How to Eat Healthy without Breaking the Bank (Eating on a Budget 101)

Basket of Apples and Money Bag

There is a apple in your right hand and a sliced, packaged apple with a container of sugary dip in your left. What’s the difference? Well, the nutrition is pretty much the same and they’re both apples… (Hint: You may want to set down the item in your left hand.)

The only distinction is the price and preservatives (how else will the apple pieces not turn brown?) as well as the slight convenience of not having to cut it up. So you end up paying more for something you can easily slice or just take a bite out of yourself! And since when do naturally sweet apples need processed sugar and artificial flavors to “enhance their taste?”

Woman Holding Apple

On the other hand, you may just want to go the organic route. The truth is, that organic granny smith apple you’re eyeing at tends to cost more than the conventionally grown one alongside it. Unfortunately, avoiding harmful toxins isn’t always the cheapest option, but it’s far more worth it in the long run.

However, let’s not get caught up in the whole organic thing too much because organic doesn’t always equal healthy. And the fact of the matter is, you’re better off eating Budget Friendlynon-organic produce than none at all. Still, it seems like eating clean food comes with a [higher] price. And at the same time, eating tons of hyper-processed foods yields a similar dilemma.

Despite being on a budget, I applaud you for striving to eat healthy regardless! The thing is, your wallet doesn’t have to cower in pain every single time you grocery shop. The good news is there are countless tips and tricks that can save you cash, thus making grocery shopping less stressful (and even pleasant).

Ingredients for Eating Healthy on a Budget

1. A dash of creativity.
2. A solid game plan.

Errick Mcadams QuoteOkay, now that you have those two key ingredients, let’s get to the skinny on eating nutritious, good-for-you food without breaking the bank…

Just so you know, Bob and I already implement the following tips and we hope they’ll benefit you equally as much!

 1  Grocery Lists Are Your Best Friend.

This is especially true when you stick to that trusty list 100%.Shopping List

I know you can find yourself in quite the predicament when you spot some of your favorite foods on sale or wind up in the center aisles where the bulk of processed foods reside. (If I were you, I’d try my very best to avoid those aisles if you know you’re prone to caving in.)

Once you’ve planned your meals and craft your grocery list, do everything in your power to not deviate from it, which brings me to tip #2.

 2  Meal Plans Are Also Your Buddy.

There’s this one quote by Benjamin Franklin that I’d say easily applies to meal planning as well: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

In order to create that aforementioned golden list of edible must-haves, you need to know exactly what food you’ll be making for the week.

Be sure to scour your kitchen to make sure you don’t add ingredients the list that you already have in abundance.

Bob and I like to use a small dry erase board to jot down our daily meals and keep it in the kitchen. This definitely keeps us on track. Or you can just dedicate a calendar to your daily eats.

 3  Hungry? Then No Grocery Shopping for You!

There’s no easier way to do an impulse buy or two, five, etc. than to walk through your local super market’s doors with a rumbling stomach. Before you know it, you’ll need a sidekick to push a second cart around.

 4  Think in Terms of Large Portions and Leftovers.

Looking to save both time AND money? Then tip #4 is especially for you!

As long as you have a freezer and food-safe containers to put the leftovers in, you can do this effortlessly and painlessly.

By saving time, you’re also keeping yourself from getting lazy and opting for fast food or a quick, oftentimes unhealthy snack.

Stuffed bell peppers are a fantastic leftover food, by the way. Check out our full recipe here.

 5  Save $$$ with Home Cooked Meals.

Most of us really enjoy going out to eat. I’ll openly admit that I’m one of those people, even though I’m co-running a nutrition website. Socializing with friends usually entails food (restaurant or fast food in particular).

But think about it this way: A relatively large family who eats a home cooked meal can feel satiated and even have leftovers for the exact same price as a couple who eats at commercial food chain.

And what’s nice about cooking your own meals is that you know exactly what’s going into them. That definitely beats the super refined vegetable oils, MSG, and artificial flavors that go into most restaurant food.

 6  Stock up on Frozen Fruits and Vegetables.

Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t always in season and are normally more pricey than their frozen counterparts.

And there’s the potential of more nutrition in the frozen form because the produce is freezedFrozen Blueberries the moment it ripens, so it stays that way (or freezes the ripening time, if you will). You also won’t need to worry about your produce spoiling on you too quickly before you even get the chance to enjoy it.

