You deserve to feel your best no matter your budget! This post is PACKED with tips for you to save money while eating healthy and delicious foods.
Eating healthy on a budget can seem like a daunting task, but with a few simple strategies, it's possible to eat nutritious meals without breaking the bank. In this blog post, I'm giving you TONS of resources, tips and tricks for eating healthy on a budget, from shopping for produce in season to buying generic products, and more. We'll also dive into ways to save money on meat, chicken, and fish without sacrificing quality.
Whether you're a student, a family on a tight budget, or simply looking to save money while eating well, these tips will help you make healthy eating a part of your lifestyle without breaking the bank.
This is definitely a post you'll want to come back to, so I'd suggest bookmarking it!
Gather recipes together and plan your meals. This is one of the best ways to keep your budget in check. There are many online services/apps aren’t too costly. These apps have a free basic level of service: Favoreats, Mealime, BigOven, FoodPlanner, PlateJoy, FridgePal, PantryCheck, Cozi, AnyList, and All Recipes Dinner Spinner. You can download my Fast and Easy Meal Prep Guide, see the end of this post for the download link.
Avoid throwing out leftovers - here's one strategy you may not have tried:
A lot of people tell me one of the reasons they don’t meal prep is because either they or someone in their home won’t eat leftovers. That's understandable!
But guess what? It’s still possible to get all of the money and time-saving benefits of meal prepping WITHOUT having to eat last night’s dinner - by avoiding leftovers entirely!
Here’s how: instead of cooking entire meals in advance, you cook and/or prep your INGREDIENTS ahead of time.
Then, just before it’s time to eat, just assemble the meal from your prepped ingredients.
Poach chicken breasts, brown turkey or tofu, or roast a chicken.
Bake some sweet potatoes, steam some rice, or prep some quinoa.
Chop onions, dice carrots, or slice peppers in advance.
Include meals that will "stretch" expensive food items (stews, casseroles, stir-fried dishes).
Stretching expensive food items is a great way to make the most out of your grocery budget. Dishes such as stews, casseroles, and stir-fries are perfect for this. By combining expensive ingredients with less expensive ones, you can create hearty, satisfying meals that will keep you full and satisfied.
For example, if you have a small amount of meat, you can combine it with vegetables, legumes, and grains to create a filling stew or casserole. Adding more vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celery, can also help to stretch your meal and add additional nutrients.
Another great way to stretch expensive food items is to create stir-fried dishes. These meals can be made with just a small amount of meat or fish, combined with plenty of vegetables and noodles or rice. By using plenty of vegetables, you can make a little bit of protein go a long way.
Try to buy groceries when you’re not hungry and not too rushed on time.
Stick to your list and avoid aisles that don’t contain the items you need.
Find and compare unit prices listed on shelves to get the best price.
Although pre-cut fruits and vegetables, individual cups of yogurt and instant rice/hot cereal are convenient, they usually cost more than similar foods that require a bit more prep time. Avoid them as much as possible.
Check weekly advertisements and store flyers to see what healthy foods are on sale and plan your meals accordingly.
Shop at discount grocery stores which often have lower prices on a wide range of food items. Here are some of the top discount grocery stores in the US:
Take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free offers, but only if you will use the second item before it goes bad.
Use coupons, either from the newspaper or printed from websites, for specific brands or products. Here's a list of some popular and trusted coupon sites:
Sign up for email newsletters from your favorite stores to receive notifications about sales and special offers.
Look for deals on healthy snacks, such as granola bars or dried fruit, at discount stores or online.
Knowing what's in season can help you choose the freshest and most flavorful produce, as well as save money by taking advantage of items that are in abundance and therefore, less expensive.
Check local farmers' markets and talk to vendors to see what is currently being grown and sold. The US government has a directory of farmers markets
Join a local CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) or crop-sharing membership where you’ll get lots of farm-fresh produce in season - and guides how to freeze or otherwise preserve items. Local Harvest is a good site where you can learn more and find a CSA near you.
Use a seasonal produce guide specific to your area.
Look for signage at grocery stores and specialty food markets, which often highlight seasonal produce.
Check the "locally grown" section at your grocery store, which may have a selection of in-season produce.
Research online to find out what produce is typically in season during different times of the year in your area.
The "best by" date is an indicator of the recommended time by the manufacturer for the product to be consumed for optimal quality. This date is related to freshness and flavor, but not necessarily safety. Food that is past this date may still be safe to eat if it has been stored properly, although its taste or texture might have changed.
On the other hand, the "expiration date" is a more definitive indicator of when a food product should no longer be consumed, as it has reached the end of its shelf life and may pose a risk to your health.
The following are some foods that are safe to buy even close to the "best by" date:
Canned goods: Canned foods have a long shelf life and are often safe to consume after the "best by" date, as long as the cans are in good condition and have not been damaged or punctured.
Dried goods: Dried goods like pasta, rice, and beans have a long shelf life and are often safe to consume after the "best by" date, as long as they have been stored properly in a cool, dry place.
Bread: Bread can be consumed past its "best by" date, but it might not be as fresh or have the same texture. Toasting or freezing the bread can extend its shelf life.
Grains: Grains like oats and cereal can also be consumed after the "best by" date, as long as they have been stored properly in an airtight container.
Check local grocery stores: Some grocery stores offer discounts on food items that are close to their "best by" date, as a way to reduce waste and sell perishable items before they go bad. You can check the discount aisles or ask a store employee for information on when these items go on sale.
