How to eat healthy on a budget is a popular question I get asked. As a nutritionist and newly-wed, I have found the importance of this topic. I’m sharing 15 Clever Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget. I’m also sharing my favorite healthy, cost-effective and budget-friendly meals!
As you all know, I was recently married in June to my sweet husband, Michael! One of the first things we did as newly weds was sit down and put together our monthly budget. Pretty sexy, right?
Being a nutritionist, food is super important to me. But not just any food — real, whole foods that are packed with nutrients and natural ingredients. This can be a challenge when you’re sticking to a budget based on our newlywed, young-adult income.
We have managed to do a great job of eating a variety of healthy meals while also sticking to our budget, and I’m pretty proud of us! I’m sure many of you are in this same boat (for various reasons) so I wanted to share how we have managed to eat healthy on a budget!
How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Buy in Bulk + Cook in Bulk
◦ Michael and I are members of Costco, which has been so helpful for our budget! We get most of our non-perishable items and freezer items here. You don’t have to join Costco to apply this tip, though.
◦ Shopping at bulk bins at the grocery store is also a great way to save money — think: nuts, flours, rice and grains. You should also buy your meats in bulk.
◦ Meal prepping is no joke and I’m sure you’ve hear that word tossed around a lot. I’m not the best at meal prepping… I actually might be the worst! But I like to make meals in bulk and freeze the leftovers to have another night. So much healthier and cost-effective than take-out or other “convenient” frozen dinners.
◦ Buy whole foods.. and chop ’em yourself! Sure, it’s super convenient to come home and throw your pre-cut onions into the pan and avoid the hassle of preparing them, but it’s also costing you lots of money over the months/years. Once in a while wont kill you, but try not to make it a regular thing. By chopping them yourself and placing them in freezer storage bags, you’ll save lots of cash.
2. Buy Frozen Foods + Freeze Your Fresh Foods
◦ Buying frozen items has been such a great way for us to eat healthy on a budget! I talked about this briefly in my roasted teriyaki vegetables recipe post, but frozen foods have become our BEST friend. I don’t always get around to cooking all the food we buy — especially when it’s in bulk at Costco, so frozen vegetables, frozen chicken and frozen fruits are a staple on our grocery list!
◦ Not only do frozen foods have a longer “shelf” life than fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, but they pack in the same amount (and sometimes more) nutrients than fresh produce would. This is because they flash freeze the foods when they are in season and the most delicious.
3. Get Slow-Cooker Friendly
◦ Seriously. Become BFFs with your slow-cooker! Cheaper cuts of meat are generally tougher, but can break down wonderfully in a slow cooker! We love making honey garlic slow cooker chicken during the week to have in bulk, or making white chicken chili in our crockpot. There are so many amazing recipes for your slow cooker on pinterest and these meals have really helped us eat healthy on a budget.
4. Share Grocery Memberships With Your Friends
◦ Memberships can be expensive.. I totally get that! What if you were to go in on a membership with a few of your friends and split the cost? This is a great tip for when you’re in college or living with roommates. Hop on a plan with your roommates and use it as a day to hang out and get groceries for the week/month. It’s such a great way to eat healthy on a budget and have fun doing it!
5. Follow the Dirty Dozen
◦ I understand that organic food can get REAL expensive, REAL quick. As a result, I try to follow the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list called the Dirty Dozen. This list includes fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticide content. I try to buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen items, such as berries, leafy greens and apples. You can find the updated dirty dozen list here.
6. Thrive Market
◦ Thrive Market is an online marketplace offering the world’s best-selling natural and organic products at wholesale prices.
◦ It’s like Costco (think wholesale prices) meets Amazon (shop online in your PJs) meets Whole Foods (all wholesome, non-toxic foods and products that’ll put you on the fast track to your healthiest self)!
7. Focus on your Pantry
– Focus on non-perishables: AKA foods that will take much, MUCH longer to go bad. People lose so much money because they’re throwing out things that didn’t get used. I’ve listed some of our favorites in the next bullet.
– Keep it stocked: Try not to let your pantry get to the point where you have “nothing to eat”. Odds are you will end up saving the grocery trip for another day and opt to eat out that night. I try to make sure I have bread, lentil pasta, pasta sauce, soup, black beans, chick peas, brown rice or quinoa, dried fruit, peanut butter and oatmeal on hand. These are my favorite non-perishable foods to help us eat healthy on a budget!
– Keep it Organized: This one is HARD — especially living in a one bedroom apartment with little pantry space, but it helps so, so much! Things are less likely to get wasted when you can see all your items.
