Quick Guide: How to Eat Healthy on Any Budget
Are you the one at the coffee shop with your pals ordering the “broke-a-chino” (a.k.a. the mug of water, as defined in Urban Dictionary)? Does dining out mean choosing from the unhealthy $5 menu at the drive-thru or unlimited chips and salsa at a restaurant? Good news! There are ways to eat healthy and not blow your budget . . . and even eventually ordering a real cappuccino.
Yes, eating healthy isn’t as convenient as we would like, but this is your health we are talking about. We are only gifted this one fantastic body, so let’s take care of it no matter what budget we are rocking. Sure, we may have to get creative and work a little harder . . . but that’s what badasses on a budget do!
Use these 10 tips to save money and still eat healthy:
1. Don’t skip the farmer’s market
Farmer’s markets are a wellspring of affordable, locally grown produce available for much cheaper than high-end grocery stores. Get to know the farmers and become a loyal customer, and you may get some insider deals.
Also, try going just before the farmer’s market closes in case they’re clearing out inventory. Plus, buying from local farmers means in-season produce which has major health and environmental benefits.
Want to learn more about buying in-season produce? Check out 5 Benefits of Purchasing Produce In-Season.
If you really want to get involved and find good deals, ask about local farm shares or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your area. You may be able to help on the farm for a few shifts and get even more discounts and maybe even learn enough to start your own garden.
BONUS: You will gain lots of good karma points by supporting local agriculture and farmers.
2. Buy in bulk to save big
Stores that sell everyday staples (grains, nuts, beans, oats) in bulk like Sprouts allow you to save money because you are not paying for fancy packaging and marketing. Grab yourself some containers to store your staples at home and you are set.
You can join a wholesale club like Costco to find other bulk items at a great price. Note, only buy what you need to be sure you don’t waste money . . . unless you’re a juicing fiend, you may not be able to consume an entire 5-pound bag of apples before they go bad.
BONUS: Split a Costco membership amongst your friends and plan a trip every month or so to maximize discounts. You can divvy up your spoils for even greater savings.
3. Freeze your abundance
So you scored that deal on a huge bundle of blueberries – high five! But when you start to turn into the blueberry version of Violet in Willy Wonka, it may be time to think about freezing the rest. You can freeze fruit, vegetables, rice, cheese, meats, herbs, baked goods and more. Making a big batch of soup or pasta and freezing half will not only save money, but time as well.
Freezing food is also a great way to have plenty of ingredients available on hand to make different meals. Just make sure to label and date everything to avoid that mystery item in the freezer – it’s not pretty.
BONUS: Frozen berries are perfect for adding to smoothies and infused water.
4. Reduce waste = save money
It’s simple – when you throw away food, you’re also throwing away money. So only stock up on things you can store or freeze. Buying 5 lbs of lettuce because it is super cheap when you won’t eat it is not saving money.
Be realistic in knowing how much time you will have that week to make your meals. We often aren’t home enough to use our fresh produce before it spoils, so be sure to plan ahead. Less waste for the planet also means more good karma points!
5. Know when to buy organic foods
We try to be aware of what we put in our bodies, including GMOs and pesticides. But many find buying organic food completely breaks the bank. Luckily, there is a quick guide to help us save on organic food.
The Environmental Working Group penned a list called the “clean fifteen” with the best non-organic foods that contain the least amount of pesticides.
The 2016 non-organic “clean fifteen” list of foods to buy:
2. Sweet corn
5. Frozen sweet peas
15. Honeydew melon
The The Environmental Working Group also posted a “dirty dozen” list of the top 12 most pesticide-packed foods. To avoid the harmful toxins in your body, be sure to purchase these foods from the organic section.
The 2016 “dirty dozen” list of foods to only buy organic:
7. Sweet bell peppers
10. Cherry tomatoes
Save these lists to help you next time you’re grocery shopping.
Another great way to save on organic foods is to purchase store-brand items instead of the name brand version. Who needs to pay full price just for a label? You’re not gonna carry around the knock-off box of pasta like a designer purse, so who cares?!
