Eating well on a budget
Eating a diet rich in nutrients has benefits, no matter your age, health status or other factors. People who prioritize eating well tend to have longer lifespans and are at lower risk for chronic (long-term) health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. For those managing chronic conditions, healthy eating has been proven to make a difference in terms of quality of life.
Nutritious meals are commonly thought to be more expensive than junk food, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You can achieve this goal by being more mindful of your choices. Consider the following four tips for healthy eating on a budget.
1. Prioritize making home-cooked meals.
Eating at home curbs costs and helps you better control ingredients, portions and calorie intake. This habit can set you up for success because you’re more likely to eat more fruits and veggies. Plus, eating at home is also generally more cost-effective per person than eating out regularly.
2. Meal plan.
Creating a meal plan and related shopping list is a great idea because it can reduce the number of impulse purchases and keep the grocery bill within budget. There’s an art and a science to doing this. For instance, start by taking inventory of what you have in the fridge and pantry and work backward. You can even find inspiration from internet recipes, cookbooks, Pinterest and friends to curate a menu that’s both tasty and healthful.
From here, come up with a meal plan that suits your lifestyle and budget. For instance, hectic school nights might call for keeping meals simple. Consider using recipes with common ingredients that can be used for multiple meals. For example, you might make a big pot of rice and use it as a side for a stir-fry one night and freeze the rest for another meal. Proteins like beans and lentils make for great staples that will fill you up and provide fiber, which is essential to healthy digestion.
Once you have a game plan, head to the store with a list and do your best to stick to it. You might consider using apps to track what you’ve purchased to streamline your trips to the store. There are some options that even help you follow a certain dietary preference, such as vegetarianism or veganism.
3. Compare similar products.
The grocery store can feel like sensory overload. There are a lot of different foods to choose from and you might not always feel empowered to make the best decisions. Comparing similar products according to nutritional value and cost per serving can be helpful when trying to stay within your means.
Also, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Some grocery items may have a lower retail price (total cost) but a higher unit price. The unit price indicates the cost per serving or weight, such as cost per pound or ounce. A lower unit price, however, indicates a better value, even if the retail price is higher than comparable products. For example, food sold in single-serving packaging often has a higher unit price than the full-size version. This is why it’s recommended to buy the full-size product and create individual portions at home to control costs.
It should be mentioned that buying foods is bulk is often the way to get the lowest unit price. Save money by buying non-perishable items like starches in bulk. You might consider making an investment in a Costco membership to help bring down food costs.
Another proven tactic to save money at the checkout is to purchase the store brand. Items like canned vegetables, dairy products, oils, and frozen fruits and vegetables are usually available in generic versions and usually, there’s no meaningful difference in taste or flavor.
4. Purchase in-season produce.
Buying strawberries in the winter isn’t the best idea for your pocketbook. That’s because eating in-season produce can result in lower prices. If you’re really craving something that’s not in season, you might consider the canned or frozen variety. However, select ideas usually don’t fluctuate much in cost during the year and those include apples, bananas, carrots, lettuce and oranges.
Be conscientious about how much produce you will eat throughout the week, as fresh produce spoils faster than canned or frozen varieties. If you budget allows, try to buy a mix of fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable fruits and vegetables.
In short, eating well might seem like a tall order on a budget but it’s very possible when you’re equipped and armed with the combination of knowledge and planning to make better decisions. You’ve got this!
Still, healthy eating isn’t the only path to optimal health. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances. If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers (maybe not found online), that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at to make an appointment.