counter. Instead, stash healthy (and lower cost) grab-and-go treats in your laptop bag and in the car.
- Eat Before You Go Out to Eat
Eat something small and healthy at home before going out to dinner with friends. That way, you’ll be less hungry and less tempted to spend too much money. The same goes for drinks.
- Slow Down
Enjoy what you’re tasting and give yourself time to digest. Sit back and enjoy the dinner conversation. Chances are, when you slow down and savor your food, you’ll be less likely to pack too much in.
- Pile on the Veggies
When making pizza, sandwiches, soups, and even tacos, go slim on the meat and load up on the veggies.
- Order Low Carb
Choose thin-crust pizza, open-face sandwiches, and wraps instead of rolls. And just say no to a restaurant’s bread basket—especially if it costs extra.
- Don’t Refill
Politely pass on seconds of soda, beer, and wine.
- Go Kid-Sized
Many places will let adults order off of the children’s menu. You’ll save money and calories when you do!
By following even just a few of these tips, you may be surprised at how much healthier your body (and bank account) will become. Eating healthy on a budget is so much more within your reach than you realize. Don’t worry if you don’t tackle all 52 at once; but the more you implement these tips, the faster you will reach your goals.