How To Eat Healthy On A Budget

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Often when people switch to a whole food diet, they start by purchasing a lot of expensive specialty items, like almond flour, all organic produce, specialty olive oil. While these specialty items are nutritious and delicious, they also come with sticker shock, leading us to believe that healthy whole food eating is “too expensive”. The reality is that whole food meals can be prepared for $5 or less per person, and take out is often more than $10 per person. The key to healthy eating on a budget is PLANNING.  

Planning what you’re going to purchase, around sales or not, will prevent impulse purchases. Purchasing something you weren’t planning to purchase is a net negative on your wallet, no matter how great the deal.


Plan in advance the meals you want to consume for the week.

Use grocery store physical or digital coupon books for greater savings. From your basic menu plan you can build your shopping list and purchase only what’s on the list. Using a refrigerator planner is a great way to the entire family to see what the week’s menu looks like and add any items they’ve finished to the shopping list.

Build your pantry slowly.

Spices are a great way to keep meals interesting, but purchasing 20 jars of spices in one go will certainly break the bank. Stick to spices you plan to use often rather than something you’re using once.

Frozen items are nutrient dense.

Frozen meats or produce are frozen at the peak of freshness and retain nutrients better than items sitting out. Not only is it cheaper to buy frozen strawberries in winter, but they’ll likely taste better than fresh strawberries out of season. Frozen salmon filets are often cheaper than fresh (usually previously frozen) salmon. Bulk stores like Costco have numerous frozen items that will last a long time so you can eat them over a few weeks.

Eat seasonally.

We pay the price for fresh strawberries in winter. Use a seasonal eating guide, or look at the price at the store, to eat seasonally, which will also be budget friendly. Squashes in winter, berries in summer. Eating seasonally also provides an array of nutrients rather than limiting intake to the few familiar produce options you typically purchase. You can find a recipe for anything on Pinterest!

Buy large cuts of meat.

A whole chicken is cheaper per pound than only chicken breasts. Roasts are usually cheaper than specific steaks. Look for sales on larger cuts of meat knowing you’ll have left overs for the week.

Buy the best quality you can afford.

While organic produce and pasture raised meats are fantastic, don’t let the price prevent you from purchasing the conventional option. If local free-range eggs are out of the budget, buy regular eggs. That’s still a better option for your health than a highly refined (likely sugary) cereal.

Look at other ways to cut cost besides food.

Most of us spend money on specialty lifestyle items besides food. Considering the importance of nutrition and our health (plus the long–term costs of chronic disease), it makes sense to prioritize nutrition. Some items you might be wasting money on are:

– Multiple streaming services, or cable channels you don’t use.
– Frequent manicures or pedicures (buy the items to give yourself a manicure)
– A gym membership you don’t use. Either go to the gym, or cancel and exercise at home.
– Bottled water or other bottled beverages.
– Single use items when there’s a reusable option.

Below is a sample price per day of different home-made meals. Try mapping out your current menu and what you’re spending. (reference www.dietdoctor.com)

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