6. Get creative
Plan meals that use the same item multiple ways. Maybe you found an item in bulk or on sale that you cannot freeze. Get creative in the kitchen and get the most out of your spending. Do you have quite a few avocados laying around? That’s a great problem to have. Now let’s see what we can do with them.
How to get creative with your avocado abundance:
- Try a 3-minute lunch: cottage cheese, canned drained tuna or tofu and some cubed avocado
- Get fancy with mashed avocado on grilled bread for the yummy and popular avocado toast
- Have friends coming over? Make guacamole by mixing it with salsa for crudité dipping
- Another quick meal idea: Slice one avocado in half, crack an egg inside, stick it in the toaster oven and enjoy
- Have a sweet tooth? There is an avocado recipe for that too! Check out our Vegan Dark
- Chocolate Avocado Mousse
7. Make your own
It may sound intimidating to make your food from scratch, especially if you’re not savvy in the kitchen. But trust me, it’s really not that scary. Surprisingly, lots of recipes only take a few minutes to make. And with the internet’s help, you can easily answer any questions that may arise. I have a great marinara sauce recipe that can be used multiple ways, and it is an easy recipe for beginners.
Try this easy marinara sauce:
- Start with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and a can of tomato paste
- Add basil, either fresh leaves or dried seasoning, and some salt and pepper
- If you are feeling fancy, sauté some chopped onions and garlic to add before you blend (optional)
- Blend together in a blender or food processor
- Enjoy your easy, awesome marinara sauce
You can use this marinara sauce for pasta dishes, pizza sauce, tomato soup, lasagna, tuna marinara, eggs in purgatory, you name it! Making your own sauce will give you a larger, tastier quantity than a bottled brand, without all the additives. And you can freeze it in measured portions to easily defrost when needed. Take a few moments to see what other recipes you can make on your own and save big.
8. Ditch pre-packaged snacks
Avoid blowing your budget on pre-packaged unhealthy snacks – it’s pretty much like throwing your money out the window. Plus, they are no more convenient than grabbing a banana or an apple. Most pre-packaged snacks are filled with additives and chemicals, so you’re doing your body and wallet a favor by skipping them.
BONUS: If you don’t have junk food to grab, then chances are you won’t be eating it, and soon you won’t miss it either. Winning!
Are you looking for more tips on healthy snacking? Check out 8 Rules to Smart Snacking.
9. Leftovers are gold
Buying lunch every day is one of the easiest ways to blow your budget. Instead, make an extra serving of your dinner and boom . . . lunch for the next day is served. Leftovers are a quick and healthy alternative to eating out, and you only had to make one mess in the kitchen. Plus you can use those creative juices you have been gathering to turn your leftovers into something completely different.
There are tons of cute and fun lunch gear available to match your style. Invest in a great reusable lunch set that is easy to clean and will fit your lunch box needs – that way you are more inspired to use it.
BONUS: Yep, you guessed it – tons of good karma points for being eco-friendly by using a reusable lunch set.
10. Plan around discounts + coupons
Pre-planning your meals is one of the best ways to stretch your dollar. A great trick is to check out the current flyers/coupons at your grocery store to see what is on sale, then plan your recipes around those items.
If you know what you are making that week, you can check what ingredients you already have in your kitchen so you don’t buy extra and waste money. If you don’t have much time to plan your meals, start small – any plan is better than no plan.
BONUS: Pre-planning will help you will feel super adult-like and ready to conquer the world.
You don’t have to work ridonkulous overtime hours in order to eat well. And you shouldn’t have to eat food full of chemicals because you feel like you can’t afford healthier options. Try some of these tips and get your dollars working for you. You will most likely have plenty of money left over for a real cappuccino or latte . . . maybe even a big one.
Have you been struggling to eat better but get discouraged by how expensive it can be? Do some of these tips sound helpful to you? We would love to hear some feedback, tips and advice from you in the comments below!