The words “healthy” and “budget” seem to be contradictory for some people. Is it really possible to eat healthy on a budget? I say, absolutely! The longer you work at it, the easier it becomes.
The word “healthy” is a subjective term: whether you choose to eat all organic, a mixture of both, or something different. It all looks different to everybody and none is the wrong choice. However you decide to eat, here are some tips to help you in your healthy eating lifestyle:
1. Base meals around in-season produce
In the summer, load up on strawberries, watermelon, and zucchini! Focus on the squashes and apples in Fall/Winter. Planning your meals around the cheapest produce saves you a ton of money!
2. Make your own pastries
Those muffins and donuts at the grocery store are amazing, but not always great for you. Try making your own muffins like these Carrot Cake Muffins, or buy a donut pan and try making some yummy chocolate donuts!
3. Make your own pancake mixes
You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry to make pancakes! Make mornings even easier by prepping your own homemade pancake mix to keep in the cupboard.
4. Freeze cheap/marked down meat
Always check your grocery store’s meat section when you go shopping! Buy the marked down meat and either freeze it raw or cook first, then freeze.
5. Buy bags of dried beans instead of canned
You can cook your own beans for pennies! Dried beans are cheaper than canned; here’s how to cook them in your slow cooker!
6. Buy frozen veggies and fruit
Sometimes frozen fruit and vegetables are cheaper, depending on the season. And they’re just as healthy! Make sure the only ingredients are the vegetables/fruit.
7. Buy whole produce instead of pre-cut
Chopping your own produce is a little more time-consuming, but much cheaper in the long run- and you get more food for your money, too!
8. Make your own Lunchables
Lunchables are so much fun for the kids, and making your own can save you money- here are some essentials to make your meals fun!
9. Make your own Uncrustables
What is it about non-homemade foods that drive kids crazy? You can buy an Uncrustable maker to turn your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into the frozen favorites that cost a lot more money!
10. Make your own cold brew
Iced coffee at home for a fraction of the price? Here’s how I make my delicious cold brew!
11. Shop at bread outlet stores
You can buy loaves or other bread products for less than a dollar; even some organic brands!
12. Do most of your shopping at Aldi
I do about 70% of my shopping at Aldi because they carry most of my essentials! Eating healthy there is easy, too.
13. Always check grocery ads
Check the front page of your grocery ads every week to find the best deals and stock up on specials!
14. Set a grocery budget and stick to it
Just having a budget will help you keep yourself in check when it comes to overspending on groceries.
15. Buy yogurt in bigger containers
Typically, buying the 32-ounce container of yogurt is cheaper than the smaller cups. Add fruit and granola for a healthy breakfast parfait!
16. Check Farmer’s Markets for end-of-day specials
Sometimes vendors don’t want to take all of their food back home, so they’ll sell items for a discounted price.
17. Buy clearance produce at grocery stores
You can find over-ripe produce at lower prices! Use them up right away or freeze for later, like for smoothies.
18. Meal prep on the weekends
Taking a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon can set you up for success! Here’s how to do it only one hour.
19. Use different seasonings to spice things up
When your favorite recipes start to get boring, try adding different spices for a new flavor. Changing things around keeps things interesting so you don’t go buying more expensive things.
20. Buy generic brands
Most generic brand items taste just like the name brand, so experiment to see where you can save money!
21. Buy rolled oats instead of instant oatmeal packets
Rolled oats are super cheap and you get more out of the container. Make your own instant oatmeal packet instead!
22. Make meat as a side item
Instead of making meat the main dish, add it to a lot of filling foods to stretch your budget. Pasta casseroles, burritos, salads, etc. are good ways to use less meat without sacrificing protein or flavor!
23. Pick one store for one-stop shopping
Shopping at only one store means saving money on gas, and less chances for impulse purchases.
24. Drink only water
While there’s nothing wrong with drinking soda or juices, water is definitely the cheapest and healthiest drink. You can save at least a few dollars a week by switching to drinking tap/filtered water from your sink.
25. Clip coupons
26. Eat canned tuna
Canned tuna is super cheap. Keep a few cans in your pantry for emergency meals like Tuna Casserole!
27. Bake your own bread
Buy a bread machine at the thrift store for around $5 and prepare to be amazed at how delicious homemade bread is!
