OH-Blog Logo
Person holding a shopping basket in the fruit aisle of a grocery store
OHIOHEALTH

Eating Healthy on a Budget

If you compare the price of organic meat to non-organic, or a bag of almonds to a candy bar, you would think that healthy eating is only for the rich and famous. But when you look at the big picture, eating healthy is much more affordable than you might think.

Tips for Keeping Your Grocery Bill Down While Eating Healthy

The first, and possibly most important, step to eating healthy on a budget is to plan your meals and snacks. The second is to write a grocery list and then stick to it. And the third is to prepare your own meals as much as possible.

Those three basic principles will take you far, but we’ve got a bunch more tips to keep your food and your finances healthy.

Person using a waffle maker to make waffles in a kitchen

1. D.I.Y.

To get the most bang for your buck, tap into your inner Martha Stewart. To begin with, cook your own dinners and pack your lunch instead of eating out. Next, think outside the box — figuratively and literally.

I’m not suggesting you churn your own butter or make your own pasta, but a lot of packaged foods can usually be made more cheaply and healthfully at home — like popcorn. Instead of buying the portioned-out bags of microwavable popcorn, just buy a container of loose kernels, dump a couple tablespoons in a brown lunch sack, fold it over, and pop it in the microwave for two minutes. It’s still convenient, and quite a bit cheaper! You also have full control over what you add to it. Olive oil and sea salt is definitely a healthier option than a chemical-laden artificial butter.

Other examples:

  • Instead of buying frozen waffles, make your own.
  • Skip the packaged cookies, and bake your own instead, using healthier ingredients.
  • Make your own salad dressings and dips.

Mother with a baby in a carrier looking a lettuce package at the grocery store

2. Buy Whole Foods

A tip you may have heard before is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s because most of the processed/prepackaged foods are stocked in the middle aisles, while the healthier foods are kept in the outer aisles.

The whole foods you’re looking for include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Dairy

Closeup of a person slicing an apple with a knife

3. Buy Foods Whole (Not Pre-cut)

Buying whole fruits and veggies is much cheaper than buying them pre-cut. This also applies to meats and cheese. Buy of a block of cheese, and shred it or slice it yourself. Buy a whole chicken, and prep and freeze it instead of buying individual chicken breasts. Buy grains in bulk (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, etc.).

Variety of beans in bowls and scoops

4. Choose Less-Expensive Protein Options

Meat is not the only source of protein. There are a lot of healthy protein options that are much less expensive than meat, like:

  • Beans
  • Cottage cheese
  • Edamame
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Quinoa
  • Tofu

Open package of frozen peas

5. Stock Up on Canned/Frozen Foods

Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are still just as healthy — as long as no sugars or other unhealthy ingredients have been added. You can stock up on it when it’s on sale and, unlike fresh produce, you won’t find yourself throwing half of it away when it turns moldy in your refrigerator. Money-saver all around.

Vegetable aisle at grocery store

6. Choose In-Season Produce

It’s economics 101 — supply and demand. The fruits and vegetables that are in-season are easier to get, so they’re less expensive. Don’t know what grows when? Check out this seasonal ingredient map. You can also consider growing some of your own fruits, veggies and herbs by starting a container garden.

Person putting leftovers away from pot into plastic container

7. Make the Most of Your Leftovers

Don’t throw away leftover food at the end of a meal! Pack it for lunch the next day. Freeze it, and have dinner for another night. You might even want to invest in a vacuum sealer like FoodSaver® to keep your leftovers fresher, longer.

Closeup of scissors sitting on a pile of store coupons

8. Look for Discounts

Discounts are everywhere; you just have to look:

  • Participate in your store’s customer loyalty savings program and use coupons.
  • Check out your local farmer’s market, where prices can be as much as 50 percent less than stores.
  • Look into rebate apps, like SavingStar®.
  • Check out online retailers, like Thrive Market. They can offer up to 25 to 50 percent savings.

Container of flavored yogurt with spoon in it

9. Make the Swap

Sometimes it’s just an even swap. Instead of buying white rice, buy brown rice. Instead of buying regular milk, buy a non-dairy option. Instead of buying regular yogurt, buy Greek yogurt. A lot of times, the prices are about the same for the healthier alternatives.

Small child feeding their father a piece of bread at a restaurant

10. Eat Out for Less

It’s easy to save money at restaurants when you eat healthy. Stick with water instead of pricier, and often calorie-loaded, alternatives. Skip the appetizers and desserts. You can even order just an appetizer instead of a pricier entree. Or order a big meal, and share it with someone else.

 

related articles

TOP