Can You Be Healthy on a Budget?

Can you eat healthy on a budget? It’s a question we get often, and many folks feel like it’s a virtually impossible task. Healthful food is perceived as synonymous with expensive, and with so much focus on ‘artisanal’ nutritious foods (hello, Pinterest!) , it’s easy to forget the many nutritious options for only a few bucks.

 Great news, eating healthy on a budget is very possible. You just need to know a few tips and tricks.

1. Save at the grocery store

We all know that having some coupons can save you money at the grocery store, but there are other ways to keep costs low.

Do your research: If you have more than one local grocery store, do your research and check to see which ones are having sales and discounts. Typically, different fruits, vegetables, and proteins are on sale each week, so mixing it up will also deliver a diverse diet!

Buy in bulk: My freezer is stocked with foods I have bought in bulk: chicken, apples, plums, squash, spinach, you name it. Buying in bulk saves money. Either opt for frozen options, or freeze Granola and fruityourself to ensure that it won’t go bad before you get a chance to eat it.  

You can also portion out healthful snacks yourself. Whether it’s nuts, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, or almost anything else, you can get more bang for your buck by buying the full-size instead of individual packages. When you get home, just make individual sized-servings by putting them in small bags or containers.

Know a few go-to budget-friendly foods: Bananas are always inexpensive. I can easily buy a week’s worth of bananas for less than $1. Apples and oranges are, too. Inexpensive vegetables include spinach, celery, carrots, and sweet potatoes. And a box of whole-grain pasta is no more than $2. And building your grocery list around budget-friendly standards doesn’t mean you’ll have to go flavor-free! There are also many spices and herbs that are inexpensive, such as garlic powder, cinnamon, basil, cilantro, and parsley.

2. Know your portion size and stay within your caloric limit

One of the biggest ways to save money while eating healthy? Know your portion size. A boiled egg with ½ cup of oatmeal and sliced apples is a great breakfast for me. I’m getting my protein, carbohydrates, and fiber, which will keep me full and satisfied all morning. At 323 calories, it’s perfectly portioned, and it only costs me $1.18.

The truth of the matter is overeating is expensive. The average person should be consuming around 2,000 calories a day (this depends on age, gender, fitness level, etc.), and it’s easy to overeat when you are eating large servings. By eating within your caloric budget using properly proportioned meals and snacks, being healthful can actually save money.

3. Prep in Advance

One critical step for me to eat healthy on a budget is to be proactive and prepare everything in advance. It took a little getting used to, but I’ve made nutritious options really convenient for myself instead of making a frantic decision on an empty stomach. That way, I save my ‘sensible splurges’ for something I really enjoy.

Meal prep with vegetablesHere are situations that I prepare for so that I'm making more healthful and more cost-efficient decisions:

  • Traveling: I bring portable, nutritious snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, popcorn, trail mix (the list goes on).
  • Going out to eat: I look at the menu in advance and find a few nutrient-dense options, instead of rushing through my decision on an empty stomach.
  • Busy week: I meal-prep by making a large quantity of protein, whole grains, and veggies over the weekend to combine as-needed, instead of making individual quantities each day. I get a buying-in-bulk discount and I always have something ready to go.

So there you go, three easy ways to be healthful on a budget.