28. Use less condiments
Some condiments (like ranch and mayo) have a ton of calories. Try using just a little to see how the taste is; some people prefer full-fat products like sour cream, saying that the fat brings more flavor and therefore they don’t need as much!
29. Eat more eggs
Eggs are so cheap and full of protein and good fats. Scramble them for breakfast or hard boil them for salads or snacks!
30. Buy popcorn kernels instead of bagged popcorn
A big bag of popcorn kernels is really cheap. Buy a microwaveable popper and use a little spritz of olive oil spray and your favorite seasoning- or Parmesan cheese!
31. Make dips with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
Nonfat Greek yogurt is low in calories and high in protein- and it’s hard to tell that you’re not even using sour cream!
32. Add a little vegetables inside your meals
Put some spinach in your eggs or smoothies, or some shredded zucchini in your muffins or sweet breads. Every little bit helps!
33. Make a meal plan
Don’t be stuck every night wondering what to make for dinner! Meal planning keeps you from eating out and spending way too much money.
34. Double recipes to freeze for busy nights
It doesn’t take much extra effort to make two batches of a pasta bake or enchiladas. Eat one for dinner and put one in the freezer for an easy meal!
35. Stick with cheaper proteins
Steak is amazing; but for those of us on a budget, that just can’t happen every night. Stick with cheaper proteins like chicken and ground turkey; or go meatless with eggs!
36. Buy canned fruit
There’s nothing wrong with canned fruit, and it’s delicious mixed with cottage cheese! I always buy the kind with 100% juice, no syrup.
37. Watch for 10 for $10 sales
Some grocery stores have produce on their 10 for $10- things like carrots, spinach, lettuce, and bell peppers. Stock up when you can!
38. Make your own granola
Not only is granola cheaper to make yourself, you get more out of it! Here’s my favorite recipe for Honey Vanilla Granola.
39. Go meatless once a week
Grilled cheese and tomato soup, pancakes, and veggie burrito bowls are excellent and filling choices for meatless dinners!
40. Eat breakfast for dinner
41. Bring snacks everywhere
When you’re out shopping and suddenly hungry, make sure you have a convenient snack packed instead of being tempted by the food court (Auntie Anne’s pretzels…). I like packing Larabars/Clif bars, woven wheat crackers, pretzels, and beef jerky.
42. Check price-per-ounce
Sometimes bigger isn’t better. The small packages, when on sale, can be cheaper than the bigger ones; so make sure you check the price-per-ounce before buying.
43. Buy spices at dollar stores
I get pretty much all of my spices at Dollar Tree and I can’t tell a difference. They’re pretty good sizes and last me forever!
44. Use portion control
If you’re looking to lose weight, use MyFitnessPal to calculate your recipe and calories per serving and then dish out the appropriate serving. Using portion control keeps your weight in check and ensures you have leftovers for the next day.
45. Re-purpose leftovers
Do you have leftover spaghetti sauce but no pasta? Use it on pizza night! Cut up leftover chicken for a salad, and use extra chili as a topping for hot dogs or spaghetti.
46. Use peanut butter powder instead of peanut butter
Now, nothing beats real peanut butter on a sandwich. But products like PB2 or PBFit can be a healthier alternative to put in smoothies, oatmeal, or muffins. 2 tablespoons of PBFit has 50 calories, while 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 190 calories.
47. Make your own snack bars
I like the convenience of having a pre-packaged snack bar; but if you’re only eating them at home and have hungry kids, making your own can save a ton of money. Here’s my favorite recipe for a mix-and-match granola bar.
48. Make “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” salads
If you have a bunch of extra chopped veggies and meat in the fridge, turn it all into one giant salad. This is my favorite way to use up leftovers!
49. Freeze pancakes/muffins
One of my favorite things to do on Sunday afternoons is meal prep; and making sure my family has breakfast for the week makes my life so much easier! I’ll make a big batch of pancakes and freeze them for the week.
50. Buy regular rice instead of instant
Instant rice is so convenient, but has a horrible price-per-ounce. The bags of rice give you much more for your money. I use a rice cooker for hands-off cooking!
51. Eat leftovers once a week
Eating leftover food at least once a week can save you at least 5-10 dollars, the amount you’d spend on dinner ingredients! You’re also using up extra food, which eliminates food waste.
What other little ways do you eat healthy on a budget? Share in the comments below!
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.