Personally, I’m a fan of frozen fruits and veggies because I’m such a smoothie addict. Bob too! All I need to do is add frozen pineapple, strawberries, banana, and spinach in the blender along with some coconut water and voilà! No crushed ice needed.

Speaking of smoothies, try one of my personal favorites (that will hopefully become one of your faves too!)

 7  Make Your Wallet Happy by Buying in Bulk.

Normally, when you buy a larger bag of something (say rice or beans), it costs you less per ounce.

You obviously don’t want to buy something perishable in bulk, but foods like lentils, grains, nuts, and seeds stay good for a really long time. On top of that, such foods are highly versatile and can be used in a multitude of dishes, so the more the better.

 8  Nutrient Dense, Not Food Dense.

Sure, I just mentioned to buy things in bulk when you can, but I’m actually saying something entirely different here…

Imagine you just drank a tall glass of soda with a large fry and a double-decker cheeseburger. You’re feeling full, right? But how full are you really? You may feel like you’re going into a food coma, but that doesn’t mean squat for your body. (At least not anything good.) The human body thrives on meals that are full of vital nutrients, not chock-full of your day’s worth of calories, sodium, bad fat, and the like.

The next time you’re craving something truly satisfying to eat, give our epic colossal salad a go. And for those who eat meat, feel free add pieces of seasoned chicken breast in it.

 9  Instead of Buying Fruits and Veggies, Grow Them Yourself.

Seeds are a lot cheaper to purchase and they tend to yield a lot more food. You obviouslyPotted Herb can’t grow everything in the comfort of your own home, but you can at least try growing your own herbs and sprouts. These may need ample sunlight, but if you have an LED lamp over them and water them lightly every other day, they’ll last you a long while. We’ve had some great luck with parsley!

Depending on what the weather is like where you live, you can easily grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables outdoors.

 10  Whole Foods Are the Way to Go.

Potatoes cost much less than buying a bag of frozen hash browns. Sure, it may seem convenient at the time, but you’re better off making your own and using better quality ingredients.

And if you look at the difference between canned beans and refried beans, the first option ends up costing you less every single time.

In simpler terms, processed = pricey.

 11  Ditch the Cart and Grocery Shop Online.

You’d be surprised at how many healthy food online retailers there are out there. Not only do you save money, you get the food delivered straight to your door and can take your good old time reading ingredients lists.

Lately, I’ve been buying shelled hemp seeds online because I always seem to find them for a considerably lower price than at my local grocery store.

And despite how outgoing I may seem on the internet, I’m a shameless hermit so this is a great tried and true introvert option.

[Related Post: Hemp Seed Health Benefits: Little Guys that Pack a Big Punch!]

 12  Don’t Do Your Shopping All in One Place.

If you’re lucky enough to have a few options nearby, then this tip is definitely beneficial. Some stores have better prices for their frozen fruit, while others have better quality veggies for a similar price.

For example, one grocery store I shop at charges $3.99 for organic grape tomatoes that normally aren’t in the best shape. Another grocery store I shop at charges $2.99 for organic grape tomatoes that seem a lot fresher and come in a bigger package. However, the latter grocery store is normally on the pricey side across the board so I hardly ever do all my shopping there.

Bananas at Grocery Store


I may have mentioned organic produce in the beginning of this article, but I understand how that could cut into your budget if you literally buy everything organic. Luckily, there are quite Mike Rabe Quotea bit of fruits and vegetables that you don’t necessarily need to buy organic typically due to their thick skins that prevent the pesticides from being completely absorbed.

The following lists were put together by The Environmental Working Group (EWG).[1]

The Clean Fifteen: Avocados, Corn, Pineapples, Cabbage, Sweet Peas, Onions, Asparagus, Mangoes, Papayas, Kiwi, Eggplant, Honeydew, Grapefruit, Cantaloupe, and Cauliflower.

^These get the green light.

*Bananas, citrus fruits, onions (the red, white, and yellow variety), and garlic are also relatively safe!

The Dirty Dozen: Strawberries, Apples, Nectarines, Peaches, Celery, Grapes, Cherries, Spinach, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Cucumbers.

^You guessed it…  These get the red light of doom!

