How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Three Methods:Creating a Budget for a Healthy DietShopping for Healthy Food Using Your BudgetAdopting Budget-Friendly Eating Habits

A visit to a health food store can convince anyone that eating healthy is a luxury rather than choice. On the contrary, eating healthy does not require buying the hottest new diet food or piles of exotic fruit. If you're willing to rethink your food choices and get creative in the kitchen, you can eat healthy, delicious food for a fraction of what most people pay. Read on for information on how to create an eating plan that fits your personal needs.

Method 1
Creating a Budget for a Healthy Diet

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    Determine what kind of diet is healthy for you. "Healthy" means different things for different people, but the aim should be to get the vitamins and nutrients you need to give you energy, prevent illness, and help you live the type of life you imagine for yourself. Make a list of the foods that fit your personal definition of healthy, keeping the following factors in mind:
    • Consider your physical needs. Are there certain foods that make you feel energetic, while others make you sluggish? Get in tune with what foods are good for you.
    • Do you have food allergies or a condition that is exacerbated by eating certain foods? Take this into account when you're making your list.
    • What do you love to eat? A healthy diet should be one you enjoy. Add your favorite foods to your personal list. Similarly, feel free to leave out foods you don't want to eat. Healthy eating shouldn't feel like a burden.
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    Rethink the ratios in your diet. The most expensive foods are often the ones that we probably don't need to eat at every meal, or even every day.
    • Fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are highly nutritious and can be bought for low prices, and should make up the bulk of your meals.
    • Meat, eggs, fish and dairy products are most nutritious when they are free-range, organic, or grass-fed, which can really add up in the grocery store. If you treat these items as side dishes or eat them every other day instead of making them the focus of every meal, you'll get more nutritional punch for your money.
    • Cheese, bread, desserts and other processed foods tend to be expensive, and they're also the most expendable items in terms of nutrition. When you're trying to eat healthy on a budget, it's best to limit these items as much as possible.
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    Create a budget. Now that you've listed the foods that make up your personal diet and prioritized them according to nutritional value and expense, it's time to create a detailed budget to help you plan your food shopping.
    • How much money can you spend on food each month?
      • If you go out to eat, remember to count your restaurant trips as part of your monthly food budget. Factor in morning coffee purchases, afternoon snacks, and any other food purchases that you make over the course of a month. These will detract from the amount you have to spend on your food shopping trips.
    • Working backwards from your monthly food budget amount, determine how much you can spend on each shopping trip.
    • Divide your shopping trip budget into different food categories, and decide how much money you want to allot to the various items.
    • Once you have a complete budget for your shopping trip, it's time to source your food.

Method 2
Shopping for Healthy Food Using Your Budget

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    Source your food. Start by doing some research. Find out how to get the best deal on each item, and keep track of the information in a spreadsheet or notebook.
    • Consider shopping at more than one place. Rather than picking everything up at the same grocery store, try to coupons or hit sales at more than one place.
    • Eat seasonally. When it's harvest time for a certain food, the prices drop significantly. Pay attention to when the foods on your list are in season. You'll not only save money, but you'll be eating food that's very fresh.
    • Farmer's markets are full of fresh, often organic produce at very low prices. Find local farmers' markets and strike bargains with the farmers. Many times, they'll be thrilled to sell at a discount if you buy regularly and in bulk.
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    Go grocery shopping. It's time to put your budget into practice. As you check items off your grocery list, keep these money-saving tips in mind:
    • Buy the least expensive variation of any type of food. Some foods come in pre-seasoned frozen packages, in cans, and dried in bags. Figure out which forms of the foods on your list are the cheapest, and buy those.
    • Give yourself plenty of time to shop. If you go when you're in a hurry, you're more likely grab the most convenient items instead of taking the time to figure out which items are the best bargain.
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    Be open to trying new things. You may get to the market and find that strawberries have jumped in price, but blueberries are on sale. Remember that your list is just a basic guide, and you don't have to come home with the exact items you had in mind.

Method 3
Adopting Budget-Friendly Eating Habits

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    Process food yourself. Processed foods are often more expensive than whole, fresh items. If possible, buy the fresh version and process it yourself. For example:
    • If you like roasted nuts, buy raw nuts from the bulk food section. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast them until they're toasty and brown. They'll taste even better than pre-roasted nuts.
    • Instead of buying pre-packaged granola or cereal bars, buy the raw ingredients and make them at home.
    • Buy whole fresh produce and do your own chopping, dicing, juicing, and freezing.
    • Make your own sauces, dressings and condiments instead of buying pre-bottled varieties.
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    Invest in food storage facilities. If you have the right storage containers and pantry space, you'll be able to purchase both fresh and dried foods in bulk and keep them for a long time.
    • Set up a cool, dark cellar or pantry for storing potatoes, applies, squash, onions and other produce.
    • Set up a large freezer to preserve meat and vegetables.
    • Purchase bins that you can use to store dried beans, nuts, and grains.
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    Eat out only rarely. There's no way around it: eating in restaurants is much more expensive than eating at home, and you have less control over how healthy your food is. Save eating out for special occasions.
    • When you do go out to eat, choose the simplest item on the menu, which is often the cheapest, too.
    • Consider eating only part of what you are served, since most restaurant portions are larger than necessary. Take the rest home to eat later, and combine it with a health homemade side dish.
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    Learn to cook from scratch. Cooking from scratch is the cheapest way to eat, and it's often the healthiest.
    • Instead of buying canned soup, learn out to make a big batch yourself. You can stretch it over the course of several days.
    • Get in the habit of using leftovers. Manage your refrigerator by resolving never to let anything go bad. Eat it or use it as an ingredient in a sauce, casserole, or soup. For example, old lettuce can be chopped and put into a soup, old salsa can be added to a curry, and old milk can be turned into a quiche. (Of course, don't use anything that has actually gone sour or rancid!)
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    Use greater quantities of cheap food than expensive food in cooking. Use a base of enriched or whole-grain rice, whole-wheat pasta or bread, or cooked oats to provide cheap, healthy bulk to more expensive, flavorful foods.
    • Try using less beef in some chili recipes by halving the amount of ground beef called for and adding water and instant plain oats instead. Be original and try your own variations.
    • In general, cut down on the amount of meat you consume. Meat is one of the most expensive food items you can buy, so by going meatless once or twice a week, you can save a lot of money.


  • Make your own snacks and bring them with you whenever you go out, along with a bottle of water.
  • To save time set aside one day a week and cook in bulk.
  • Replace soda with tap water. If you prefer, you can also purchase an inexpensive water filter that will provide you with gallons of the same quality water that is found in bottles.
  • Learn to substitute. Often home cooked meals do not get cooked because ingredients are missing. If you are running short on butter learn the appropriate water-to-Crisco substitute instead. Keep powdered milk for cooking purposes or invest in boxed milk that stays fresh on the shelf.
  • If it's in a box or in a metallic bag, don't buy it.


  • In order to eat healthy on a budget, you must sacrifice convenience, which means you'll have to spend a lot more time shopping around and cooking than others do.

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Categories: Meal Planning