Want to eat healthier without blowing your budget? It’s easier than you think! With just a little planning, you can nourish your body with wholesome goodness without breaking the bank. Keep reading to find out how.
But first things first—before you shop, you’ll want to take a close look at what’s in your pantry. Check to see if there’s anything you can cut back on, like sugary snacks or soft drinks. You can save money just by crossing some of those nutritional offenders off your regular shopping list. Try swapping them out for healthier home-made treats and DIY infused water.
Check out 18 Food Swaps for a Healthier Pantry for more ideas. Now, on to those tips!
1. Plan Your Meals for the Week
One of the best ways to eat healthy on a budget is by planning your meals. It might take a little more time each week, but it’ll be worth it because when you plan ahead you’ll waste less food. Take into consideration what you’ll be making for each meal of the week, including how to best use leftovers. Pro tip: leftovers make a great lunch for the next day!
To help you plan, you can make a grocery list the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper or use a smartphone app instead. Some grocery list apps save your favorite items or let you share between multiple shoppers. And with an app, there’s less of a chance you’ll accidentally leave your list at home.
2. Keep an Eye Out for Sales & Promotions
Do you use coupons and promotions? If not, you’re probably missing out on an opportunity to save a lot of money. Although many coupons are for unhealthy foods, opportunities to save on healthier items are out there if you know where to look.
Sign up online with your preferred health food store or grocer so you’ll know about their specials and weekly deals. Look for coupons for quality, healthy foods and cut them out or download and print them. You’ll spend less money that way, and if you take a look at what’s on sale before planning your weekly menu, you can save even more.
3. Head to the Farmer’s Market Near the End of the Day
Depending on your location, a farmer’s market may save you money while also giving you the freshest, locally-sourced fruits and veggies you can get. If you visit near the end of the day you may get better deals because some vendors mark down prices to sell more before closing up for the day, especially on items that are ripe and may only last another day or two.
If you live in an area with ethnic markets such as Chinese, Greek or Lebanese markets, you may find great deals there too. For instance, you can get noodles at an Asian market along with fresh fish, meats and unique condiments and sauces to switch up your menu.
4. Know How to Read Price Labels
Reading a price label seems pretty straightforward, right? Not so fast! The larger price on the label doesn’t always tell the full story because packaging sizes differ. Even if two similar products look the same size on the outside, there may be more or less on the inside.
To make sure you’re getting the most for your money, search the label for “price per ounce” info, which is usually written in small print on the left side of the price tag. If the price per ounce isn’t available on the label, use a calculator and do the math yourself or ask a store employee to help out.
5. Fill Your Cart with Whole Foods
You can often save money by buying whole foods instead of their processed counterparts. For instance, a block of cheese is usually cheaper than shredded cheese, and dried beans are typically a better value than canned or frozen beans. Also, you can find whole grains like brown rice at a better price per serving than most boxed or processed grains.
6. Try Store Brands
Your grocer may sell foods under their own name or a generic name, and these foods are typically just as nutritious as more expensive brands. Some of them may even be organic. When you grocery shop, look over the shelves carefully as these foods may have their own section and will likely be out of your direct line of sight since more expensive brands often pay for prime shelf placement. For more in-store tips like this one, read Get Supermarket Smart: Grocery Store Hacks.
7. Buy Certain Foods in Bulk
Buying grains like brown rice, millet, barley and oats in bulk can save you money. Just be sure to store them in airtight containers so they’ll last longer. The same goes for beans, dried fruit, lentils, nuts and seeds, as well as healthier oils, spices and condiments. The larger size of a packaged item like apple cider vinegar may cost more initially, but it’s usually a better price per ounce. And if it’s something you use often, you’ll save money in the long run.
You can also save by buying meat in bulk, especially when it’s on sale. If you do, take out and refrigerate what you need for the next few days and freeze the rest in freezer-safe bags. Write the name of the item and the date on labels or masking tape so you won’t forget later.
8. Balance Meat with Vegan or Vegetarian Protein Options
You can still eat meat on a budget, but you might want to consider plant-based protein sources a few nights a week, which research shows may be healthier for you anyway.1
Try vegan and vegetarian options such as tofu and tempeh, a Southeast Asian fermented soy product. It’s high in protein, probiotics and a variety of vitamins and minerals. You can marinate or season tempeh and crumble, bake, steam or sautée and add it to dishes.
If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, supplement your intake with Real Food Plant Protein - Vanilla Flavor or Real Food Plant Protein – Dark Chocolate Flavor. Both have 20 grams of protein and a full serving of veggies per scoop, plus a complete amino acid profile, including the 9 essential amino acids, and delicious flavors!
Not sure how much protein you need each day? Read Protein Benefits, The Best Types of Protein & How Much Protein You Need.
9. Eat Seasonal Produce
Produce that is in season is typically more affordable and higher in both nutrients and flavor when compared to produce that has been shipped halfway around the world to get to your grocery store. That isn’t good for your budget or the environment. Buy produce by the bag if you can, because it’s usually cheaper than buying by the piece. Also, get more than you need because you can freeze the rest or use it in the following week’s meal plan.1
10. Stock up on Frozen Fruits & Vegetables
If you want certain fruits and vegetables that may not be in season, consider buying them frozen instead. They’re nutritious, sold in large bags, available throughout the year and tend to cost less. But be sure to the labels and look for options without a lot of added sodium or sugar.
Frozen produce is great for making smoothies, cooking or topping off your oatmeal or yogurt. And, you only have to use as much as you need, leaving the remainder in the freezer for later. Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to reduce waste if you usually have trouble finishing your product before it goes bad, and you’ll save money while still eating nutritious foods.
11. Stay Home & Cook
Cooking at home is healthier and cheaper than dining out. Plus, you can make larger portions so you have leftovers for another day. You can also use leftovers in other recipes such as stews, stir-fries, salads and burritos. Not big on leftovers? Freeze some to eat at a later date—store in freezer-safe containers labeled with the name of the dish and date.
When you cook at home, you can feed a family of four for the same price you would pay for just one or two people to eat at a restaurant. Restaurant meals usually have more calories too. At home you get to control everything that goes into your food, from spices to salt, oil and vinegar, flour, and sauces, so you know exactly what you are eating.
12. DIY Dips, Salad Dressings & Spreads
When you make your own dips, salad dressings and spreads, you not only save money, you can also reduce or eliminate unwanted ingredients that may be in store-bought options, like extra sugar, sodium, fat or preservatives. Making these items at home is usually both affordable and figure-friendly. It’s a fresh way to add flair to your meals, and if you only make as much as you need, you’ll cut out on food waste too.
As you can see, eating healthy on a budget is definitely possible! All it takes is a little planning—from creating a grocery list to planning meals, cooking at home and making wise choices. And eating healthy is worth it in the long run because you can’t put a price on health!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy reading Raw Honey Benefits & How to Choose Raw Honey and Real Food: A Revival or a Revolution? Also, subscribe to Swanson Health Emails to get expert advice and our best promotions delivered straight to your inbox.
1 Replace Red Meat With Plant Protein for Heart Health. Healthline. https://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20190417/new-evidence-that-veggies-beat-steak-for-heart-health
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.