Rice Beans Lentils

Cheap but Healthy Foods to Add to the List

These happen to be our go-to low-price health foods too!

*Brown or white jasmine rice
*Rice cakes
*Dried lentils
*Dried beans
*Frozen sweet peas
*Citrus fruits
*Canned tomato paste
*Peanut butter


Cheapest Cuts of Meat on Average

There’s a common misconception that there’s no way to keep your grocery costs in check if you plan on implementing meat in your diet. If you’re on an omnivorous diet, trust me when I say that you don’t have to avoid meat at all costs.

These are some cuts that tend to be quite affordable.

*Bone-in chicken thighs
*Bone-in drumsticks
*Ground turkey

*Chuck eye steak
*Eye round steak

Note: When it comes to red meat, make sure you eat it in moderation.

*Canned tuna (canned fish in general)
*Frozen fish pieces (as opposed to entire fillets)
*Drum fish
*Sardines (both the canned and fresh variety are considerably cost effective)
*Mahi mahi (white fleshed fish in general)

[Related Post: What Does “Wild-Caught” Mean?]

Money and Food on Plate

To Wrap Things Up…

No matter how tight your budget is, healthy eating is still entirely possible and absolutely vital to your overall longevity. Cutting corners can cost you if the tips you follow aren’t for your La Rochefoucauld Quotegreater good.

From meal planning to grocery shopping on a full stomach, these particular tricks will help you spend less and eat more minimally processed foods.

Eating healthier also saves you some hard-earned money in the long run. Don’t forget: subpar health and one too many doctor visits go hand in hand!

And when you reach old age, you definitely won’t look back and say, “I wish I never ate all that healthy food.” True regret lies in making poor choices and that starts with what you put on your plate.

Now that we have reached the end of this post, “but I don’t make that much money” should no longer be an excuse for not eating healthy food.

So kick junk food to the curb and never ever look back! Your body and bank account will thank you a hundred time over.

What tips have you already incorporated into your healthy eating journey? Have any tidbits of advice that you’d like to share with everybody?

Eva Xanthopoulos

“All 48 Fruits and Vegetables with Pesticide Residue Data.”

*DISCLAIMER: Always consult a medical professional before applying the advice given throughout this website. While the articles on HMM are thoroughly researched, it is important to speak with your medical provider before starting a new exercise routine or introducing something new to your diet. We ourselves are NOT doctors, so the information we feature should not be used to replace any of your medications or lifestyle choices that have been recommended by your doctor. Read at your own risk and read our full disclaimer here.*


  1. Good ideas! I only eat organic and wild-caught foods, and I think that it’s worth the higher price not to worry about pesticides, herbicides and the dangers of farm-ranged seafood. But even seafood I am avoiding these days because of the high price and the massive pollution in the oceans.

    • Thanks, Lisa! 🙂 Bob and I are the same way, especially when it comes to fish and “the dirty dozen”! You’re absolutely right… it truly is worth it.

  2. This is a great REALISTIC list for consumers to take advantage of. I agree with you regarding organic foods. I would rather see people eat produce lacking the “organic name” than eat processed food “stuff.”

    In general, people simply are not convinced that unhealthy eating (as well as unhealthy lifestyles) cause disease and dysfunction UNTIL they experience the wrath of this behavior. Even then, they typically attribute it to “bad luck.”

    • Thank you, Jonathan! 🙂

      It is quite unfortunate that it takes getting sick to see that.

      Sadly, it’s a whole lot easier to attribute poor health to “bad luck,” as opposed to actually doing something about it.

      • We simply aren’t educated from a young enough age to develop the understanding and discipline about living a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. Adults believe they have too many other “fires in the frying pan” to contend with to worry about lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, they pay a terrible price for disregarding the responsibilities associated with HEALTHY LIVING.

  3. I was tickled to see I have been doing the things you recommend for a long time. I have a question, though… Your list of “red” foods (strawberries, tomatoes, etc.) has me wondering if you mean just the store bought stuff or, if you mean even the home grown, why?

    • Thanks for reading, Elizabeth! 🙂

      Are you talking about the “dirty dozen” list? Home grown can still have harmful chemicals on it. But if you’re the one growing the produce, then you have total control over that.

      For the sake of saving money, I know eating 100% organic at all times isn’t optimal, but that’s you’re best bet.

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