27 ways to eat healthy on a budget: the definitive guide to cheap, clean eating

Dollar menus, processed foods, protein fillers: they offer cheap value...saving your bank account pennies but costing your health greatly! Between the exorbitant price of organic foods, and how much more convenient it is to buy prepackaged food, eating healthy can be difficult...and expensive!

This is not a knock on high-end grocery stores, but rather a how-to when it comes to saving some dollars when feeding your family. We all want to be more healthy, and we want to feed our family the best, but we’re often lead to ask ourselves, “At what cost?”

If you want to eat clean and healthy, you have to shop at Whole Foods and buy organic produce from the Saturday farmer’s market, right (note: neither of these things is wrong)? No, there are other options. I want to provide you with 27 alternatives - 27 ways to eat healthy on a budget.

1. Plan! Planning and food preparation is paramount to saving money when it comes to your food budget. You’re far less likely to blow $12.00 on that sandwich at lunch if you prepared ahead of time and packed a lunch. You can even prepare your entire week’s meals on Sunday to set you on the write path for the week. Don’t forget to plan when you’re considering ways to eat healthy on a budget.

2. Stick to the list. Once you’ve made your grocery list, stick to it. Your list is one of your greatest tools in eating healthy on a budget. This means don't allow yourself to buy the snack that seems to scream your name as you walk down the aisle.

3. Plan your meals according to the sales. Instead of shopping for groceries based on your weekly meal plan, consider planning your meals around what's on sale. Check your grocery stores weekly circular to see what's on sale.

4. Buy bulk fresh produce when it's in season and freeze it. Fresh produce can be expensive (especially when it’s not in season). Try buying what's currently in season, and consider stocking up when you find a good deal.

5. Keep an organized fridge and pantry. Leftovers are great, but if they get lost and forgotten in your fridge it defeats the purpose.

6. Repurpose leftovers. Some of us love them and others hate them. If you’re not excited about eating last night’s dinner again, then consider using it to create something else.

7. Cook large portions. This point goes along with the previous point. This is a great way to save you both time and money.

8. Cook at home. This is a great way to save money and eat healthier. Preparing your own meals is the best way to control what you are feeding yourself. You could even consider prepping the entire week’s meals on the weekend to start your week off right (if preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner is too daunting then consider pre-making just your week’s breakfasts or lunches).

9. NEVER shop when you’re hungry. This is a great way to end up with a pantry full of junk food. You’re also more likely to make purchases that aren’t on your grocery lists.

10. Buy whole foods. Some foods are cheaper when purchased in a less processed form. Consider canned beans over refried beans or block cheese over shredded cheese.

11. Buy the generic brands. There’s a good chance that the generic brand is just as good as the name brand. All food manufacturers have to follow certain standards. Just because you don’t see their commercial on TV doesn’t necessarily mean their quality is inferior. Check the ingredients when in doubt.

12. Don’t buy junk food. It’s expensive and terrible for your health. And when you do feel the urge to indulge, don’t buy in bulk.

13. Eat alternative proteins. Once or twice a week consider using other protein sources, such as legumes, hemp seeds, or eggs.

14. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce can be expensive and finding certain fruits and vegetables in season can be difficult. However, frozen produce is often just as nutritious. It is also cheaper, available anytime, and is usually sold in large quantities.

15. Go to the farmers market at the end of the day. We all enjoy fresh produce and the other delicious finds that can be bought at your local farmer’s market. But it can be pricey. Instead of going during the beginning or busy hours of the market, try going at the end when there’s potential for better deals.

16. Plant a garden. Don’t have a green thumb or the time to develop and maintain an entire garden? That’s okay because it doesn’t have to be a large plot of land to yield fresh produce. Consider a couple pots of herbs, sprouts, tomatoes, or onions in your backyard. This will help you save money at the grocery store and also create a natural way of infusing produce into your diet.

17. Infuse whole grains and beans into your diet. Beans and whole grains, like quinoa, freekeh and brown rice are both an inexpensive and tasty way to bulk up meals, and can even be a meal in themselves.

18. Add some excitement to budget conscious meals. Herbs and spices are both inexpensive and provide a simple way to add some excitement to any meal.

19. My favorite secret weapon: Aldi. If you have an Aldi store near you it can provide some huge savings. They offer a large variety of organic produce at a fraction of the price compared to other retailers.

20. Brew your own coffee, tea, and kombucha. Your daily $3.00 coffee may not seem expensive, but when you consider how much that daily cup adds up to at the end of the month you might change your mind. Consider the alternative: an entire bag of premium coffee can be purchased for $6.00-$10.00

21. Learn the dirty dozen. The dirty dozen are the 12 most contaminated foods. And the clean 15 are the least contaminated foods with little to no contaminates. Ideally all foods would be organic, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Study these two lists to know what should always be purchased organic and what may be okay to purchase non-organic.

22. Eat more vegetables than meat. I am not advocating a vegetarian lifestyle. Rarely do we have a problem eating “too many vegetables.” But eating more vegetables will benefit both your health and wallet.

23. Find inexpensive vegetables. Beyond purchasing frozen vegetables, cabbage and sweet potatoes are inexpensive year round and can be great fillers and substitutes in recipes.

24. Buy in bulk. The upfront cost may be more, but ordering in bulk can save money in the long run. Consider buy in bulk non-perishables like almond flour, shredded coconut, olive oil, coconut oil, or herbal teas. You can also purchase cheese in bulk if you’re able to find a source such as an organic farmer (this may require some research).

25. Don’t buy drinks. If you’re looking for an easy way to save some money on your grocery bill, look no further. They may seem like a good deal, but sodas and fruit drinks are filled with added sugars and other unhealthy ingredients. If you want to take this one step further, consider brewing your own tea, coffee, or kombucha at home. You can even make your own almond milk if you wish.

26. Buy a cow (and even some chickens)! You may want to find a friend or two, but purchasing an entire cow can be a cost-effective way to purchase your meat. And if you have the desire, location, and ability, purchasing a few chickens is the best way to get your daily farm-fresh eggs!

27. Make the basics. Instead of throwing it in the trash, repurpose your chicken scraps. Stock is an essential, cost saving ingredient for your kitchen. Great for soups and sauces, stock can easily be made from vegetable scraps and leftover bones. And beyond multiple purposes it serves in the kitchen, bone broth is our families secret weapon during cold and flu season. Other basics that can be made at home include bread, tomato sauce, and even yogurt.

What methods do you use to eat healthy on a budget? If you have any ideas to add, I’d love to hear your suggestions for eating healthy on a budget. Comment below with the ways you eat healthy on a budget.