How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Don’t let higher prices at grocery checkout discourage you from your healthy eating goals. With a few simple strategies and a little planning, you can improve your diet and save money, too. Here are some easy tips for how to eat healthy on a budget.

1. Shop with a Plan

Planning your meals for the week ahead might seem like extra work, but it will save both time and money in the end. You’ll be able to keep your grocery list focused on just what you need and avoid buying unnecessary extras. You can even prep your meals ahead of time to make things easier on yourself during the week. No more scrambling to put together a recipe at the end of the day and having to make an extra trip to the store, or just giving up and ordering in. You’ll have everything you need for a week of healthy meals.

Start by taking a quick inventory of what you’ve got in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, and plan a few recipes that can use up some of those ingredients (Google is your friend). If you need to buy additional ingredients, look for ways to use them in more than one recipe – this helps minimize leftover ingredients that can go to waste. Once you’ve got a plan, draw up a list of the groceries you need, and stick to it when you shop. (Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry.)

2. Plan for Leftovers

This is another time saver as well as a money saver. Rather than buying the ingredients for a different meal each day and preparing each one from scratch, you can keep things simple by planning just 3-4 recipes for the week and making enough to have leftovers the next day. If you don’t want to eat exactly the same thing multiple times, you can simply prepare more of the base ingredient and repurpose it for another recipe. For instance, buying and roasting a whole chicken is usually cheaper than buying cuts, and can provide enough meat for 2-3 meals. You can even make a soup stock from the bones, which is a great source of minerals and collagen.   

3. Try Meatless Meals

Meat is one of the pricier things on your grocery list. Luckily, there are plenty of not-meat protein options that are cheaper and healthier, including beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa, eggs, and canned fish. Basing some of your meals around these alternatives, instead of meat, can save you money while improving your diet. If meatless meals are new to you, start with just one or two a week and go from there. There are a ton of easy meatless recipes that the whole family will enjoy. Try making a big pot of chili, a veggie quiche, or black bean enchiladas.   

4. Embrace Frozen Produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive, especially when out of season, and they don’t last long in the fridge, often going to waste. If you frequently find yourself tossing wilted veggies, don’t be afraid to buy frozen instead. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious, but less expensive, and they’ll stay well preserved in the freezer until you need them. If you keep your freezer stocked with a variety of frozen veggies, you’ll always have something nutritious on hand to add to your recipes. Try tossing some frozen berries into the blender with a scoop of protein powder and some liquid for an instant healthy breakfast.

5. Buy Bulk Basics

Pantry staples with a long shelf life, such as rice, oats, beans, and pasta, are inexpensive, versatile, and easy to store – and they are even cheaper when bought in bulk. Stocking up on big bags of these reliable basics from bulk supermarkets can provide significant savings over time – and there are so many different ways to use them, they never have to become boring. Research and experiment with different recipes, and you’ll be amazed how far these simple staples can take you. (For the healthiest options, choose whole grain carbs.)

6. Drink More Water

Sweetened drinks and alcohol are a big drain on the budget, and an easy source of extra calories and sugar you don’t need. One of the simplest ways to save money and improve your health is to cut back on these indulgent drinks. If you enjoy them often, start reducing them gradually until they are more of an occasional treat. Keep a water bottle nearby and hydrate regularly. You can add some fruit or mint to your water to make the taste more interesting. Research suggests that drinking more water helps reduce food cravings and supports weight loss, among other healthy benefits

P.S. Even when you’re trying to eat healthy, it’s easy to come up short on key vitamins and minerals. A daily multivitamin can help cover your bases and fill nutritional gaps in your diet.