14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Alright my friends. Grab a cup of coffee, settle in and let’s have a little chat today about a question that comes my way fairly often … how do I eat healthy on a budget?

And it’s a really really great question.

Eating real, whole foods can be expensive. But fear not - we have 14 simple & helpful tips for eating healthy on a budget, saving money and keeping the spending on track!

Because no matter how you cut it, eating healthier does cost money. Whether you’re buying pesticide free produce, sustainable raised meats or heck, even just trying to buy more fresh greens, it definitely all costs more than a cheap meal from a fast food restaurant.

And while I tend to look at eating well as a long-term investment in my health (and hopefully reduced medical costs later in life), there’s no reason to break the bank on good food. So! Let’s dive in to some of my favorite tips for eating healthy on a budget, saving money and keeping the spending in check! Because, yes, it is absolutely possible!

Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you purchase through one of these links (which are tracked by the use of cookies).

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan

This is probably my number one tip for keeping your budget on track (and eating healthier in general). Take some time each week, pick out your meals and make a grocery list. Then shop and stick to the list. No impulse buys!

Not only do I find this saves me time and stress, but I make healthier choices (not as much junk food in the house), wind up with less waste (since everything is planned out) and we eat out / order take out WAY less. I find it helpful to plan out all our meals, making sure we have options on hand for breakfast and lunch, in addition to dinner. {Because bringing your own lunch to work also saves you some moolah – no eating out every single day.}

If you’re new to meal planning, I’ve written some posts specifically on this topic that are a great place to start: meal planning 101 – the why and meal planning 101 – the how.

Meal Prep

Now let’s talk meal prep. Spending just a few hours on the weekend (or your day off) to prep a few things for meals during the workweek is also really helpful for sticking to your plan and not straying off course.

For example, roast up a huge tray of veggies. Prep and / or cook proteins. Cook up a batch of grains. Make pancakes / waffles / oatmeal / chia pudding … or another quick and easy breakfast for during the week. Additionally, you could also cook entire meals and store them for later. Slow cooker dishes are particularly great for this as you can set and forget. Remember, prepping just a little bit now can help make meals during the week much much easier and quicker.

I am a huge fan of these glass Snapware containers (I think I have close to 20 pieces at this point in a variety of sizes) – I use them for all of my meal prep as well as for storing leftovers.

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Shop In Season

Not only will your food be fresher and cheaper, but it tastes better too! So stop wasting your money buying those crazy expensive fresh berries in the middle of January, okay?

Instead, load up on things like brussels sprouts, cabbage, citrus and winter squash during those cold winter months. And save the berries, peaches, tomatoes and fresh corn for the bounty of summer. Your wallet will thank you.

Embrace Frozen Fruits & Veggies (And Your Freezer In General)

Because the freezer section offers some great options, especially when things are out of season. For example, I buy frozen berries all the time when we’re outside of summer. They’re cheaper and have much better flavor as compared to those sad berries hanging out in the produce section. Additionally, frozen veggies are also priced really well and can be fantastic for quick and easy meals (stir-fry anyone?).

It also helps to embrace your freezer in general. For example, when you see some awesome meat or fish on sale, buy it and freeze for later. Or stock up on your favorite frozen fruit or veggies when they’re reduced in price. I also love to stock up on fresh berries during the summer (when they’re cheaper and so darn delicious!) and freeze for during the winter.

In addition to just stocking up, freezer meals are also a great way to have healthy options on hand and can be really budget friendly. I love to make double batches of soups / chili / waffles and / or breads and freeze half for later. This saves time, money and is awesome to turn to when you’re in a bind for a quick meal.

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Keep A Well Stocked Pantry

Filled with all the staples you’d need to build the base for a healthy dish. So things like canned beans, olive oil, spices, canned tomatoes, assorted grains, nuts, canned salmon, etc. This way you always have options to pull from to make meals on the fly for not a lot of money.

If you don’t know where to get started, I’ve written a post specifically on this topic that you might find helpful: how to stock a {mostly} healthy pantry.

Stock Up When Pantry Staples Are On Sale / Buy In Bulk

If something you use regularly is reduced down to a great price, stock up! I do this for all sorts of pantry staples, like canned beans and tomatoes, quinoa, olive oil, you name it. But only do this with things you know you’ll use – otherwise you might end up with something that will sit there languishing away in your pantry for months on end.

If you shop at a store with bulk bins, these can also be a really great option. Not just for stocking up but for buying exactly what you need for pricier items (and no more).

