Top 8 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
It’s no secret that eating healthy can be pricey. Our nutrition intern Wendy Gans is no stranger to the reality that eating healthier can be expensive. The good news, is that there are lots of tips and tricks that can make it much more affordable. We worked together to put together our favorite cost-saving hacks.
Today, we want to share some of our hacks with you. Don’t let cost get between you and your health. Follow the tips below to help you invest in your health today so you don’t have to invest in your sickness tomorrow.
- Embrace simple, real food meals. It’s always a good idea to opt for whole foods over those that are processed and packaged. Not only are convenience and packaged foods more expensive, but they are often filled with chemicals and preservatives. Embracing simple, whole foods allows you to have greater control over what goes into your body. Most of the time, if it comes from a box, you’ll want to avoid it.
- Meal plan and make a list. Walking into a grocery store without a shopping list often means leaving with a bunch of stuff you might not need. Instead, set aside a time to plan your meals for the week and to make a corresponding shopping list. By planning your meals ahead of time, whether it’s for the whole week or just a couple of days, you can end up saving money and wasting less food in the long run. Plan meals around ingredients you already have in your fridge to help reduce waste. You can also plan a few “large-batch” meals and take the leftovers for lunch.
- Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is a great budget hack. Certain items such as beans, grains, seeds and nuts, dried fruit, canned foods, and frozen items can be stored for a long time. Stock up on these items when they are on sale. Bulk bins, such as those found at co-ops or natural food stores, also offer a cheaper option for purchasing these shelf-stable healthy foods. Keep in mind that bigger sizes are often cheaper, so check the unit prices (i.e. price/ounce).
- Prioritize your organics. Choosing to purchase organic foods is a healthy choice for both your body and the planet. However, purchasing all of your food organic can often be cost-prohibitive. That’s why it’s important to prioritize your organics. There are certain fruits and vegetables that have lower levels of pesticide residues and thus, are safer to purchase conventionally grown. Check out EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists for more guidance on which fruits and vegetables to prioritize when purchasing organic.
- Buy locally and in-season. Fruits and vegetables purchased locally and in-season not only taste better, but are typically less expensive since transportation costs are decreased. Local produce also often has higher levels of nutrients since the fruit or vegetable is able to ripen on the tree or plant for longer before being harvested. You can find great in-season produce by checking out your local farmers’ market. Consider visiting the market at the end of the day, when farmers are more likely to offer extra discounts in order to get rid of their merchandise. Use websites like Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide to help you find a farmers’ market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) close to you. If you receive public assistance, the Farmers Market Coalition can help you determine which markets accept SNAP benefits.
- Try less expensive cuts of meat. It’s still possible to enjoy meat while on a tight budget, and picking different cuts of meat is a great trick to help reduce your grocery bill. For example, chicken thighs are usually cheaper than chicken breasts. You can also use different cooking methods, such as a slow cooker, to make tougher cuts of meat more tender. Remember! With animal protein, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. Still make sure to buy organic, pasture-raised and/or wild-caught when possible. You don’t have to eat a huge portion to get the benefits of well-raised meat. Check out the EatWild Directory to find farms offering grass-fed meat and dairy products in your area.
TIP! High quality meats are admittedly more expensive. Make them last longer by using them in soups, stews, stir-fries, and casseroles. Also consider ways you can use the whole animal. For example, buy a whole chicken rather than just the thigh or breast. After baking the chicken, use the bones and leftover veggie scraps to make a bone broth that can be frozen and used for recipes later.
- Switch up your protein sources. Many people often associate protein with animal sources such as meat, fish, and eggs. But we shouldn’t forget about our powerful plant-based proteins! Plants can offer lots of great protein, with some of the best options being beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, and whole grains such as quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. Try dedicating two or more dinners per week to plant-based protein. This will not only save money, but will also add variety to your diet!
- Utilize your freezer. Your freezer is quite possibly one of the most under-utilized appliances in your kitchen. If used properly, it can help you save time, money, reduce food waste, and make eating healthy a whole lot easier! Check out these tips below:
- Prep and freeze produce if it’s on sale or about to go bad. Frozen fruit can be used later in smoothies and on top of oatmeal or yogurt. Frozen vegetables can be used in soups, stews, and casseroles.
- Avoid freezing produce with a high-water content since it doesn’t do well when thawed (i.e. think cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, and watermelon).
- Buy already frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce is almost always cheaper than fresh and since it is often frozen immediately after harvest, frozen options are often more nutrient dense than fresh ones.
- Cook in large batches and freeze small portions to use for meals later.
Though eating well can seem financially intimidating, following a few simple rules can help you be a conscious consumer while feeding yourself and your family healthy, nourishing foods. I hope you find these tips and tricks to eating well on a budget helpful, here’s to many good meals ahead!
*Written with Nutrition intern Wendy Gans