How To Eat Healthy On A Budget: It Can Be Done!

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Erin Coleman,

B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

how to eat healthy on a budget

Wondering how to eat healthy on a budget? You've heard the jokes about ‘whole paycheck,' but is healthy eating really that costly?

The good news is that it doesn't have to be!

While food prices are higher than they've ever been, there are ways you can eat right without breaking the bank.

Read on to learn ways to get healthy, affordable foods and maintain exceptional nutrition without overspending.

Is what you're buying REALLY healthy? Learn how to read nutrition labels properly!


Which Foods Are the Healthiest?

Some of the healthier foods to choose from are fresh, whole foods that are often organic — that is, free of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and genetically modified ingredients.

Examples of nutritious whole foods include:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • 100% fruit and vegetable juices
  • Fiber-rich starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, corn, peas, beans, lentils, other legumes, etc.)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, etc.)
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butter
  • Fresh, lean, organic meats
  • Fresh poultry, low-mercury fish, and seafood
  • Canned light tuna and chicken
  • Eggs
  • Dairy foods (milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, plain kefir, etc.)
  • Calcium-rich plant-based alternatives, such as plant milk and plant-based yogurt
  • Avocados, olive oil, other plant-based oils, olives, and hummus
  • Coffee, tea, water, and other low-calorie drinks without added sugar
  • Protein powders

Some of these foods are more expensive than others, but using the simple tips below allows you to save money while keeping your meal plans nutritious!

Should You Always Buy Organic?

Organic foods are generally more expensive than non-organic items, and you probably realize that buying organic when possible is best.

However, daily menus don't have to be 100% organic to be healthy.

If you have to pick and choose which organic foods to purchase, consider buying organic meats, milk products (or choose plant-based alternatives instead), eggs, fruits, and vegetables.

Hormones and antibiotics given to animals that produce meat, eggs, or milk can get into your body when you eat them, and non-organic fruits and veggies may contain pesticides.

To minimize your intake of these substances, choose organic, as long as it doesn't break the bank, or thoroughly rinse fruits and vegetables before eating them.

How To Eat Healthy On A Budget

You can use several tricks to find nutritious, even organic, foods at lower prices.

Build a Home Garden

Whether you have a garden at home or you borrow fresh produce from a friend or family member's garden, doing so is an excellent way to get fresh fruits and veggies for free.

While you'll have to front the money to build a garden, including the bed, soil, and seeds, doing so saves you time and money in the long run.

Buy Produce from Local Farmers

Do you know any local farmers or have nearby farmers' markets you can shop at?

Buying fresh produce directly from farmers often means you're getting top-quality products at a great price.

Hunt and Fish

If you like to hunt deer, wild game, or go fishing, what better way to obtain high-quality protein foods without the added costs?

After you hunt or fish, clean the meat and eat it immediately, or freeze it, so it doesn't go bad.

Many types of meats and fish safely last in a freezer for up to 12 months.

However, if you're fishing in nearby lakes, check your local fish advisories to see how much of the fish you catch is safe for consumption due to possible contaminants.

Raise Chickens at Home

If you're looking for a fun way to have access to free eggs, consider raising your own chickens!

There's an up-front cost involved in purchasing chicks, a coup, and feed; you have to be sure your community will allow it.

However, there are cost-effective ways to feed chickens if you don't like the cost of commercial feed.

Shop at Bulk Food Stores

Buying foods in bulk can save you money, which is why bulk-food stores like Sam's Club and Costco are so popular.

While your grocery bill may be a bit higher, the foods and other items you buy last longer, saving you time and money in the long run.

Try Discount-Chain Grocery Stores

Grocery shopping at your local Walmart, Aldi, or another discount chain store can help you purchase nutritious foods at a much lower cost.

When you find organic foods at discount-chain stores, learning how to eat healthy on a budget is a breeze!

Consider Frozen Meats, Poultry, Fish, and Produce

If you're looking for ways to save and find healthy foods for less, consider frozen meats, poultry, fish, veggie burgers, fruits, and vegetables over fresh items.

They contain the same nutritional value but at a lower cost.

Frozen foods last much longer, too, helping to reduce food waste!

You might also try canned tuna or chicken as a cost-effective, nutritious alternative to fresh and frozen meats.

Apply for the SNAP Program

If you find yourself struggling to get healthy food on the table for your family because of financial hardship, consider applying for a federally funded SNAP program.

If you qualify, you can receive nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy foods, bread, cereals, and snack foods.

You also have access to seeds that produce foods your household can grow and enjoy together!

Dine Out Less

Dining out at restaurants, even at fast-food chains, can take a toll on your wallet and waistline.

Studies show that dining out more is linked with higher body mass indexes (BMIs).

For this reason and to save money, cook at home vs dining out as much as possible.

Shop for Sale Items

Like unhealthy foods, nutritious foods at grocery stores often go on sale!

Shopping sales can save you a ton of money on grocery bills, and you'll still have access to high-quality foods.

The only difference is that on-sale fresh foods may have shorter expiration dates than foods you purchase at full price.

Simply eat the foods soon after you purchase them or freeze sale items to extend their shelf life until you're ready to enjoy them.

Use Grocery Coupon Apps

Cutting coupons can save you a significant amount of money on healthy groceries, and using coupons isn't overly time-consuming.

In fact, you can find many coupons online, and grocery coupon apps are quick and easy to use!

Try Online Food Retailers

Some online grocery retailers offer cost-effective items that don't break the bank.

You can also save money grocery shopping online if it helps you avoid impulse buying or spending a ton of money on gas.

Shop around to find an online retailer that fits your budget, needs, and preferences.

Minimize Food Waste

Reducing food waste is an excellent way to cut grocery shopping costs.

Carefully plan your menus, and only buy foods you know your family will eat.

Rather than throwing food away, freeze it before it goes bad.

Many foods keep in the freezer for up to 12 months.

If you end up with some food waste, give it to your pets or chickens, or use it for composting!

Stick to Your Shopping List

It can be easy to overspend when grocery shopping if you're an impulse buyer.

Make a healthy grocery shopping list and stick to it as best as you can to avoid overspending.

Make a Grocery Shopping Budget

It's helpful to have a budget in place, especially when it comes to food.

You might be surprised at the amount of money you're currently spending on groceries and dining out.

Based on your financial goals, come up with a monthly grocery budget and stick to it as best you can.

Avoid Shopping While Hungry

If you grocery shop while hungry, you're more likely to buy junk foods and items that aren't part of your healthy eating plan.

Have a quick nutritious snack before you shop or grocery shop online to help you avoid impulse buys.

Consider Generic Brands

Generic grocery store brands are often just as healthy as name-brand food items, so don't rule out buying generic ones to save money on nutritious foods.

Shop Seasonal Produce

Shopping for what's in season is an excellent way to pay less for fruits, vegetables, and other fresh produce.

Seasonal produce is usually cheaper than items not in season, so always price-check before you buy!

Erin Coleman
B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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