Millions of people are struggling to afford food right now, especially healthy food. But, eating healthy doesn't have to break the bank. Knowing the value of whole foods, where to find them, and how to prepare them is what you need. In this article, we will discuss some tips on eating healthy on a budget. Read on for some practical advice!
Cheap Foods Will Cost You More in the Long Run
Many people say they don't eat a healthier diet due to the current cost of food. While unhealthy foods appear more affordable, you do end up paying more for them one way or another.
Pay the farmer or pay the pharmacist! – is what one of my Ayurveda teachers use to preach!
Convenient, processed foods are often high in calories as well as salt, fat, and sugar. Highly processed foods are affordable, but they are void of nutrition. Whole foods are often far lower in calories, but offer much more nutrition and value for your body.
It can be tempting to ignore these tips on eating healthy on a budget and lower your standards and choose unhealthy, processed foods based on cost. But, it will cost you down the line. Eating a poor diet can impact your health due to:
- Medical care
- Missed work due to illness
- The cost of medication
- Co-pays for medication
Anyone can eat healthier, even if on a budget. In the end, you'll begin to see eating healthier as an investment rather than an expense.
3 Grocery Budget Mistakes
Here are three things that may be busting your budget and what you can do about it.
1. Buying convenient foods will always cost more
Any time you choose foods that have been pre-cut, pre-seasoned, or in any way convenient, they are going to cost you more money than necessary. For every step someone else took to prepare food for your consumption, you absorb the cost.
Sometimes you will pay up to three times as much as if you did it yourself.
To Save Money, Do This Instead
Learn to prep your foods yourself and keep the seasonings you and your family love on hand.
Pay attention to the foods you tend to eat regularly and seek out the most affordable ways to keep them accessible and ready for you and your family.
For example, a block of cheese is far less expensive than shredded or cubed cheese. Buy in bulk or shred or cube your cheese yourself at home.
Clean, chop and store healthy foods you need for the week so they are ready to go when you need them.
2. Where You Shop and How Often Can Impact Your Budget
Where you shop and how often impacts your budget.
Different stores offer different experiences. Upscale markets offer all the bells and whistles and even make it a fun shopping experience, but choosing markets that have a balance between ambiance and affordability can make a huge difference.
Also, how often you shop can impact your finances. Impulse buying with each trip to the store can add up.
You may run to the store for a ripe avocado and come home with some craft beer and ice cream for dessert if you are not careful and focused.
To Change Your Shopping Habits, Do This Instead
Shop the stores that have the best products for the price point. Many stores have affordable prices on staple items like canned and dry goods, while others have superior produce.
Choose the grocery or online store based on what items you need most.
Create a Master Food List and shop less often.
Meal planning and a consistent shopping schedule can help you avoid stopping by the market for one or two items and making impulse purchases.
High-end grocery stores don't offer higher quality than other stores, it just seems that way because of how things are marketed. Don't get hypnotized by the ambiance and latte. Focus on what stores offer you the best products for the price point.
3. Dining and Taking Out Costs Thousands of Dollars Per Year
Your habits may be making a bigger impact on your budget than the actual price of healthy eating.
The average American eats out 5.9 times per week which averages to spending almost $1200 monthly. From coffee in the morning to lunch with friends, eating out or taking food home can rack up the costs.
Eating out can also lead to food waste when foods already in your refrigerator aren't consumed before they expire.
To Eat More Meals at Home, Do This Instead
Be mindful about how often you eat out. Make adjustments to your schedule and your habits.
Try creating your favorite beverage at home to enjoy on your way to work.
Commit to taking your lunch to work three days per week.
Some tweaking may be all you need to reduce spending and make healthy foods an affordable part of your budget.
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Swaps for Eating Healthy on a Budget
There are simple swaps you can make that will make a big impact on your food budget and help you speed less and eat healthier.
Source Your Food Locally Whenever Possible
The healthiest food is grown close to home. From the farmer's market to farm-direct, there are plenty of ways to access the freshest foods without going to the store.
Swap out over-priced organic eggs from the store with farm-fresh eggs from local farmers. These eggs are fresher, last longer, and cost less.
Buy honey, nuts, and other foods from the farmer's market and local fruit stand. These foods tend to cost less, be fresher and have more health benefits because they are locally grown.
Did you know, that consuming local honey harvested within 10 miles of your home can reduce seasonal allergies?
Eat Seasonally to Save Money and Reduce Health Risks
Choose your foods based on the season. Whatever is in season is going to be plentiful, fresh, and less expensive.
Food items go up in price when they are sourced from far away.
They will also likely be grown with toxic pesticides and preservatives.
Choosing foods that are in season will reduce health risks and save you money.
Swap out your food choices throughout the year. When melons and berries are at their peak, it's a great time to dig in and enjoy them while they're in season.
