Do you find yourself saying, “It’s too expensive to eat healthy!”? I totally get it! There are so many “experts” that tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat, and what diet you should go on, and all the foods they suggest cost an arm and a leg. The internet is full of information overload and it’s easy to give up. But buying healthier groceries can be simple, with no guilt, and I would even say it can be cheaper to eat healthy. Here are some things to consider that can help you in your journey to feeding your family better food on a budget.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or expert of any kind; just a mom sharing my opinions.
What is healthy?
The first question you need to ask yourself is, “What is healthy?” If you ask 5 different people, you’ll get 10 different answers. Here are different methods of healthy eating that I’ve heard of:
- Low carb
- Keto (VERY low carb)
And lastly, there’s the term “clean eating”, which a lot of people seem to use and has about 50 different definitions that no one can agree on. Whether it’s “no boxed foods” (Does that include pasta?), “5 or less ingredients on the package”, or “no refined sugars”, you can see how confusing that term can get!
My personal definition of healthy is: Make sure I reach my daily goals of protein, fat, and carbs (Using MyFitnessPal), and get 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Once I’ve hit those, I can play around and eat a few treats. I eat processed foods every day because they help me hit my goals, and I still eat pretty cheaply and have lost/maintained weight this way.
Know your goals
Your next step is to figure out what your goals are, eating-wise. Is your goal to lose/maintain/gain weight? You’ll need to buy less or even more food, which will affect your grocery budget. Do you have any food sensitivities? Buying gluten-free items or dairy-free versions of food can be a little more expensive but is healthy for you because of your needs.
My goal is to maintain weight and eat as nutritionally as I can to fuel my longer runs. Our family has no dietary restrictions (except a picky toddler), so that really helps to keep the budget down! (Remember, you can see what I buy every week in my weekly shopping trip posts!)
The fast food conundrum- salad vs. burger
When I hear people talking about how eating healthy is expensive, they seem to pick on fast food. “Why pay $5.00 for a salad when a double cheeseburger is on the dollar menu?” And they’re absolutely right; it is cheaper to buy a cheeseburger than a salad at times when you’re eating out. But, like I said above, you need to know what your goals are. If your goal is to gain weight, then maybe eating two cheeseburgers to get your protein and fat goals is the healthiest option for you, and therefore cheaper.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to agree that salads, and other “health-conscious” foods, are more expensive when eating out. But, in reality, everything is more expensive when eating out! If you’re on a budget, eating home-cooked meals is the cheapest option, but it doesn’t have to be boring. I’ve simplified a sample menu for those who like to go out with their family and order burgers and fries to show how cheap it is to cook at home:
- 1 pound ground beef- $2.39
- 1 package hamburger buns: $1.00
- Sliced cheddar cheese: $2.00
- Romaine hearts: $2.00
- Tomatoes: $2.00
- Potatoes: $2.50 for a 5-pound bag
- Strawberries: $1.50
This includes hamburgers and homemade french fries for a family of 4, with just basic toppings of lettuce and tomato plus whatever you have at home. You’ll even have food left over, so the remaining lettuce and tomato can be turned into a salad with the meal, and the rest of the potatoes can be made into hash browns for breakfast. I also included strawberries for another side/dessert. Can you feed a family of 4 all of this for $13.00 at a restaurant? This way is definitely cheaper, and could even be considered healthier if it fits your family’s needs.
Is it cheaper to eat organic?
Does the thought of eating all organic food make you freeze up? I know I do. Some people swear up and down that the only way to eat a healthy diet is to buy everything organic, grass-fed, and cage-free. All of that comes with a hefty price-tag, one that I’m honestly not willing to pay. Is it healthier? It might be, if you feel strongly against certain pesticides. But look at these prices:
This is just my opinion, but I’d rather buy 3 packages of non-organic strawberries for $.99 each than one package of organic strawberries for $3.00. Why? Because I love strawberries and I don’t want to break the bank to eat as much as I want!
Some of you may feel strongly about eating all organic, and I want you to if you can afford it! Keep an eye on sale ads and take advantage when you can. I do buy organic items sometimes, but only when it’s cheaper than non-organic. It just doesn’t fit our lifestyle, but I still believe we’re healthy!
So to sum it all up: Is it cheaper to eat healthy? The answer is really yes and no, depending on your circumstances. If you choose to eat all organic, grass-fed food to your family of 6, then you may not be eating as cheaply as you could. But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong! On the other side, you could feed your family boxed macaroni and cheese twice a week and fit in 5 servings of non-organic fruits and vegetables every day. Is that healthy? Sure, if it fits your family’s needs! Is it cheaper than organic? Probably, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with what you’re doing.
Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself what is healthy, how much you want to/are able to spend, and really, what makes you happy and healthy emotionally. Don’t let this post make you feel like a “bad mom” because you dare to let your kids eat non-organic strawberries. We’re all doing our best in this world, and don’t forget that!
What are your experiences with eating healthy for cheap? Share with us in the comments!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.