How To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Last updated on : March 14 2019

eat healthy on a budget

Unhealthy Diets Cost

Given the hectic yet sedentary lifestyles that most of us lead, eating healthy is an effort we often cannot afford - literally. 

Research conducted in 2013, revealed that healthy diets incorporating fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts—costs more than unhealthy diets (for example, those rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains).

And according to a study by the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH a day’s worth of healthy foods cost approximately $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones.

However, there are ways to eat healthy without having to bust your budget or drain your bank account. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks on how to eat healthy on a budget. 

Cheaper Healthy Food Choices

What you put into your shopping cart determines what you plan to eat and snack on in the following days. Make it a point to be mindful when you grocery shop and refrain from randomly picking up whatever seems tempting - focus on whole clean foods.

These are some foods that are easy on the budget and high on health:

Whole eggs:

Besides being a rich source of protein, whole eggs also nourish your body with vitamins A, D, and E.

Canned tuna:

Canned tuna is one of the densest sources of proteins, and also one of the cheapest sources of protein in the grocery stores today.

Canned mackerel:

Though less-protein-rich than tuna, mackerel tastes good and is excellent for adding variety to your seafood. Toss some mackerel on your salad or in some seasoned rice.


Though somewhat rich in fat - milk is an excellent source of proteins and other nutrients. Choose low-fat versions. Milk is a simple choice for your daily intake of protein and calcium and is relatively cheap.


Almonds contain protein as well as monounsaturated fat and fiber and research shows, reduces the risk of diabetes. Whenever you feel like snacking in between meals, grab a handful of almonds instead of a bag of potato chips. Choose almonds still in their shells to save more on their cost.


Peanuts are an excellent source of good fat, and also help in lowering the risk of diabetes. However, ensure that you consume these only in moderation.


Richer in protein as compared to meat, lentils are an excellent addition to any diet. These food items are high in naturally-occurring sources of antioxidants. Explore dishes using lentils to add variety to mealtimes.


High in fiber, low in fat, readily available, and excellent at lowering cholesterol. Make oats for a healthy breakfast. This versatile food item is also delicious in many other ways. Savory oatmeal with onions, mushrooms, and herbs makes a great lunch in a pinch.


Yogurt is filled with calcium and probiotics, improves your body’s immune system and enriches muscles and bones. There are several yummy varieties and flavors. Choose low-fat versions and aim for Greek during the weeks you have extra cash. 

Brown rice:

The whole-grain version of white rice, brown rice helps cut the risk of diabetes and is a rich source of fiber. It also helps keep you full longer which wards off hunger pangs.

Whole-wheat pasta:

Whole-wheat pasta has a deeper and more complex taste and texture as compared to regular pasta. It also contains more fiber, antioxidants, and protein. So if you love your Italian cuisine, stick to the whole-wheat options.


Bananas are a fruit high in fiber and potassium, and research shows they help reduce cholesterol. Moreover, they are one of the most delicious, easy-to-eat, and cheapest fruits - especially during warmer seasons.


Packed with Vitamin C, watermelons boost immunity and help strengthen bones. Eating watermelons is an excellent way to keep hydrated on hot days.


Onions are not only powerhouses of flavor; they pack a surprising amount of antioxidants too. So go ahead and be liberal in the use of onions in your cooking.

Avoid these "healthy" foods 

Not all foods are created equal, and what is considered healthy is not always so. We spent a bit of time trying to understand this, and now you can read our article on "healthy" foods to avoid. 

Tips on How to Eat Healthy the Affordable Way

Sometimes the thought of eating healthy and affordable is overwhelming. Changing your diet to incorporate foods to give your body the essential vitamins, probiotics, and antioxidants, within a budget, is not easy. 

Here are a few tips to help you pull off eating an affordable healthy diet.

Grow your salad greens

The best option is to grow your own produce and go true-blue organic.

Eating salads are healthy, but picking fresh ingredients all the time does become a tad expensive. The best option is to grow your produce and go true-blue organic. 