There are simple swaps you can make to reduce your food budget. Many of them you won't notice and some will make eating healthier.
Plan Your Menu To Save Time and Money
The easiest way to save money on healthy eating is to plan ahead.
Meal planning makes it possible to maximize fresh, whole foods and transform them into budget-friendly meals.
Here's how to incorporate menu planning into your routine.
What's on Your Calendar?
Paying attention to what you’ve got going in during the week can help make menu planning easier.
If you have a lot of activities it makes sense to create a menu that includes meals in minutes. This is when you want to use a crockpot or Insta-pot or prepare meals that create easy-to-re-heat leftovers.
Consider Meal Service Subscriptions
While they may not be the cheapest access to healthy foods. For some, a meal subscription service is an excellent way to increase healthy meals in their home with less waste.
Meal services offer a wide variety of foods with very little waste and zero trips to the store. Incorporating meals delivered to your doorstep may be an excellent way to plan ahead on occasion and will likely be healthier than options like DoorDash.
What do you have in Your Pantry?
Looking at shelf-stable items like rice, beans, and pasta, can help you determine what meals work best for the week. Stocking up on lean meats and fish in the freezer can also help.
Look at what meals you can make with similar ingredients throughout the week. Make a larger supply of staple veggies or starches to reuse.
You might enjoy baked chicken and rice one day and use the leftovers to make chicken tacos with Spanish rice later in the week.
Create a Master Menu
When your family loves a meal, create a cheat sheet and list the meal and ingredients for grab-n-go menu planning at a later date.
Everyone gets bored with the same ol’ thing. It helps to have reminders on hand of meals that your family enjoys.
Get feedback From Those You Cook For
Wondering what’s for dinner doesn’t have to be a worry any longer. Menu planning can help you and your family eat better, for less.
Stock Your Freezer Every Chance You Get
Your freezer is a wonderful resource when it comes to menu planning. Try stocking up on seasonal produce, blanch, and freeze for use throughout the year.
When meats go on sale, make a larger purchase and freeze meat for later.
Some meals freeze well. Make larger batches of foods that keep well in the freezer and save them for a week when your schedule is full and you need healthy meals in a hurry.
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Spend Less, Eat Healthier with These Tips on Eating Healthy on a Budget
Tip #1 – Spend Less, Eat Healthier – Focus on Stocking Your Pantry
A well-stocked pantry key to eating better for less. Shelf stable items last a long time and help you make better meals whether you have all day to cook or need something quickly.
Most importantly, you can take advantage of sales and stockpile foods you use year-round. Some of the healthiest foods will last a long time in your pantry.
Be sure to stock up on:
- Dried and canned beans
- Varieties of nuts
- Dried rice, quinoa, lentils, and other grains
- Canned veggies with low sodium content
- Seeds like flax and chia
- Bran flakes and other low-sugar, high-fiber cereals
- Nut butter like peanut, tahini, or almond
Once your pantry is well-stocked you can free up money in your weekly budget for fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy.
Social media can actually help you save money and eat healthier.
Platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Foodgawker all make it simple to find new recipes, tutorials, nutrition education, and other resources for healthier eating. Create files and save links and videos to review when menu planning to find interesting and nutritious options.
Tip # 3 – Spend Less, Eat Healthier – Plant a garden
Whether you live in an urban setting or have acres to roam, planting a garden is easier than ever.
Hydroponic, vertical, and container gardening is on the rise in smaller spaces and many urban neighborhoods are creating community gardens.
Starting a small garden at your home can be rewarding for your pocketbook and your health. Gardening is an activity that’s good for your mind and body and is a highly satisfying activity for your entire family.
Tip #5 – Join a CSA or Local Food Co-op
Community Sponsored Agriculture Program (CSA) is where you purchase “shares” of produce in bulk from local farmers
Tip #6 – Look For Coupons
Search for “organic” on this website:
Tip #7 – Spend Less, Eat Healthier – Ditch meat a couple of times a week
Protein is very important for your diet, but meat isn’t the only protein source for your plate.
Meat tends to range anywhere from $2.00 to $10.00 per pound. This can be one of the biggest impacts on a health-conscious budget.
One solution is to skip meat altogether a few times a week and replace it with other protein. Many foods offer a significant amount of protein and cost a fraction of the price.
Consider adding one of these foods to your next meal-
- Nuts and seeds
When you truly desire to eat better, Thrive Market can save money and you can be healthy at the same time.
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If incorporating these tips to eating healthy on a budget sounds overwhelming, begin by choosing a few, and then add more throughout the month.
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The information presented here is in no way meant to serve as medical advice. It is merely information and opinion. All information, content, and material on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or health care provider. If you are experiencing symptoms of any kind, please consult with your physician.