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Use Meat More Like A Condiment / Embrace Meatless Monday

For example, fill your plate mostly with veggies then top with a small portion of meat (for me, about 3 to 4 ounces works well – or about the size of my palm). Make a few veggie sides to go with your roast chicken. Use both meat and beans in your chili. This all helps to stretch the meat further.

Using cheaper cuts will also help cut down on cost. So go for chicken thighs or whole chickens instead of chicken breasts. Or tougher cuts of beef, which can still taste amazing especially if you slow cook them.

Additionally, mixing in meatless meals is really budget-friendly, as beans, eggs, lentils and other sources of plant-based protein don’t tend to cost as much. At our house, I tend to cook dinners with meat or seafood about 2 to 3 times a week and then the rest are plant-based, which helps keep our weekly grocery bill in check.

Make Store-Bought Staples At Home

Not only is it healthier but this will definitely save you some money. From salad dressing to hummus to pancakes to broth, these are all easy items to make yourself and you’ll avoid any weird artificial additives.

Homemade broth is especially great as it’s a way to cut down on waste and use the whole food – i.e. use veggie scraps to make veggie broth or the remains of a whole chicken to make chicken broth. I use this recipe for slow cooker homemade chicken stock from Flavor The Moments.

I also make a lot of our breads at home – so rolls, pizza dough and regular loaves. Once you have all the ingredients in your pantry, it’s pretty cost effective, healthier and just so darn delicious! Yeasted breads also freeze incredibly well, another bonus.

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Shop Around For Best Prices

Or really, just know your local options. For me personally, we have three main grocery stores in our area. I shop at one for almost everything, but hit up the other two once every month or so to stock up on staples that I know are cheaper at those stores. So do your research and price compare.

A local farmers market, a CSA or buying directly from a farmer may also be a great bet. I buy all my eggs from a general store that stocks them for a local farmer – they’re pasture raised, are amazing in flavor and are significantly cheaper than comparable eggs at my local grocery stores. So again, do your research and find what works best for you!

Buy Online

There are so many options these days to purchase things online. I personally love and use Thrive Market. I’ve heard it described as a Costco version of Whole Foods and I would generally agree (although you don’t have to buy in bulk). I purchase a lot of my pantry staples from Thrive and find that about 75% of the time their prices are cheaper than anywhere else (there are a few things I can find cheaper locally – so again, compare and look around!).

For those of you who also live in a small town, it’s a great option. The nearest Whole Foods / Trader Joe’s / Target are all about 1 ½ hours away and there are certain things that I just can’t find nearby, which is another reason Thrive has become a go-to of mine.

Amazon’s subscribe and save program is also another great option, not to mention is super convenient.

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Don’t Buy Pre-Cut Fruits & Veggies or Pre-Portioned Snacks

And do it yourself instead. Grocery stores often charge an arm and a leg for pre-cut veggies, sliced up fruit, spiralized veggies, etc. etc. And while it may be convenient, these are all things you can do yourself in about 10 minutes or less. So save your cash for something else!

Same goes for trail mixes, pre-portioned cracker bags, individual oatmeal servings, the list goes on. Mix your own trail mix, buy large boxes of crackers to divvy up yourself and cook your own oatmeal. It may take more time but it is definitely cheaper.

Use The “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” Lists

If you’re trying to minimize your exposure to pesticides, the Environmental Working Group’s clean 15 and dirty dozen lists are a great place to start. These lists can help you determine which foods to buy organic and which to buy conventional, based on which have the most pesticide residue.

14 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Grow Your Own Herbs

Okay and your own veggies too, but for those of you who have a black thumb like me, herbs are the way to go.

They are super easy to grow and care for, and you’ll save a decent amount of money by not having to buy those little packs and bunches at the store. I’ve successfully grown basil, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint (and again, I am a pretty terrible gardener). One tip – if you do plant mint, be sure to put it in a separate container as it will overtake everything else!

Nix The Store-Bought Drinks

Make your own coffee and tea at home. Blend up your own smoothies. Ditch the soda and juice and drink lots of water instead. This all adds up and will save you some serious moolah.

And get yourself some great reusable containers to tote your homemade beverages around with. We love and use several of the Hydro Flask containers (both the water bottles and coffee travel mugs). They keep things hot or cold for hours on end.

PS – Need some inspiration? Be sure to check out the drinks category for plenty of recipes for smoothies and DIY coffee shop beverages!

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And that’s a wrap! So tell me, what are your favorite money saving tips? Share them in the comments below!

{Photos that include me are by Amy Rae Photography. All other photos by Cook Nourish Bliss!}