Many people equate eating healthy to spending a lot on food each week. However, with the right tips and tricks, you can easily make your diet healthier while saving on your grocery bill. Find out a few easy ways that you can eat healthy on a budget.
20 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Determine Your Budget
Before you can eat healthy on a budget, you need to actually have a budget. Go through your monthly expenses and determine how much you want to allot for groceries each month. Your food budget will be different depending on your income, the quantity of food your family consumes, the cost of living in your area, and other factors. The trick is to determine a food budget that’s within your means and stick to it.
2. Skip Going Out
After a hard day’s work, it can be tempting to skip the work of cooking and go out to eat instead. However, this is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. When you go out to eat, you have no control over the ingredients in the food, portion sizes tend to be substantially larger, and they come at a much higher price tag than home-cooked meals.
3. Pick the Right Grocery Store
We all like shopping in a grocery store that we’re familiar with, but not all grocery stores are made equal. See if there are grocery stores in your area that carry healthy staples at a lower cost. Looking into bulk stores like Costco (COST – Get Report) or Sam’s Club can also be worthwhile. There is no right or wrong grocery store to choose for eating healthy on a budget. It all depends on your dietary preferences, your personal health goals, and the budget you’re working with.
4. Don’t Shop Hungry
Ever wandered into the store hungry and walked out with a cart full of junk food you weren’t planning to buy? To avoid this common pitfall, be sure to grocery shop only after eating substantial meal. This will help keep you from making spontaneous, unhealthy purchases.
5. Make a Grocery List
You need to go to the grocery store with a plan, otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for buying anything that catches your fancy at that moment. Plan your meals carefully for the week, make a list of the healthy ingredients you need, and then stick to that list when you go into the grocery store. This allows you to think carefully about the ingredients you’re buying from both a cost and health perspective. You can use a trusty old paper and pen for your list, but there are plenty of apps that can help you too.
6. Look Into Coupons
As obvious as it may seem, one of the obvious ways that you can eat healthy on a budget is by looking for as many coupons as possible before you plan your meals and go shopping. Many grocery stores run regular deals each week, allowing you to tailor your meal plans accordingly.
7. Buy Fresh Produce
Processed foods may be convenient, but they’re much less healthy than fresh produce. Make sure that the majority of your meals include an abundance of fresh produce. As a bonus, produce is also significantly cheaper than many processed foods.
8. Stick to Seasonal Ingredients
To reduce your costs even further, stick to purchasing produce that’s in season and grown locally. When you buy foods out of season, you’re not only paying for the food itself, but also for all of the extra effort it took to grow and ship that food. Planning your meals around seasonality will help you negate these unnecessary costs.
9. Go for Filling Foods
Filling, whole foods are great buys for eating healthy on a budget. Some examples of these types of foods include eggs, dark green veggies, beans, yogurt, and whole grains. All of these foods are nutritionally dense and incredibly filling, meaning you need to eat (and purchase) less of them to satisfy your hunger. This can be particularly useful if you’re trying to lose weight.
10. Eat Treats in Moderation
We all deserve a treat every now and again, but there are a few different ways that you can indulge your sweet tooth without demolishing your goal to eat healthy on a budget. Buy treats that pack a punch, so you will naturally eat less of it while still feeling satisfied. Dark chocolate is a perfect choice for this. One or two squares of a bar should take the edge off of your sweet tooth and last for days.
11. Meal Prep When Possible
Meal prepping is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck. All of your meals are pre-made and pre-planned for the week, reducing the need to spontaneously purchase unhealthy meals or snacks. It also allows you to use all of the ingredients that you bought from the grocery store, reducing food waste and allowing you to get the most mileage out of your food budget. Bonus? It’s the most convenient way to consistently eat healthily.
12. Embrace Leftovers
Even if you don’t meal prep, it’s important to use your leftovers when possible. After all, food in the trash is wasted money. Making big batches of the same kinds of food also saves you time, and offers a great way to cut costs. This is particularly true when grocery stores run discounts on bulk purchases.
13. Reinvent Your Leftovers
Not a leftover person? If you’re a creature of novelty and don’t like to repeat meals throughout the week, find creative ways to reinvent your leftovers. For example, if you make some roast chicken one night, take the leftover chicken to use in a homemade chicken and vegetable soup. You’ll feel like you’re eating a completely different meal each night, all while cutting costs.
14. Freeze, Freeze, Freeze
Can’t find a way to use that huge batch of chili you just cooked up? Can’t bear to eat that gigantic pot of veggie soup you made for one more day? Freeze your leftovers. Many big batch meals can easily be packaged up, frozen, and eaten a few weeks later. This can help you get the most mileage out of your leftovers without burning out on a particular dish.
15. Look for Long-Lasting Ingredients
While unprocessed foods are generally better for you, recent studies have shown that freezing or canning fruits and veggies isn’t detrimental to their nutritional value. If you constantly find yourself struggling to use up all of your fresh fruits and veggies, strategically stock up on non-perishable versions of these ingredients.
16. Go for Simplicity
Most of the best, healthy meals are simple. Don’t load up on unnecessary ingredients that don’t add to the flavor of the dish. Instead, plan meals that are streamlined and use as few ingredients as possible. This will allow you to buy less ingredients without sacrifice on healthfulness or flavor.
17. Buy Generic Brands
Eating healthy on a budget can seem impossible when you see the costs of some fancier (or healthier) options on grocery store shelves. Luckily, many grocery stores carry their own version of big-name brands that are cheaper, but equally healthy. Simply keep an eye out for cheaper versions of your favorite health food brands and buy generic when possible.
18. Purchase Cheaper Meats
While expensive cuts of meat are thought to be high quality, many cheaper cuts of meat are just as delicious when prepared properly. To save on your meat purchases, buy cheaper, leaner cuts and then cook them carefully. Sous-vide is a great way to help some drier cuts retain their moisture, while slow cookers can help break down tougher cuts into something tender and delicious.
19. Don’t Be Afraid of Vegetarian Meals
Not everyone wants to go meat-free but skipping on meats when possible can help you cut costs while diversifying your diet. Consider dropping meats as the centerpiece of your meals a few days a week. You can easily swap them out for other wholesome sources of protein, including chickpeas, beans, tofu, and eggs.
20. Get Into Gardening
Learning how to garden and growing your own food can be a great way to cut costs on produce. This is particularly useful for growing herbs, which people often buy in bunches at the grocery store, even if they only need a few handfuls. Live in the city and don’t have any land to work with? Container gardening can still be an option if you have a balcony or large, open window with a lot of light. You can even purchase an affordable hydroponic system that will allow you to grow small plants indoors.
It’s never too late – or too early – to plan and invest for the retirement you deserve. Get more information and a free trial subscription to TheStreet’s Retirement Daily to learn more about saving for and living in retirement. Got questions about money, retirement and/or investments? Email Robert.Powell@TheStreet.com.