We hear it all the time: “Eating healthy on a budget is impossible!” And the truth is—nope, it’s not. Did you know plenty of healthy foods are actually budget friendly? It’s true! You know what isn’t budget friendly? Processed junk. Yeah, we said it.
And get this . . . we’re not talking about only beans and rice here (although, that’s a perfect example of healthy and cheap). There are plenty of ways you can stick to eating healthy on a budget!
Cheap Foods for Eating Healthy on a Budget
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Rice and beans are healthy for you, and they’re pretty dang cheap too. Cook up a veggie medley on the side, and you’ve got yourself a super inexpensive and healthy meal. You can even get fancy and do black beans and brown rice. Throw in some salsa and have yourself a fiesta.
But you don’t have to survive on just beans and rice to master eating healthy on a budget. Here are some budget-friendly ingredients to add to your grocery list:
- Multigrain pasta
- Multigrain bread
- Russet potatoes
- Cottage cheese
- Dried lentils
- Baby carrots
- Brown rice
- Chicken breast
- Sweet potatoes
- Peanut butter
- Dried beans
- Frozen fruits
- Frozen vegetables
Best Places to Buy Cheap Groceries
There’s no denying marketing works—even food marketing. Somehow, we’ve gotten it into our heads that in order to “eat healthy,” we have to shop for groceries at the well-known, specialty “healthy grocery stores” (you know the places).
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Those kinds of stores might have things on sale, sure. But there’s no need to do all your grocery shopping for the week there. And guess what! Lots of other stores sell fruits, veggies and other healthy food items at slashed prices too. Here are the top 13 American grocery stores with the cheapest prices!1 You can use this as your go-to grocery store list when eating healthy on a budget:
2. Market Basket
3. WinCo Foods
4. Food 4 Less
7. Trader Joe’s
8. Walmart Neighborhood Market
13. Sam’s Club
15 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
1. Plan your meals.
That’s right—it’s meal prep time! And guess what? It really isn’t as hard as you might think it is. Making a plan for your meals is kind of like making a plan with your budget. It might take some practice at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be golden!
Spend one night a week planning the meals you want to make for the next seven days. Depending on when you go grocery shopping, these meals might use up what’s left in your fridge or be based around your grocery shopping list for the week. Either way, just make sure you have a plan and stick to it.
2. Shop for produce that’s in season.
Shopping for a watermelon in December is probably going to cost you—and will it even taste good? We’re willing to bet it probably won’t. Unless you have a pregnant woman in your house who has to have watermelon this very instant, just skip it and shop for fruits and veggies that are actually in season. Your wallet will thank you!
A great place to buy produce in season is your local farmers market. Now, not everything at a farmers market is going to be cheap. But hear us out—you never know what you’re going to find.
Walk around the entire place before you buy anything. This way, you can take note of who has the best-looking food at the best prices. Some vendors will even cut you a deal if you buy multiple items or pay in cash. And if you head to the market later in the day, prices may be marked down to help them sell the last of their items.
You don’t need to do all your produce shopping at a farmers market. Just stick to grabbing a few essentials that fit in your budget. Don’t forget—you can always negotiate prices too.
Bonus tip: Buy extra of the fruits and veggies that are in season and freeze them. You can enjoy them over time and not feel rushed to eat five containers of strawberries before they go bad.
3. Stop buying processed food.
Hey, you know what isn’t healthy and racks up your food budget? Processed food. We’re talking about things like chicken nuggets and pizza pockets, refined sugars, boxed mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, prepackaged meals, cookies, hot dogs, potato chips and other salty snacks. They’re not cheap, and they’re not doing your health any favors, either. And you’re trying to eat healthy here, remember?
A good rule of thumb: Stick to the outer edges of the grocery store when you shop. The closer you go toward the middle aisles, the more processed the food gets.
4. Go meatless.
It’s no secret that eating meat all the time isn’t the healthiest option. Give your body and budget a break and go meatless for a while. Maybe that means you cut it out for the month (gasp) or just go a few nights a week without it. There are other (cheaper!) ways to get protein these days, like dried beans and lentils.
When you do buy meat, just be picky about what you purchase. Stick to lean cuts of meat that are on sale.
5. Make enough food for leftovers.
Making healthy food at home—win. Making healthy food at home with plenty left over for meals during the week—double win. Be on the lookout for meals that can feed you and your family for days on end. Meals like chili, stews and casseroles are going to be your best friends in this department. Slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes are great for this too!
6. Don’t eat out.
Yes, this no-brainer did make our list. Even though we all know this is a huge part of eating healthy on a budget, not enough of us actually make it a priority and stick to it. When you’re super hungry, it’s just a little too easy to swing by the drive-thru or build-your-own-burrito line. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s the wisest decision.
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