Use a grocery savings app: There are many grocery savings apps that track sales and coupons for various products, including those that are close to their "best by" date. You can download these apps and set alerts for your favorite products to receive notifications when they go on sale.
Check discount grocery stores: Some discount grocery stores specialize in selling food items that are close to their "best by" date at a discounted price. These stores often have a good selection of fresh produce, dairy products, and other perishable items at a lower cost.
Ask your local grocery store: If you have a favorite, you can reach out to them and ask when they typically offer discounts on food items that are close to their "best by" date. They may be able to provide information on their sales schedule or even alert you when specific items go on sale.
It's always important to use your own judgment and pay attention to any signs of spoilage or spoilage, such as off odors, mold, or a sour taste, as these can be signs that the food is no longer safe to eat.
Read books and online articles about vegetable gardening and herb cultivation.
Attend workshops and classes offered by local gardening organizations, community centers, or botanical gardens.
Join a community garden or a gardening club, which can provide access to resources and experienced gardeners to answer questions.
Watch online tutorials or gardening videos for specific tips on growing certain herbs and vegetables.
Experiment with growing a small herb or vegetable garden in a sunny location, such as a windowsill, patio, or balcony. Herbs are very easy to grow and resilient and full of nutrients. Or try growing other simple staples that will grow in pots (like tomatoes, they freeze well).
Consult with local garden centers and nurseries for advice on what grows well in your climate and soil.
Visit other people's gardens or community gardens for inspiration and ideas.
Use online forums, such as gardening blogs or social media groups, to ask questions and connect with other gardeners.
Canned beans, such as chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans, which are a great source of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.
Canned tomatoes, which are a good source of vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Canned fruit, such as peaches, pears, and pineapples, which are a convenient and healthy snack option. Make sure to choose fruit canned in its own juice or water, rather than syrup.
Canned fish, such as salmon and tuna, which are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Canned vegetables, such as corn, green beans, and carrots, which are a convenient and budget-friendly way to get more vegetables in your diet.
Important note: When choosing canned foods, it's important to read the label and look for options that are low in salt, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. Try to choose canned foods with simple ingredients and avoid those with added preservatives or artificial ingredients. Additionally, it's best to opt for BPA-free cans, as some research has suggested that BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical used in some canned foods, may be harmful to human health.
They are a cost-effective alternative to fresh and can be a healthy and convenient way to get the nutrients your body needs.
Nutrient retention: In many cases, frozen fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen at their peak ripeness, which helps to lock in the nutrients. In fact, some studies have shown that frozen fruits and vegetables can have higher levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins and antioxidants, compared to fresh produce that has been stored for an extended period of time.
Convenience: Frozen fruits and vegetables are a convenient option because they can be stored for longer periods of time and are ready to use when you need them. This means you can always have healthy options on hand, even when fresh produce is not available.
Affordability: Frozen fruits and vegetables are often less expensive than fresh, especially when they're out of season. They can also help reduce food waste by reducing spoilage, since they have a longer shelf life.
Versatility: Frozen fruits and vegetables can be used in a variety of recipes, including smoothies, soups, stews, stir-fries, and baked goods. They're also a great addition to oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese for a healthy snack.
Just be sure to check the ingredients and choose options that are free from added sugars, salts, and unhealthy fats.
Here are a few examples that are just as good as their name-brand counterparts.:
Over-the-counter medications: Many generic pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are just as effective as their name-brand counterparts, but cost significantly less.
Cleaning supplies: Store-brand cleaning supplies, such as all-purpose cleaners, dish soap, and laundry detergent, are often just as effective as name-brand products and can save you money.
Pantry staples: Basic pantry staples, such as flour, sugar, and cooking oils, can be purchased in generic form without sacrificing quality.
Personal care items: Generic personal care items, such as shampoo, toothpaste, and razors, are often just as good as their name-brand counterparts, but at a lower cost.
Snacks and packaged foods: Generic snacks and packaged foods, such as crackers, cookies, and cereal, are often just as tasty as their name-brand counterparts, but are significantly less expensive.
Keep in mind that some generic products may have a slightly different taste or texture, but they can still be a great option for saving money while maintaining quality. It's always a good idea to try a few different generic products to see which ones work best for you and your family.
At times, eating healthy can feel like a luxury reserved for those who can afford to splurge on pricey organic produce and fancy health foods. But the truth is that eating well doesn't have to be an exclusive privilege. It's possible to nourish your body with nutritious meals while still sticking to a tight budget.
By following the tips I've discussed in this post, you can unlock the secret to eating healthy on a shoestring. Whether it's shopping for seasonal produce or buying in bulk, these strategies will help you make the most out of your grocery budget. Plus, you'll be amazed by the flavor and satisfaction that comes with homemade meals made with simple, wholesome ingredients.
So if you've ever felt like healthy eating is out of reach, know that it's within your grasp. You deserve to feel your best, both physically and mentally, and it all starts with the food you eat. Give these tips a try and watch as you transform your health and your wallet at the same time. You've got this!
Because this habit is so essential, yet so hard to adopt and maintain, I created an eBook called Fast & Easy Meal Prep Recipes to help you get over those first hurdles of making meal prep a part of your life.
Inside you’ll find mouthwatering make-head recipes for:
- Snacks (this section might be my favorite!)
Download it here!