I often hear people say, “How do I eat healthy on the cheap?” or “I can’t eat healthy, it’s too expensive!” Sadly you will find unhealthy processed junk foods are almost always more affordable than healthy foods. So, it’s no wonder people struggle with the idea of shopping for healthy foods.
Eating these unhealthy foods are only going to cause health issues in the future that will end up costing more money anyway to see doctors and have procedures done, or new prescriptions you’ll have to pay for and take to rid yourself of some health issue your diet caused (Do high cholesterol or high blood pressure ring a bell??). Choosing to buy and eat healthy foods now will save you the stress of health issues in the future and keep you healthy from the start.
Here are 12 tips to Eating Healthy on a Budget:
1. Buy fresh veggies and fruits that are in season.
Fruits and vegetables in season are way more affordable than when not in season. Plus they’re more delicious. Use this chart to always know what’s in season.
If you can’t find good fruits or vegetables in season, buying them frozen is okay too. They are still healthy because they usually freeze them when they’re ripe and in season. So you’ll still get the benefits of fresh fruits or veggies with frozen ones.
Canned should be avoided if you can. They usually contain added sodium and aren’t as nutritious as fresh or frozen.
2. Buy dried beans over canned ones.
Cooking dried beans is way more cost effective than canned beans. One 15 oz can of black beans will be about $1.50 on average. A 16 oz bag of dried beans is about $1.50 also. Cooking the dried beans gives you a larger quantity, right? YES! I usually get about 4 1/2 cups of cooked beans from one 16 oz bag dried beans. And to compare that to the 15 oz can – once you drain the can its about 1 1/2 cups beans. This means that I net 3 cups more cooked beans when I buy a bag of dried verses a can. So, I save about $3.00. It pays to shop smart!! Read our post on cooking dried beans easily.
Beans are so versatile too. You can make many different kinds of beans and rice meals by just switching up the seasonings. Beans and rice is a good “go-to” meal when living on the cheap. Here are a few ideas:
- Black Beans and Rice Caribbean Style (lime juice and cilantro – RECIPE)
- Pinto Beans and Basmati Rice (curry powder, onion – RECIPE)
- Brown/Green Lentils and Rice (tomato paste, garam masala, chili powder – RECIPE)
- Red Lentils and Rice (ginger, paprika, turmeric, garlic, diced tomatoes – RECIPE)
3. Buy whole grains.
Whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, barley, corn, oats, millet, farro, quinoa, etc are all healthy and filling foods. Buy them in bulk when you can for best prices. Costco is a good place to get these items in large quantities. Whole grains go a long way, are high fiber, filling and are versatile. They’re a healthier choice than pasta usually, try adding “pasta sauce” to rice and you might be surprised how much you like it.
- Brown and Wild Rice – good with beans (as shown above), with stir-fries, in soups, in burritos, or even desserts (rice pudding).
- Barley is great in soups.
- Corn is a good side dish, and great in soups or chilis.
- Oats – make oatmeal, granola, cookies or other sweet treats.
- Millet – a good alternative to rice.
- Farro – I’ve used it in place of rice, but I’ve also used it as a breakfast cereal (in place of oatmeal).
- Quinoa – also a good alternative to rice. I’ve also used it in muffins, as a pre-workout snack and as a breakfast cereal (in place of oatmeal).
4. Buy potatoes.
Potatoes are cheap. I usually see a 5 pound bag for about $3.00-$5.00. Not bad, since that’s a lot of potatoes! There are a few varieties of potatoes too: russet, red, white, purple, fingerling, sweet potatoes, and yams just to name a few. There are tons of variations of potatoes out there – depending on where you live. Try a new variety every time you shop and find your favorite. I usually switch up between my 2 favorites: red potatoes and sweet potatoes!
5. Buy food in bulk.
As mentioned with the rice and other whole grains – buying in bulk can save you money. This isn’t true in all cases, but for the most part it’s true. Costco or Sams Club are both good places to buy in bulk. Also, buying on Amazon can sometimes help you buy bulk and save money. Be sure to do your research and compare prices.
Yes, you should start clipping coupons now! People sometimes save so much money by clipping coupons – they pay only a few dollars for $100 worth of items in their shopping cart. That isn’t always the case and it’s not an easy feat, but it’s possible. At least you could save yourself a few dollars and that’s better than nothing when you’re on a budget!
7. Shop the sales at your local stores.
A lot of stores now have a website where they share the current sales/discounts. Plan ahead by going online and seeing what’s online locally and planning out your shopping list accordingly. This can save you big time. This is one of my favorite ways I’ve found to save money with eating healthy on a budget.
8. Shop at discount stores for your food.
Grocery outlet, Walmart, some 99Cent stores, Food Max, etc are just a few names (in California) of cheap grocery stores. You can sometimes find real good deals in these stores. Always shop around if you can – even online before going if possible.
9. Plan on making large pots of soups, stews or chili’s and store leftovers for later.
Soups, stews and chili’s can go a long way. Making a large pot of any of these, eating what you can and storing the rest in single serving containers in the freezer is an awesome budget friendly idea.
10. Start a food swap with friends, co-workers or people in your neighborhood.
You know how buying a 20 lb bag of rice sounds crazy! Well, your friend probably thinks the same thing about buying a 20 lb bag of pinto beans. So why not do a little swap with her – she gets some of your rice while you get some of her beans, that way now all you have is 10 lbs of rice, plus 10 lbs of beans! You have a meal right there!
You can do this with friends, coworkers, or even start a group in your area to swap with other people who are in the same boat. Everyone wants to save money, this is a great way to do it.
11. Grow your own garden.
I know this isn’t possible for everyone – space, skill and time are just 3 things that can get in the way of this. But, if it is possible for you – growing your own foods can be a huge money saver. There is also tons of resources online and in books or magazines on how to grow your own garden.
12. Avoid buying meats if you can.
Meats are usually more expensive for what you get. The cheaper cuts are usually less healthy, so avoiding them can be a good choice – or just stick with the lean and healthy cuts of meat (regardless of price) only 1-2 times weekly for saving money.
See, eating healthy on a budget is possible! Implement even just one of these tips and you’ll be save some money. Share with me your money saving tips in the comments below.