Eating on a budget is difficult in itself. So trying to eat healthy on a budget can sometimes feel nearly impossible. You might even think that you can’t afford to eat healthy. Especially because processed and unhealthy foods seem less expensive than wholesome and nutritious foods.
You shouldn’t have to choose between your physical well being and your financial well being since both are very important.
Since my husband and I went from two incomes to one last year, I had to figure out how we could eat healthy for less. It did require a little extra effort, planning, creativity, strategy, and practice (especially at the beginning) but now that I know how to shop smarter and what to look for, it’s become a lot easier.
Below are 13 tips you can use to eat healthy on a tight budget.
1. Plan your meals
Planning your meals in advance will help you save a ton of money and time. You’re able to create meals around what you already have which will drastically reduce the amount of food you waste. You’re also more likely to stick to your grocery list and avoid impulse purchases as long as you have a plan in place. Use our meal planner to help you get organized.
Related: Meal Planning Made Simple
2. Shop in season
Try to always buy fruits and veggies that are in season because they are cheaper, fresher, and tastier. When I buy organic blueberries in season, I can get a large container at Costco for $5.99 or less. But when they’re out of season, I’ve seen it as high as $11.99! That’s more than double the cost! Check out the Seasonal Food Guide to see what’s in season in your area.
Tip: Buy produce in season when it’s on sale and freeze if you have space in your freezer. It will be super fresh and a lot cheaper than buying during the offseason.
3. Buy frozen produce
If a certain type of produce is out of season, don’t worry! Most produce can be found in the freezer section as well. Frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh fruits and vegetables. And it may even taste better than the “fresh” version if it’s not in season.
4. Bulk up
Certain foods like rice, beans, flour, and pasta (along with many others) have a long shelf life so it may make sense to buy these items in bulk. I even try to buy some of my spices in bulk because I cook with them all the time. Buying in bulk is usually cheaper as long as you actually use what you buy. But make sure to store everything properly in airtight containers like these to preserve its quality and freshness.
5. Shop at discounted grocery stores
Did you know that healthy foods are so much cheaper at Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and even Walmart? If you don’t make it a priority to shop at one of these places then you are spending more than you should! I have saved hundreds of dollars on produce alone just by shopping at discounted grocery stores.
6. Stock up during sales
When your pantry staples go on sale, make sure to stock up. This will help you whip up healthy meals at home and avoid impromptu shopping trips that’ll have you paying full price.
7. Buy store brands
For some reason, store brands get a bad rep. People think that just because it isn’t the name brand, that you’re getting something that is lesser in quality. That’s not true! Most times, the quality is just as good as the name brand. Most stores even offer a guarantee that if you don’t like their branded product, they will replace it with your preferred brand or give you your money back. It’s definitely worth trying.
8. Skip the prepackaged foods
Buying prepackaged food is very tempting! But don’t do it! It may be convenient, but it usually comes with a hefty price tag. If you buy a prepackaged salad from a restaurant or even the grocery store, you’re probably paying at least $6 – $9! At that price, you could’ve bought all of the ingredients for the salad and have it multiple times that week.
9. Only buy these items organic
Buying organic may or may not be important to you. If it is important to you, make sure to buy organic only for the produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues, otherwise known as the dirty dozen. The dirty dozen includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and bell peppers.
10. Go meatless once a week
Meat is generally one of the more expensive things on your grocery list. No wonder going meatless at least once a week can save you at least $30 – $50 a month! There are cheaper alternatives to use in place of meat, like beans, eggs, and dairy to name a few. Meatless dishes can be just as filling and delicious and is much better for your budget. Try out some of these meatless recipes.
11. Reduce the amount of meat in a recipe
When cooking with meat, use a little bit less than the recipe requires. If the recipe calls for 1lb of ground beef, save a third of it and freeze it. After doing this a couple of times, you’ll save enough meat to create an extra meal out of it.
12. Grow your own
Growing your own produce and herbs is not only cool but it’ll help you save a bunch of money. You need a little patience and a green thumb but it’ll be worth it when your produce is fresher than the selection at the grocery store at a fraction of the cost. But if you don’t have space, time, or a green thumb, you may want to see if your community has a garden that sells produce.
Tip: Look up tutorials on YouTube if you don’t know where to start. Lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs are great plants to start with.
13. Shop at Costco
Costco is an amazing place that offers so many healthy foods at a discounted price. They even have a large selection of organic foods for much cheaper than the grocery store. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan! The only downside to Costco is the $60 annual membership fee. It’s totally worth it considering all of the cost savings that you can get from Costco. If $60 is out of your price range, you should consider splitting the membership with a family member or a friend. You could even just ask someone you know who has a membership to pick up a few things for you.
What have you done to eat healthy for less?