I know, I know. Eating healthy on a budget sounds like some fantasy. But it doesn’t have to be. The idea that we can’t have a healthy diet on a limited budget is a myth. With knowledge, a little motivation, and proper planning we can make healthy choices for ourselves and our families.
The sad truth in today’s food environment is that eating poorly IS unbelievably cheap and convenient – there’s no argument there. When you can order off the dollar menu and fill up your belly in about 5 minutes, it’s tough to pass that up.
Fortunately though, MANY people today are beginning to realize the devastating health effects of this kind of eating pattern (I’m guessing you’re one of them, and for that you are AWESOME, btw).
So there’s a CHOICE to make here. Spend your money and time investing in your health, or don’t. And it’s your choice to make, of course, but unfortunately there are usually others who are impacted by our choices and our families are usually tops on the list, not to mention a country that is about to collapse under the weight of a broken and failing health care system, but I digress.
A whole food, plant based diet can be embraced without breaking the bank. Many of the staples of this way of eating are actually some of the cheapest foods around. With a little planning, eating healthy on a budget is possible, I promise.
Best Ideas For Eating Healthy on a Budget
Keep meals simple and build them around the cheap stuff that is filling AND healthy – beans (super cheap if you cook them yourself, still cheap if you buy them canned), brown rice, whole grain pasta and potatoes.
If fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, look for frozen. Not only are they usually cheaper but they can be very convenient and time-saving too (and the nutritional content is not compromised).
Eating healthy on a budget has to include shopping for in-season produce. I recently bought mangoes for 50 cents a piece because they were in season when they usually go for $1.50 – $2.00 each!
Become a member of a wholesale club like BJ’s or Sam’s and you can get really good deals on frozen produce, whole grain pasta, canned beans, brown rice and even fresh produce much of the time.
Look for locally produced foods at farmers’ markets. Not only is the food fresher and better for you, it’s sometimes cheaper and your money is supporting your local community.
Join a co-op if the savings make sense. Being a part of a co-op allows you to buy healthy foods in bulk to be split among members. You can often volunteer a couple hours and receive greater discounts as well.
Since quality animal foods like those that are organic, wild or grass fed are SO expensive, make it a reason to keep these foods to an absolute minimum or eliminate them entirely. If you refuse to eat factory farmed animals or their products, that’ll limit how much money you are spending in restaurants too, since it is very hard to get any kind of healthy food there. It’s always cheaper to prepare meals yourself.
Grow your own garden (even if it’s in pots on your porch or balcony). So much can be preserved for the fall and winter. There’s nothing better than a home grown tomato or a bowl of salad straight from the garden. If you live in a city, find out if there is a community garden you could participate in.
Learn to grow sprouts. Talk about your own garden – this one is just indoors! Sprouts are some of the healthiest foods on the planet and can be grown for pennies! A couple inexpensive supplies are all you need and you can easily grow super nutritious food right in your own kitchen.
The MOST Important, A-#1 Tip for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Make a meal plan!
Let me repeat that –
MAKE A MEAL PLAN!!!!
Planning allows you to:
- Be prepared so that you don’t decide at the last minute to go out to eat. Eating out is almost always less healthy and more expensive
that making your food at home. Planning your snacks is important too because it keeps you from going through the drive-thru for a doughnut or hitting the vending machine for a package of empty calories.
- Be prepared with the right ingredients. I don’t know about you, but I always find that if I have to run to the nearby convenience store to pick up an ingredient at the last minute, it always costs much more than at the grocery store. That’s money and time I didn’t have to spend.
- Only buy what you need. If you don’t know what you want to eat or the meals you want to prepare, you end up throwing a bunch of stuff in the cart in hopes that it’ll all add up to some meals and snacks. This is a great way to end up throwing stuff in the trash.
- Keep from being wasteful. You can look at your whole week and figure out where ingredients could be used more than once or how leftovers could be incorporated into new dishes so that they don’t go in the trash (which is basically throwing money in trash!).
- Budget time to prepare cheaper ingredients. For instance, if I plan my time, I can use dried beans that I soak and cook myself, instead of buying a can of beans. Not only is it healthier for me, it is also much cheaper. I’ll get 3-4 times the amount of food, for the same price. Similarly, if I plan my time I can throw the ingredients for bread in the bread machine instead of buying a loaf at the store. Not too much more work, but cheaper and healthier.
These are some of my best ideas for eating healthy on a budget. They come from my own experiences with my family. Hopefully you can begin to incorporate some of them to make healthy eating a top priority in your life, even when money is tight.
Eating healthy on a budget does take some creativity and desire, but it can be done. When you decide that eating healthy is NOT an option, you will come up with ways to make it work.