Sure, everyone wishes that they ate a little healthier each week, but for most people, it’s just not financially possible. Even when you eat out, a double cheeseburger is often cheaper than an entrée salad.
When you need to change your eating habits without breaking the bank, it helps to have some useful tips guiding your purchases. Below are 21 ways of eating healthy on a budget.
Plan Meals First
Knowing exactly what you need to make and what you’ll have to purchase for meals ahead of time can cut down on weekly food expenses. By avoiding nightly trips to the store for this and that, you can prevent unnecessary impulse buys and cut out junk food purchases.
Stick to the List
All retailers use psychology to trick you into making impulse purchases you hadn’t planned. By adhering to your shopping list, you can avoid unnecessary items leaping into your cart.
Your list can save you a lot more if you find out ahead of time which items stay on sale. There’s no better feeling than seeing your saved amount reach the double digits during checkout.
Leftovers are Your Friend
Whether you live alone and don’t need a great deal of food or you can get creative and repurpose them, leftovers are a great way to save on meals. Even if you make a huge dish of pasta, that is several dinners you don’t need to buy or prepare.
If you’re worried about getting burned out on eating the same thing every night, try to come up with ways of repurposing it. Leftover chicken, for example, makes excellent salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and many Mexican dishes, as well as others.
Do the Hard Work
Pre-shredded and sliced cheese is expensive because the company has already gotten it prepared for use. Meanwhile, a block of cheese is less pricey per ounce, and you can purchase a cheese shredder or grater for a few bucks.
While it might be a pain to cook rice or slice cheese now, you’ll save a ton by avoiding prepackaged manufactured items. It may take longer than a minute, but your grains and dairy will save you a lot in the long run.
Skip the Drive Thru
Many people, especially those with entry-level jobs, insist that golden arches are the only way to save on meals. However, fast food isn’t as cheap as it used to be, and it won’t leave you feeling full for as long, forcing you to eat more.
You may even find that you can make a copycat recipe for cheaper than the real thing, and it will likely be healthier for you as well. Avoid the added fat, cholesterol, and sodium and stick to eating at home instead.
Buy Store Brand
No, the store brand doesn’t always taste like the real deal, but most of the time, the flavor will surprise you. And products, like cereal, sometimes taste even better than the original, pricier brands that you enjoyed as a kid.
Make sure that you check out the labels, however. Not all branded products have released their formulas, and the store brand may merely be a copycat.
Shop the Sales
You likely find yourself planning the same meals each week and buying the same items on every trip. However, by designing your meals around the weekly sales items and sticking to the discounts and BOGOs, you can save even more on your shopping trips.
Many vegetarians and vegans cut meat and animal products out of their diet for political reasons. However, a growing number of shoppers have stopped buying meat because it’s too expensive, and instead have switched to plant-based proteins which remain cheaper.
Shop Seasonal Produce Sales
If corn is in season, it means that the plants supplied locally are at their peak look and taste, and they often go on sale. Trying to purchase your favorite fruits and veggies when the season is over means that you’re relying on suppliers from outside the region or even country, which requires higher shipping costs to bring home.
Head to the Freezer Aisle
While you’ll have to fight off ice cream cravings, your store’s freezer section shouldn’t be ignored. Here, you will find bulk bags of plain frozen fruits and vegetables, often sold in the store’s cheaper brand.
Frozen produce makes meals simple for soups, smoothies, desserts, and more. And when you can never seem to finish fresh food before it spoils, frozen bags are a much better alternative.
Many shoppers avoid using coupons because it tends to slow their checkout line to a crawl. However, if you’re not taking the time to clip either paper or digital coupons, you’re just leaving money on the table.
There are also many rebate and discount apps that can provide you with additional discounts not available to others. Don’t let embarrassment prevent you from saving more at the store.
Don’t Adhere to “Scheduled” Meals
Breakfast for dinner is fantastic, and you can often make it for far less than a typical steak or chicken dinner. By changing up what meal foods you eat at which times, you may find that you don’t need to make as drastic of changes as you first thought.
Bulk Stores & Online Shopping
You may not find it cost-effective to purchase specific healthy food items like flaxseed, legumes, or dehydrated fruit products. Shopping at bulk item stores, warehouse retailers, and online chains may prove much cheaper, and you’ll receive more food for your money.
The only downside of these options is that many retailers require a membership fee. As long as you’re getting enough mileage out of your trips, it’s well worth it compared to typical grocery shops.
Shop Cheaper Stores
Ritzy grocery chains that are famous for cookie butter are rarely known for their bargains. Rather than continue buying from expensive retail brands, go for the cheaper stores instead.
Aldi is well-known for their emphasis on cheaper items and store-brand products, and they are rapidly expanding in the United States. While there may not be a convenient discount grocery chain near you now, keep your eyes peeled for newcomers.
Head to the Farmer’s Market
If you discover yourself fortunate enough to have a local farmer’s market, then you are missing out on some serious bargains. Most local produce suppliers have a higher quality than the selection found in stores, and often at a steeply discounted price.
Buying directly from local farmers helps keep the local economy growing, and it’s a simple way to try something new and exciting. You can often find other food stands as well, providing you with a more robust shopping experience over fluorescent lights and easy listening.
Homemade Freezer Meals
While boxed freezer meals are pricey and chock full of sodium and preservatives, making your own will save a lot more time and cash each week. By setting aside prepared meals and properly storing them in your freezer, you can avoid last-minute pizza deliveries by always having healthier meals ready to go.
Make it All at Once
Even when a recipe says that your meal will get done in 20 minutes, we all know that’s often not the case. If you set aside a specific evening to get all of your cooking done, however, you can enjoy more free time throughout the week, as well as already having dinner planned.
The hard part is successfully storing it all away, as well as labeling the items going into the freezer. If you are an organized individual, however, you might enjoy the chore.
Avoid the Snack Aisles
If you are currently on a diet or trying to make healthier eating habits, the last place you need to push your cart is down the snack aisle. Even products marked as lighter or healthier often are worse than the original items.
Cookies, chips, and crackers have next to no nutritional value, and many substitute products are equally bad. Just do yourself a favor and avoid temptation altogether.
Compare Prices Per Ounce
Many shoppers remain interested in the total item price, but they ignore the cost per ounce. Although a larger product offering, or package, might be a few dollars more, you may discover that it’s a better value by the size.
Invest in Food Saving Devices
While there are many gimmick products that you are better off avoiding, legitimate food-saving machines are well worth the cost. Not only will your food remain fresher for longer, but that means fewer replacement shopping trips as well.
Keep a Running Inventory
How many occasions have you bought products, only to discover it hiding behind something else? By maintaining a dry-erase board or similar simple inventory list, you can avoid buying the same things over and over again.
It might be a hassle to take stock, but it’s a cost-effective way of avoiding spending more than you must. Being frugal means taking a few extra steps sometimes.
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.