Healthy Eating On a Budget

Is eating healthy too expensive? It depends. Processed foods can be inexpensive, but buying too many of their healthy processed substitutes can make your grocery bill skyrocket. It’s a great start, but to save money, focus less on pre-made food or processed snacks and more on whole foods like bananas, squash, and lentils.

It takes being exposed to a new food 15 times before acquiring a taste for it, so give yourself and your family time to adjust to eating more healthy inexpensive foods such as potatoes, beans and cabbage.

Convenience will cost you money. One way to cut costs is to spend more time in the kitchen. Chopping your own vegetables is a great way to save, as is buying in bulk.

Italian Zucchini Soup

Here are some other helpful money-saving tips to move towards a healthier diet for less money:

1. Have a plan.

I read once that Americans, Australians, and the British waste 20-30% of the food they purchase every year. You can reduce your food budget by having a plan and reducing food waste. 

For me, this means making a weekly menu plan. A plan is there to help, not burden you, so feel free to make adjustments to your plan as the week enfolds. Here are a few ideas I’ve used:

  • Plan a weekly schedule like meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, giant salad Wednesday, soup Thursday, fish Friday, breakfast for dinner Saturday and leftovers on Sunday. Or have a few different ethnic meals … Asian, Indian, Mexican, Mediterranean, etc. to serve on a regular basis. 
  • Keep it simple. Lately I prefer to eat steamed veggies with a hearty salad, a large fresh vegetable juice or smoothie for a meal. It takes under 20 min. to prepare. My current favorite vegan meals are:
    • 32 oz. fresh vegetable juice and steamed sweet potatoes
    • Salad with winter squash or potatoes and a 32 oz. smoothie
    • Steamed potatoes with salsa, cilantro and avocado
Nacho Potatoes
  • Using a meal planning service has helped me buy efficiently and have less waste. If you eat meat, The Better Mom provides a free bi-weekly meal plan when you join their community. I used this whole food, gluten free plan for years. Even if you eat meat, I would cut back on serving animal protein to a few times a week, and eliminate the pork from her menu plan. Even though pork is an inexpensive meat, it is full of fat and difficult to digest. 
  • I recently discovered a vegan meal planning service. Homegrown Healers have free recipes as well as a monthly meal plan for $24.99/month. These meals are all vegan, low fat and follow Medical Medium recommendations. Even though meal plan services are a financial investment, they help me save money in the long run. Plus I enjoy getting new recipes!
Ingredients for Coconut Curry

2. Inventory your refrigerator, freezer and pantry

Don’t forget about leftovers and the food you already have in your refrigerator. Keeping all your leftovers on the top shelf, and switching to glass storage containers, helps keep them from getting lost or forgotten. 

Plan meals around the food you already have in both your freezer and pantry. Eating what you have is a great way to reduce your current food expenses. 

I also use veggie scraps (celery leaves, onion skins, mushroom stems, asparagus ends….) to make Healing Broth. I keep a bag of frozen scraps in my freezer and make this vegetable broth when the bag is full.

Healing Broth

3. Shopping tips that save you money:

  • Have a shopping list and stick to it. Impulse buying can increase your food spending by 50%. 
  • Spend less time in the store by shopping quickly. The longer you are in the store the more you will buy. 
  • Buy seasonal produce, as costs are significantly lower when produce is in season:
    1. Winter – citrus
    2. Spring – strawberries, artichokes, greens, asparagus
    3. Summer – melons, stone fruit (peaches, apricots, etc.), berries & summer squash
    4. Fall – apples, grapes, pears, peppers, potatoes & winter squash
  • Determine what items to purchase at warehouse stores. Costco has a lot of organic items that are reasonably priced, cheaper paper products, and good quality meat. 
  • Buy in bulk and then repackage. Buying spices in bulk is significantly cheaper. Freeze nuts and extra seasonal fruit. 
  • Review the clean 15 and dirty dozen produce recommendations to know what produce is safe to buy conventional. These lists are also located in my post 3 Steps to Better Health
by jessica mullen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

4. Make a budget.

Track your grocery spending for a month. Where can you make adjustments? Create a household bare-bones budget with just the necessities using tips from The Penny Hoarder. This can help you make wise financial adjustments that better serve your health goals. 

To save money while eating healthy make sure you have a plan, use the food you’ve already purchased, focus on seasonal produce, and take advantage of buying in bulk. It might take a bit of work, but your budget will love the results!

To save money by reducing food waste, you might also enjoy How To Keep Your Groceries From Spoiling Before You Can Eat Them.

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