Healthy food can be expensive.
Therefore, it can be difficult to eat well when you’re on a tight budget.
However, there are many ways to save money and still eat whole, single-ingredient foods.
Here are 16 clever tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget.
1. Plan Your Meals
When it comes to saving money at the grocery store, planning is essential.
Use one day each week to plan your meals for the upcoming week. Then, make a grocery list of what you need.
Also, make sure to scan your fridge and cabinets to see what you already have. There are usually a lot of foods hidden in the back that can be used.
Only plan to purchase what you know you’re going to use, so that you don’t end up throwing away a lot of what you buy.
2. Stick to Your Grocery List
Once you’ve planned your meals and made your grocery list, stick to it.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked at the grocery store, which can lead to unintended, expensive purchases.
As a general rule, try to shop the perimeter of the store first. This will make you more likely to fill your cart with whole foods.
The middle of the store often contains the most processed and unhealthy foods. If you find yourself in these aisles, look to the top or bottom of the shelves rather than straight ahead. The most expensive items are usually placed at eye level.
Additionally, there are now many great grocery list apps to help you shop. Some of them can even save favorite items or share lists between multiple shoppers.
Using an app is also a great way to make sure you don’t forget your list at home.
3. Cook at Home
Cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out.
Make it a habit to cook at home, rather than eating out at the last minute.
Generally, you can feed an entire family of 4 for the same price as buying food for one or two people at a restaurant.
Some people find it best to cook for the entire week on the weekends, while others cook one meal at a time.
By cooking yourself, you also gain the benefit of knowing exactly what is in your food.
4. Cook Large Portions and Use Your Leftovers
Cooking large meals can save you both time and money.
Leftovers can be used for lunches, in other recipes or frozen in single-portion sizes to be enjoyed later on.
Leftovers usually make very good stews, stir-fries, salads and burritos. These types of food are especially great for people on a budget.
5. Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
If you go to the grocery store hungry, you are more likely to stray from your grocery list and buy something on impulse.When you’re hungry, you often crave foods that aren’t good for you or your budget.
Try to grab a piece of fruit, yogurt or other healthy snack before you go to the store.
6. Buy Whole Foods
Some foods are way cheaper in less processed form.
For example, a block of cheese is cheaper than shredded cheese and canned beans are cheaper than refried ones.
Whole grains, like brown rice and oats, are also cheaper per serving than most processed cereals.
The less processed foods are also often sold in larger quantities, and yield more servings per package.
7. Buy Generic Brands
Most stores offer generic brands for nearly any product.
All food manufacturers have to follow standards to provide safe food. The generic brands may be the same quality as other national brands, just less expensive.
However, read the ingredients lists to make sure that you’re not getting a product of lower quality than you’re used to.
8. Stop Buying Junk Food
Cut out some of the junk food from your diet.
You would be surprised to see how much you may be paying for soda, crackers, cookies, prepackaged meals and processed foods.
Despite the fact that they offer very little nutrition and are packed with unhealthy ingredients, they are also very expensive.
By skipping the processed and unhealthy foods, you can spend more of your budget on higher quality, healthy foods.
9. Stock up on Sales
If you have favorite products or staples that you use frequently, you should stock up on them when they’re on sale.
If you’re sure that it’s something you’ll definitely use, you may as well stock up and save a little money.
Just make sure that it will last for a while and won’t expire in the meantime. It will not save you any money to buy something you’ll end up throwing out later on.
10. Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Fresh meat and fish can be quite expensive.
However, you can get many cuts of meat that cost way less.
These are great to use in burritos, casseroles, soups, stews and stir fries.
It may also be helpful to buy a large and inexpensive cut of meat to use in several different meals during the week.
11. Replace Meat With Other Proteins
Eating less meat may be a good way to save money.
These are all very inexpensive, nutritious and easy to prepare. Most of them also have a long shelf life and are therefore less likely to spoil quickly.
12. Shop for Produce That Is in Season
Local produce that is in season is generally cheaper. It is also usually at its peak in both nutrients and flavor.
Produce that is not in season has often been transported halfway around the world to get to your store, which is not good for either the environment or your budget.
Also, buy produce by the bag if you can. That is usually a lot cheaper than buying by the piece.
If you buy more than you need, you can freeze the rest or incorporate it into next week’s meal plans.
13. Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits, berries and vegetables are usually in season only a few months per year, and are sometimes rather expensive.
Quick-frozen produce is usually just as nutritious. It is cheaper, available all year and is usually sold in large bags.
Frozen produce is great to use when cooking, making smoothies, or as toppings for oatmeal or yogurt.
Furthermore, you gain the advantage of being able to take out only what you’re about to use. The rest will be kept safe from spoiling in the freezer.
Reducing produce waste is a great way to save money.
14. Buy in Bulk
Buying some foods in bulk quantities can save you a lot of money.
Grains, such as brown rice, millet, barley and oats, are all available in bulk.
They also keep for a long time, if you store them in airtight containers. This is also true for beans, lentils, some nuts and dried fruit.
These are all staple foods that are relatively inexpensive and can be used in a variety of healthy meals.
15. Grow Your Own Produce
If you can, it is a great idea to grow your own produce.
Having a continuous supply at home saves you money at the store.
Home-grown produce may also taste a lot better than the store-bought varieties. You can also guarantee that it is picked at the peak of ripeness.
16. Pack Your Lunch
Eating out is very expensive, especially if done regularly.
Packing your lunch, snacks, drinks and other meals is less expensive and way healthier than eating out.
If you have adapted to cooking large meals at home (see tip #4), you’ll always have a steady lunch to bring with you without any additional effort or cost.
It does require some planning, but it should save you a lot of money at the end of the month.
Take Home Message
You don’t have to break the bank to eat well.
In fact, there are many ways to eat healthy even on a very tight budget.
These include planning your meals, cooking at home, and making smart choices at the grocery store.
Also, keep in mind that junk food costs you twice.
Bad health comes with medical costs, drugs and even reduced work capacity.
Even if eating healthy was more expensive (which it doesn’t have to be), then it would still be worth it down the line.
You really can’t put a price on good health.