How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Nutritious Meals Without Breaking the Bank

Baked Salmon With Garlic

The Spruce

Eating healthy can feel like an expensive challenge. It's easy to drain your bank account buying green juices and organic lean meat, making easier, cheaper (but less healthy) options seem pretty tempting.

Before you stock up on ramen noodles or eat off the dollar menu at your local burger joint, shave dollars off your weekly grocery bill in other ways while still eating healthy and nutritious food.

Plan Your Meals

Decide ahead of time what you plan to eat for the week. Make a list of the ingredients and check which ones you have on hand and which ones you'll need to buy. That way you won't buy duplicate ingredients or waste food.

In many homes, much of the grocery budget ends up in the trash. This can happen from poor planning and organizing, with lots of food going bad or uneaten. Planning helps eliminate this issue and saves you money. Try to plan meals that use perishable foods within a week, such as a whole onion, a whole can of beans, and the entire package of chicken breasts. If you don't plan to use all of an ingredient, freeze and label whatever you can and check your freezer regularly for ingredients.

Stick to Your Shopping List

It's easy to get derailed at the grocery store, but to maintain a healthy diet, it's important to stick to your list. Many expensive food purchases are last-minute additions and often are not diet-friendly. Note that most stores keep the packaged goods in the middle and the fresh foods on the ends. Keep your shopping focused on the far ends of the store for the healthiest options.

Schedule your shopping trip wisely: don't shop on an empty stomach. It leads to impulse buys that are rarely healthy or cost-effective.

Watch out for Special Deals

While it's important to stick to your shopping list, keep an eye out for healthful special deals. If salmon fillets are on your list and they're on special if you buy two packages, then freeze the second pack of fillets for an upcoming week. Taking advantage of special deals on shelf-stable and freezable foods is a key strategy when shopping on a budget. To keep your shopping trip healthy, ignore specials on unhealthy foods like potato chips, packaged cookies, soft drinks, and sugary cereals. Only collect coupons for healthy foods that you'll actually use and store them with your list so that you remember to use them.

Shop in Season

When produce hits its peak season, it not only tastes the best, it also tends to drop in price. Watch for when items like berries and corn go on sale in the summer or when squash gets discounted in the fall and stock up. Take extra home and freeze them for later use so you can enjoy peak produce all year long at discount prices.

Buy Whole Foods

For many items, the prices go up the more processed they are. For instance, dried beans are cheaper per weight than canned beans and canned beans are cheaper than refried beans. Healthy items like whole grains, dried beans, nuts, and dried fruit are often available wholesale at many grocery stores. When buying in bulk, you only have to purchase what you need and the prices are typically better than purchasing packaged goods. In addition to being affordable, whole grains and beans are healthy and filling, making them a great addition to a healthy meal plan. Store bulk goods clearly labeled in airtight containers.

Buy Inexpensive Meat

Lean, tough cuts of beef turn tender and delicious when cooked in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Chicken thighs are cheaper than breasts and with the skin removed (it's so easy to do!), they don't add much fat. Reducing your meat intake will also help with your diet and your budget. When a recipe for chili calls for a pound of beef, consider adding just 1/2 or 3/4 pound. Chances are you won't even notice and you'll reduce the fat and your spending.

To make a real difference in your health and your wallet, reduce your meat consumption overall. Try only eating meat a few meals a week, replacing it with beans, grains, and veggies for other meals.

Organize Your Kitchen

An organized kitchen means you're less likely to let food go to waste. Label items in the freezer well with the date and push more perishable items to the front of the refrigerator. Don't let items fall to the back and be forgotten in the pantry. When you make your shopping list and check to see what items you have on hand, take a few minutes to rearrange and take stock of your perishable items, prioritizing what needs to be used before it goes bad.

Cook at Home

Home-cooked meals cost a fraction of restaurant-prepared meals and they give you full control of the fat, sodium, and calories. Most restaurants don't disclose the exact ingredients and quantities in their food, so even a salad can end up with a high-calorie count thanks to fatty dressing and toppings. The more you cook at home, the more money you'll save and the more control you'll take over your health. Whenever possible, swap your coffee and pastry for a quick breakfast at home and pack healthy lunches. You'll save tons of money and feel great, too.