Healthy Eating on a Budget

A common misconception about healthy eating is that it has to be expensive. It may seem all to easy to eat foods considered “unhealthy”, e.g. chips, cookies, pastries, and frozen meals, because these foods tend to be cheaper than more healthful options. Good news: this doesn’t have to be the case! Eating a healthful diet, such as one high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, eggs, leans meats, and nuts and seeds, can be very wallet-friendly, as well as good for you. A diet high in these items has been shown to decrease a person’s risk for all kinds of health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, just to name a few. Eating a balanced and varied diet can also help you to feel better in general, and it may help you to feel more energized and less sluggish throughout the day. Keep reading for tips about how to eat healthier on a budget.

Shop the Outside Aisles of the Grocery Store

At grocery stores, the outside aisles–or the perimeter–typically have the freshest, least processed foods. Compare that to the middle aisles, which are typically where packaged and processed foods that may contain excess salt, unhealthy fat, and sugar are found. By focusing on the perimeter, you’ll find fresh produce (look for sales and specials!), eggs, meat/seafood, and frozen fruits and vegetables, which may be cheaper than fresh varieties.

Choose Canned or Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables can be a good–and often cheaper–substitute for fresh varieties. Canned or frozen produce will also last longer than fresh produce, so if this is appealing to you and you have space for some storage, consider buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. When choosing canned vegetables, look for those with ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added’. Additionally, canned vegetables can be rinsed prior to use if sodium content is a concern. Canned fruits can be a good substitute for fresh fruits, too. When choosing canned fruits, it’s important to choose varieties canned in 100% fruit juice rather than syrup, which is extra high in sugar.

Compare Prices and Brands

In large retail stores, many common food items have a store brand that is comparable in quality and composition to the name brand but is significantly cheaper. Look for brands like Best Choice, Great Value, Kirkland, Kroger, and Market Pantry. These store brands are typically lower in cost without sacrificing taste.

Buy in Bulk

If you have the room to store it, buying food in bulk may be cost-saving. It may seem expensive initially, but it can save money in the long run. Many bulk items can be stored for long periods of time, saving you from losing money to food waste. For example, dried pasta can be stored in a sealed container for up to two years, and dried beans can last for up to a year in a sealed container. Family packs of chicken, steak, or pork can be frozen, too.

Utilize Budget Grocery Stores and Reward Programs

Budget grocery stores exist all over, and many standard grocery stores offer rewards programs that provide discounts and special offers to members. Aldi is the most well-known discount supermarket and has many locations nationwide. If you have a favorite place to shop, it may be worth asking their Customer Service about any rewards programs.

Eating healthy on a budget can be done, and these are just a few tips. With a little thought and preparation, eating healthfully can fit into any lifestyle and budget. For more information, click here, and stay tuned for additional posts on this always hot topic! 

This post was written in large part by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.