Healthy eating can sometimes be expensive and out of reach for those on a tight budget. However, with some planning and mindful shopping, creating a nutritious and satisfying diet is possible without breaking the bank. By selecting nutrient-rich foods, using leftovers, and buying in bulk, individuals can save money and prioritize their health through a budget-friendly diet.
Healthy eating on a budget may feel impossible to many families. Recent talks about inflation raise awareness for those who plan family eating, as inflation affects prices in grocery stores. How can we eat healthily and stick to a budget? Here are ways to balance your bank account and meal preparation.
Meal Prep and Cooking at Home
One effective way is by cooking at home. To make this feasible, it is essential to plan healthy, affordable, and simple meals that can be made daily. Meal planning can help you know exactly what to buy, reduce food waste by allowing for leftovers, and minimize the temptation to order takeout. Here are some tips to make healthy meal planning simple and cost-effective.
- Define your nutrition need: Consider your daily activities, dietary restrictions, and any allergies to determine what you need to nourish your body. To achieve a well-rounded meal, ensure it contains a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and add fruits and vegetables whenever possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 adults in the US consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (2-3 cups of vegetables and 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day).
- Establish a grocery budget: Determine your weekly budget based on your dietary needs and spending habits. The USDA suggests a weekly budget of $57-$82 for men and $57-$70 for women aged 19 to 50 on a low-cost to moderate diet. Keep in mind that grocery prices may vary depending on where you live. Consider shopping at cost-effective stores such as Aldi or Trader Joe’s for essential items, as they often offer lower prices than other supermarkets.
- Money-Saving Foods: Opt for wallet-friendly foods such as oats, eggs, beans, nut kinds of butter, whole-grain kinds of pasta, potatoes, and frozen vegetables.
- Prepare Ingredients: Prepare ingredients in advance for easy dinnertime cooking. Wash, cut, and ready produce for cooking when you have free time. Keep it simple with double batches of your favorite meals and minimal-ingredient breakfast and lunch recipes. Choose store-brand items for small savings that add up over time.
- Limit meat consumption: Meat can be a significant expense in your grocery budget. Try reducing your meat consumption and replacing it with plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, and tofu. These options are often much less expensive and just as satisfying.
Inexpensive, Nutritious Staples
A nutritious shopping list can include a mix of fresh and processed foods. Processed foods get a bad reputation, but it’s important to note that the level and type of processing impact their nutrient content. For example, through techniques such as freezing and canning, we can stock our pantry and freezer with healthy staples like frozen fruits and veggies, canned fish, and beans. When selecting canned or frozen options, choose those without added sodium, sugar, or other artificial ingredients.
(Harvard – The Nutrition Source)
Eating healthily doesn’t have to be expensive. With intelligent meal planning, home cooking, and informed grocery shopping, you can consume nutrient-dense foods on even the tightest budget. Avoid highly processed foods, as they are costly in more ways than one. Excessive sodium and sugar intake can result in various health issues, leading to additional costs for treatment and potentially reducing your ability to work. While nutrient-rich foods may have an initial fee, investing in your health is priceless in the long run.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “6 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Sept. 2022,
Harvard – The Nutrition Source. “Strategies for Eating Well on a Budget.” The Nutrition Source, 2 Oct. 2020, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/strategies-nutrition-budget/.
Monaco-Vavrik, MaryBeth. “Meal Prep on a Budget: Try These 10 Healthy and Affordable Meal-Prepping Tips.” CNET, CNET, 3 Jan. 2023, www.cnet.com/health/nutrition/meal-prep-on-a-budget-try-these-10-healthy-and-affordable-meal-prepping-tips/.