We are not saying that you need an entire farm, just a windowsill, and some small planters to help you start your herb garden and a few other items.

Sprouts, onions, tomatoes, and several herbs are just some of the things you can grow - although if you have space, you can do a lot more. 

You will have fresh ingredients available when needed and a new hobby. Plus, your home will look prettier than ever, and lots of satisfaction knowing you can grow your food.

Stock up on seasonal produce

When it comes to fresh produce it is best to buy them in bulk when they are in season.

Any smart shopper knows that taking advantage of sales is one of the most cost-effective ways of shopping, so why not plan your grocery shopping too? 

While you may not be able to stock up on staples this way, when it comes to fresh produce it is best to buy them in bulk when they are in season.

Fresh is better any day, but if you are on a tight budget, it may work against you. Instead, stock up when you get a good deal and then take time to segregate and freeze foods for later. 

Keep an eye out for discounts on online shopping sites. Also, try rebate applications such as Ibotta to get exceptional deals and paid rebates immediately.

Organize your fridge the correct way

Organize the food in such a way that the healthiest items are visible first

We often open the fridge when hungry, and grab the first thing we see. Make this work to your advantage by arranging the food in your fridge so that the healthiest items are visible first. 

Consider this - if you notice a tempting piece of chocolate cake right on opening the door are you likely to lean towards the apple shoved in the corner?

Make an effort to store your healthy foods in transparent containers while stashing away the junk food in opaque boxes at the back.

Moreover, keeping your fridge organized means remembering those leftovers and avoiding waste - more savings if you are trying to stick to a food budget.

Opt for cheaper cuts of meat

Buying meat frequently puts a huge dent into your budget.

We all need (and love) our protein and while it is vital to a nutritious diet, buying meat frequently puts a massive dent into our budget. 

Go for the cuts of meat that cost less than others, and use these cuts in different ways throughout the week.

Chicken thighs are an excellent choice. Also, consider going for a whole bird so that you can use different parts for a variety of dishes.

Moreover, leftover meat is easily used to add flavor to stews, soups, stir-fries, and salads.

Plan your meals and prep for it

Start planning and prepping your meals for the week over the weekend (this includes breakfast)

We are more likely to dine out or call for pizza after a long day of work if there are no easy-to-eat meals available. 

This ordering in temptation likely also means that you are wasting whatever is in the fridge.

To avoid this, start planning and prepping your meals for the week (this includes breakfast) over the weekend. And you will not only eat healthier but also not feel guilty about indulging in a restaurant meal once in a while - all the time remaining within your desired budget. 

Carry your lunch to work

Start packing home-cooked lunches and carrying it to work

Eating lunch with coworkers is fun and very expensive. Dining out does not come cheap, and does not do much good for your health either. 

So start packing home-cooked lunches and carrying it to work—no extra effort (since you are already prepping your meals for the week).

This excellent habit costs a fraction of eating out and ensures that you stick to your healthy meal plan.

Swap your desserts with different fruits

If you want to stick to a healthy diet but have a sweet tooth, simply make fruits your dessert.

It is tough to resist the lure of the brownie calling out your name. But before you devour it, think about how many calories you are gulping down. 

To stick to a healthy diet with a sweet tooth, merely make fruits your dessert. There are enough varieties not to get bored, and you can buy cheaply during sales or in the season to stock up, and have frozen fruits available anytime. 

Stop buying unhealthy drinks and junk food.

Cut out the junk food and make water your choice of drink—costs almost nothing and has a whole lot of health benefits.

The best way to avoid eating unhealthy food is to stop buying them. 

Canned juices, soda, fries, and processed foods are not cheap, so why spend money to harm your body? 

Cut out the junk food and make water your choice of drink—costs almost nothing and has a whole lot of health benefits.


Eating the right foods for a healthy lifestyle is not a time-consuming or expensive process if you are smart about it. 

All you need is determination - so try incorporating these tips, and soon you will notice changes in your health and your bank account.  

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