Eating healthy on a budget can seem challenging, but it is possible with some planning and smart shopping. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
Make a weekly meal plan based around what’s on sale and in season. Planning ahead helps you avoid last minute impulse buys and reduces food waste. Know before you go grocery shopping what recipes you’ll be making so you can create a targeted shopping list.
Buy in Bulk
Purchasing pantry staples like grains, beans, nuts and spices in bulk is often much cheaper per pound than buying smaller packages. Split up bulk items into smaller portions to have ingredients on hand for recipes without waste. Bulk bins for produce can also offer savings on fruits, veggies and nuts.
Choose Store Brands
Opt for the store brand version of staple ingredients like canned beans, tomatoes, broths and nut butters. Generic labels provide the same quality at a fraction of the name brand price.
Shop Sales and Use Coupons
Check store flyers for what’s on sale each week and plan recipes around discounted items. Use coupons or loyalty card savings to lower the total bill. Comb through the clearance sections for marked down meats, produce and packaged goods approaching their sell-by date.
Buy Frozen Produce
Fill up your cart with frozen vegetables and fruits which give you the same nutritional benefits as fresh. Produce is frozen at peak ripeness so there’s less waste. It’s often cheaper than the fresh versions.
Cook at Home
Preparing meals at home costs a lot less than eating out. Packaged convenience foods and takeout can really add up. Get the most for your money by cooking basics like grains, beans, eggs, in-season produce and on-sale meats.
Make Leftovers and Meal Prep
Double a recipe and freeze half to enjoy later. Turn leftovers into new meals like fried rice, soup, tacos or pasta. Meal prepping a few days worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners saves time and removes the temptation of drive-thrus.
Grow Your Own
If you have the outdoor space, start a small herb or vegetable garden. Growing your own tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers and herbs can supplement grocery runs. Just be sure to factor in costs like soil, seeds and tools.
Buy in Season
Fruits and vegetables tend to cost less when they are in season locally. You can buy berries for a steal during summer months or oranges and Brussels sprouts when in winter. Changing up the produce you buy throughout the year provides savings.
Shop Alternative Stores
Check out farmers markets, food co-ops, ethnic grocers, warehouse clubs and online retailers for cheaper pricing on certain items. Compare unit prices between stores.
Stick to the Perimeter
Shop the outer sections of the store first where whole foods like produce, meat and dairy are located. The interior aisles contain more expensive packaged and processed foods. Fill your cart primarily from the perimeter.
Buy Whole Foods
Whole ingredients like chicken breasts, potatoes, oats and in-tact fruits and vegetables generally cost less per serving compared to convenience products. You also avoid added sugars, sodium and preservatives by cooking from scratch.
Cook with Beans and Lentils
Dried beans and lentils offer an affordable plant-based protein to bulk up dishes. Soak and cook them yourself rather than buying canned to save. Versatile lentils cook up quickly without presoaking.
Prep Your Own Snacks
Packaged snack foods tend to be pricey. Make your own grab-and-go snacks like trail mix, roasted chickpeas, energy bites and popcorn to satisfy cravings on the cheap.
Stay hydrated with good old tap water rather than buying bottled water or sugary drinks that really bump up grocery bills. Invest in a reusable water bottle to stay filled up.
Incorporate more plant-based meals made with veggies, beans, lentils, whole grains and eggs to offset the higher cost of meat. Even just cutting back on meat portions helps.
Use Every Part
Reduce waste by using every edible part of ingredients. Broccoli stalks can be chopped for stir-fries, wilted beet greens make a salad and chicken carcasses simmer into stock.
Buy Imperfect Produce
Misshapen and oddly sized fruits and veggies that are still perfectly good find their way to discount grocery stores. Keep an eye out for these savings on ugly but edible produce.
Buy Whole Chickens
Rather than purchasing chicken breasts or thighs alone, opt for a whole chicken. You can roast it for dinner, shred the meat for later recipes and use the bones to make broth.
Eating healthy on a budget is doable with some intentional meal planning, smart shopping habits and batch cooking. Focus on buying whole foods, preparing meals at home, using everything you buy and sticking to a weekly meal plan. With a little effort, you can eat well even on a tight food budget.
Meal Planning Tips
- Make a weekly meal plan around what’s on sale and in season
- Plan lunches to bring to work to save on eating out
- Repurpose leftovers into new meals later in the week
- Write a detailed shopping list based on planned recipes
- Allow some flexibility in the plan for eating leftovers
Smart Shopping Strategies
- Make a list and stick to it to avoid impulse buys
- Shop sales and use coupons at multiple stores
- Compare prices between name brands and generic
- Buy in bulk for shelf-stable staples you use often
- Purchase produce in season when prices are lower
Ways to Save in Every Aisle
|Choose in-season fruits and vegetables, buy frozen, opt for store brand bagged greens
|Buy family packs when on sale, choose cheaper cuts like chicken thighs, purchase a whole chicken
|Select store brand milk, yogurt, cheese, buy blocks of cheese and shred yourself
|Purchase store brand fruits, vegetables, juice concentrates
|Buy flour, sugar, oils, condiments, spices in bulk or generic brands
Filling your kitchen with healthy, budget-friendly ingredients does take some work and planning up front. But the payoff is enjoying nutritious, home-cooked meals that fit into your food budget. With smart strategies at the grocery store and kitchen, you can be successful eating well for less.