7 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Your food costs can be a significant part of the monthly budget, especially if you eat out or buy a lot of convenience foods. But when money is tight, we often start to rely on cheap packaged meals that don’t do our bodies any favors.

Eating poorly usually means more frequent illness, which then adds a secondary cost in the form of medical care. In the end, you aren’t really saving money at all.

But fear not – there is a way to eat well for less money. It takes a little bit more time and effort, but is totally worth it in the end. You’ll have to give up the regular restaurant meals for a bit, but may find that you save enough money on food to add an occasional indulgence back into the mix.

If you’re trying to stick to a food budget, you can’t afford not to read our 7 great tips for eating well and saving money at the same time.

7. Plan Your Meals

The cornerstone of any savings goal is planning. Set your budget thoughtfully and then do the research to support it. That means poring over the stores’ weekly circulars and building a meal plan based on items that are on sale. You might also want stock up on your favorite pantry items when they’re on sale.

And speaking of the pantry, don’t forget to peruse it as you make your meal plan, as there are often a lot of items there – things like dried pasta, jarred sauces, canned goods, and boxed rice – that can be used as the foundation of a meal. The freezer may also hold some forgotten treasures. Aim to use everything you have.

6. Employ Shopping Strategies

Once it is time to shop, employ a variety of strategies to make sure you stick to the list and save as much money as possible. For starters, don’t shop hungry or it will be nearly impossible to avoid impulse purchases. Go to the store armed with relevant coupons, but know that there may not be many for the kinds of healthy, whole foods you seek.

Decide which items you can tolerate buying generic; for many items, there is little to no difference except for some fancy packaging. Buy whole versions of things rather than convenience ones, such as an entire block of cheese rather than a bag of pre-shredded stuff.

Foods that you eat a lot of are usually cheaper when bought in bulk, and produce that’s in season is also less expensive. All of these strategies can keep more coins in your pocket.

5. Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat

Fresh meat is often the most expensive item on your list. We will talk in the next point about how to reduce the amount of meat you buy, but assume that you don’t want to go full vegetarian just yet. Luckily, there are cheaper cuts of meat that can save you money and are still delicious as long as you understand how to prepare them.

One good example is cubed beef, labeled as stew meat. The only trick here is to cook it low and slow for a long time. Just fire up the old crock pot around midday and let your meal simmer until dinnertime.

You can save about $1 per pound if you buy a whole chicken rather than choice cuts, and it can be roasted in the oven or done right on the grill. Pork shoulder is also relatively inexpensive and like stew meat, is best cooked long and low.

4. Learn More Vegetarian Cooking

Eating less meat is a great way to save money and it’s better for your health, too. Casseroles are an easy way for beginners to get into vegetarian cooking, as are pasta dishes. Eggs are also a great source of protein into which you can layer all your favorite fresh veggies.

Quinoa, rice, and beans are inexpensive and long lasting ingredients to stock up on. And don’t forget the humble potato, which can be baked and topped with cheese and pretty much any veggie you like.

3. Skip Junk Food

The markup on junk foods is insane, but food manufacturers get away with it because they know these foods are addictive. Salty snacks like crackers, cookies, and chips, plus sugary beverages like soda, juice, and electrolyte drinks, are tasty for sure. But they have little to no nutritional value for all the money they cost.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ever indulge. Buying a bag of popcorn kernels and popping them on the stove saves a ton of money over the bagged microwave variety and is way healthier.

You can make chocolate chip cookies at home for a fraction of the price of store bought and avoid the unhealthy preservatives. Even oven baked French fries topped with olive oil and flavorful seasonings of your choice can be just as satisfying as any fast food version, while costing way less per delicious bite.

2. Cook Large Portions and Use Your Leftovers

We counseled you earlier to buy in bulk wherever it makes sense, and this is how you realize the benefit of that. Whenever you cook a favorite meal, make a double batch. It takes hardly any extra time and leaves you with additional portions to freeze, pack in lunches, or repurpose later in the week.

If you have bought your meat in bulk, cook it all and remove some before adding sauce or distinctive seasoning.

Plain chicken or ground beef can be used in many different ways throughout the week that won’t feel like leftovers. As a bonus, this strategy saves you considerable prep time as the week progresses.

1. Grow Your Own Produce

During the summer months, you can save a great deal of money by growing your own produce. Food you grow at home can be picked at the peak of freshness, when it is most flavorful and nutritious. And come fall, you will likely have a lot left over that can be preserved and stored to last through the winter.

Seeds are very inexpensive, and you can start your seedlings inside in used yogurt cups or something similar. If you don’t have land available to plant your seedlings come spring, check into whether there is a community garden in your area.

Plots there are typically very inexpensive, plus you’ll get to meet new people, chat about plant care, and even share produce.

Long story short, you don’t have to eat yourself sick on ramen noodles when you’re on a budget. Healthy food can be affordable as long as you are willing to take a little more time in the planning, shopping, and preparation.

Once you get comfortable with the process, and start realizing the benefits of saving money, we bet you’ll want to make your new way of eating a permanent thing. After all, why spend more money than you have to? The savings can be applied to all sorts of other things that make life more enjoyable.