Our Top Ten Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

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A mother and daughter cook together

Eating healthy can be challenging, right? Especially when you’re trying to eat healthy and stick to a budget. But there are some things you can do to help maintain your budget and still keep your meals healthy.

1. Plan Your Meals

As much as 40% of harvested food in the U.S. goes to waste every year. That’s a lot of money to be throwing down the garbage disposal. When you plan out and cook your meals, you are in control of the ingredients, the cooking methods, and the amounts of food you prepare and consume. This control has benefits for both your budget and your healthy eating goals, as you spend less on the food you don’t eat and focus more on eating the foods that are good for you. Try dedicating an hour every week to researching healthy recipes. Search budget friendly, healthy recipes online and pick out a few meals to get you through the coming week.

2. Plan Your Shopping

More than 1/3 of Americans visit the grocery store more than once per week. These frequent trips often result in buying more than you went shopping for. Just as you plan out your meals, take time to plan out your grocery visits too. Take inventory of the ingredients you already have, and write down a list of what you need to complete your meal plan. Then, take a look at your weekly schedule to see how many meals you’ll need to prepare and find a time to do your shopping. This simple scheduling tip can help you reduce waste and limit your trips to the store, saving you money and helping you to stick to your healthy meal plan.

3. Read Labels

As you shop for food, get in the habit of reading the Nutrition Facts section of everything you buy. It’s a little extra work, but making it a regular practice can help you know what’s healthy and what you should avoid. Look for vitamin and protein content, and compare fats, cholesterol and sodium content between brands. As you inspect your foods, pay more attention to price tags too, including price per unit (it’s easy to get in the habit of throwing something in the cart without paying attention to price). Doing a little in-store studying on price and nutrition can help you choose the best foods that fit your healthy eating and budgetary goals.

4. Buy Frozen Ingredients

You can save twice as much money (if not more) by buying frozen foods instead of fresh foods. Not only do frozen foods keep for longer periods of time, which reduces waste, they’re often less expensive to begin with. You can find plenty of healthy eating options in the frozen section, including fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods. And frozen foods are usually just as nutritious and their fresh counterparts.

5. Stick to Your List

Your grocery list is part resource and part reminder. You made that list as an important starting point to your plan to eat healthy and save money on grocery expenses. If something isn’t on your list, try to resist the urge to buy it. Chances are, the extra items that find their way into your shopping cart aren’t all that healthy for you, and only add to your overall grocery bill. When you stick to your list, you can save money and shop healthy.

6. Go Generic

You can probably find almost every ingredient you need for your healthy meal plan in generic form. Buying generic can save you a lot of money on groceries too. In fact, switching to generic brands could save you over $1,000 a year on your food expenses. But be careful you’re not buying anything you don’t want when you go generic. Some generic foods include additives, extra sugars, and other ingredients you may not want in your healthy eating plan. These include generic cheeses, peanut butters, and yogurts.

7. Buy Fruit in Season

Supplement your healthy meal plans with healthy side dishes and snacks, including fruits and vegetables. But produce isn’t always cheap. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that buying fresh fruit is often more expensive than buying canned or jarred fruit. One reason is that fresh fruit is usually more expensive to farm. But you can solve this problem by trying to buy fresh fruit that’s in season. Browse your grocer’s produce section to find deals. If you’d like to know what you’re going to buy while you plan out your meals, you can also look online to see what’s in season and more likely to be on sale. 

A mother and daughter cook together

8. Do Leftovers

When you eat leftovers for your next meal or lunch the next day, you can know you’re eating healthy (you planned and prepared it) and you’re limiting waste and not having to spend any extra money. It’s a win-win for eating healthy on a budget. Get creative with leftovers, especially if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to eat the same meal twice in a row. Turn your previous meal into a sandwich, a stir-fry, sauce, or some other second-chance meal or snack.

9. Be Selective with Eating Out

Eating out is convenient, but considering the average American household spends more than $3,000 a year on meals away from home, it’s not always budget friendly. Eating out on occasion is a necessity of modern life. But in addition to being more expensive, you also have less control over ingredients and cooking methods, which often means it’s less healthy than eating at home. As you plan out your meals and grocery shopping schedule, try to limit the times you eat out as much as possible.

10. Consider Meal Delivery

Many meal delivery services offer healthy meal plans delivered right to your door. They are also simple and surprisingly affordable compared to regular trips to the grocery store. If meal planning and prep for healthy eating and lifestyle is difficult for you and your schedule, do some research on healthy meal plans that do most of the legwork for you.

Follow these 10 tips to enjoy all the benefits of healthy, nutritious eating and the satisfaction of saving money.