There seems to be a never-ending debate about whether healthy food really is more expensive than unhealthier fare. Perhaps there isn’t a definitive answer, but when wild caught salmon is selling for $15 a pound and a frozen pizza rings up for less than half that price, it certainly feels like you pay a premium for health. Either way, and whether you believe it or not, you can eat better on a budget—millions of people do it every day, and we know how.
Scroll through to find out how to eat healthier without going broke!
The most important tip to help you eat healthier (budget or no budget) is to plan ahead so you know what you need at the grocery store. Decide on the recipes you want to make for the week, and make a list of ingredients you need. Before you leave for the store, take inventory of what’s in your fridge, freezer, and pantry so you don’t end up buying and ultimately wasting things you don’t need. Also, don’t shop on an empty stomach. When you’re starving, you naturally crave calorie-dense food. Hungry shoppers end up filling their carts with all sorts of non-essential items.
Signing up for your grocery store’s rewards program is a no-brainer, but don’t forget to look out for its mailings or email blasts to see what’s on sale week to week. Consider planning your meals around what’s on sale. Coupons can also be helpful, but only if the food is something you would buy with or without it—you’re not actually saving any money if you buy discounted foods and never eat them. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Buying fish? Most seafood counters will give you a complimentary marinade, but you have to ask.
If you want convenience, you have to pay for it (a lesson Postmates teaches us time and time again). Pre-cut produce is often more than double the price of the regular stuff. Buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts for one or two meals is more expensive than buying a whole chicken and using it for different meals throughout the week.
Buy produce that’s in season. If you’ve ever tried to buy watermelon or cherries when they’re not in season, you know out-of-season fruit is super expensive. Stick with what’s in season, and don’t be afraid to stock up if you find a good deal on one of your favorite foods. You can always freeze extra broccoli heads and save them for a later date.
Meat is one of our main sources of protein, but it’s also one of the more expensive food purchases. Go vegetarian one or more days a week to save money. Tofu and bean curd, which are both high in protein, fiber, and iron, are much less expensive than quality meat. And they have very little flavor on their own, so they can really be seasoned to taste however you please. Beans and legumes are also nutrient-dense and quite inexpensive when you buy the dried varieties in bulk. They’ll last for six to 12 months in an airtight container—so will whole grains like barley, quinoa, spelt, and sorghum (which will also add filling fiber and protein to your meals).
This tip is just as important as it is straightforward; eat leftovers. Better yet, cook for leftovers. Make meals that stretch more than one day. Having your lunches and dinners ready for the week makes it less tempting to just order a pizza when you come home exhausted from a long day at work. Make new meals out of your leftovers. If you have roasted chicken and veggies for dinner on Monday, turn your leftovers into soup later in the week. For foods you aren’t going to eat in the next few days, freeze them in reasonable quantities. If you make a whole pan of quinoa mac ’n’ cheese and have half of it left over, don’t freeze it all together. Divide it up into amounts you’ll use. And make sure you clearly label all of your fridge and freezer leftovers so you don’t forget what you have. We recommend Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lid Glass Food Storage 22-Piece Set ($45) for keeping all of your meals organized.
Do you follow any of these tips already? What are your best money-saving tricks for eating healthy? Share them below!