– Browse upper and lower shelves – Marketing schemes are everywhere! Grocery stores tend to place the more expensive items at eye level, so be sure to look at the upper and lower shelves to save money.
8. Cost Effective Dinners: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesday, Breakfast for Dinner…
◦ Try to incorporate more meatless dishes into your weekly menu. Michael and I eat this creamy lentil pasta recipe about twice a week because it’s easy, healthy, inexpensive and delicious! It will save you money and give your body a break. Most plant based proteins are fairly inexpensive, and when prepared correctly I promise you’ll love them! You can also swap 1/2 of your meat protein for a plant-based protein if you’re not ready to cut it out completely.
– Certain cuisines also require less expensive ingredients, and mexican happens to be one of them! I am so thankful for this because I LOVE me some mexican. Try having a “mexi-monday” or “taco tuesday” once a week as a cost-saving meal in your budget. All you need is rice, black beans, shredded cheese, chicken, salsa and a little avocado!
9. Eat in Season
◦ Not only is produce generally cheaper when it’s in season — it also tastes better. These foods will be more wallet friendly and nutrient dense, too.
10. Repurpose Leftovers
◦ Don’t just reheat your leftovers, repurpose them! Not everyone is a fan of the same meal twice (especially two days in a row) which is why you can get creative and repurpose your leftovers instead! Have some chicken and rice left from your taco Tuesday dinner? Throw it in a skillet with some vegetables and a little teriyaki sauce for a stir fry!
◦ I like making this spicy baked chicken recipe and using the chicken in sandwiches, on salads, in tacos, on cauliflower rice or even in soup afterwards! There are endless ways to prepare it.
11. Make Recipes Based Around Sale Items
◦ Instead of writing your weekly menu before going to the grocery store, try making it after you’ve come home with that week’s sale items and awesome finds. I always have my go-to grocery list of things we eat every week, but our dinners are generally what get switched around.
◦ If there’s ground turkey on sale that week then it looks like we’ll end up having turkey burgers! If there’s a sale on beef then maybe we’ll opt for a beef stir fry. It’s fun and makes me be more creative in the kitchen.
12. Don’t Commit to One Particular Grocery Store
◦ My absolute favorite grocery store is Trader Joes. If you follow me on instagram, i’m sure you’ve seen the MANY meals I’ve created using Trader Joes products. Especially Trader Joes nutritional yeast — so good! As much as I love TJs, it’s not the only place I’ll shop.
◦ I know I can get a better deal on certain items at certain grocery stores, so I break up my shopping days. Costco is great for foods we go through really quick (deli meat, guac, oatmeal, apples, etc), but Trader Joes carries lentil pasta, goat cheese and peanut butter that I prefer so I’ll get those items there.
◦ Certain grocery stores also have special sales on days of the week. Fresh Market has a Tuesday Special where they sell really high quality meat at a crazy low price. Be picky with when and where you shop — don’t try to knock it all out at one place if you can save elsewhere.
13. “Friend” Your Store on Facebook
◦ Everything is digital nowadays.. including coupons and sales alerts! Subscribe to your favorite grocery stores newsletter, like them on facebook, follow them on twitter and stay up-to-date with their last minute specials.
14. Invest in spices, Skip the Specialty Items + Splurge on Things that will Last
◦ By focusing your money on spices and sauces, you’re able to eat a wide variety of meals without switching up much else.
◦ I try to keep soy sauce, hot sauce, honey, italian dressing, garlic salt, italian seasoning, cumin, garlic powder, turmeric, cinnamon, crushed red pepper flakes, worscheshire sauce, olive oil, salsa and a few other herbs on hand so that I can transform a baked chicken breast into whatever I’m feeling that day!
◦ Health trends are often what deter us from eating healthy because we think we have to spend copious amounts of money on the latest “thing”. I believe in a traditional diet which means I tend to steer away from anything trend-based, but I think eating healthy is something we should look forward to. If you’re dying to splurge on the latest trend, try to make it something that will last.
◦ DIY your sauces, salad dressings, hummus + more! This is a fun and unique way to eat healthy on a budget. You’ll know what ingredients are going into your foods and you can make the exact amount you’ll need that night.
15. Learn How to Read Price Labels
◦ Always look a the unit price instead of the retail price. The unit price will tell you how much an item costs per pound, ounce, quart, etc. It can be very useful when comparing two items!
◦ This article does a great job of explaining in detail how to read price labels.
I hope this list of ways we eat healthy on a budget has been helpful to you all! I originally had a list of 51 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget, but Michael told me I should probably cut it down! Please DM me on instagram or e-mail me via my contact page for more inspiration!