Healthy Foods for a Tight Budget

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“But buying healthy foods is expensive!” – I hear people say that nearly every day. But it’s not true.

I understand where the notion originates. It is cheaper to buy Ramen Noodles than Quinoa ravioli. Thus, without putting in much effort, buying healthy is definitely more expensive than buying nasty processed food. But with a little planning, eating healthy foods can be cheap. What I’ll share in this post is how to eat healthy while staying on a budget. The fact is, I eat healthy on $75/month. It can be done.

Healthy Foods on a Tight Budget

healthy foodsWhat you want to do is aim to buy foods that are naturally cheap. This way, you don’t have to rely on coupons or sales. Here are healthy foods that are cheap to grow, therefore cheap to buy:

  • Carrots
  • Red delicious apples
  • Bananas
  • Pumpkin
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Peanuts/peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Canned vegetables
  • Basically any carbohydrate: breads, cereals, oatmeal, tortillas, chips
  • Basically any bean: my favorites are chick peas, black beans, and refried beans.
  • Basically any type of potato

A big reason why eating healthy is cheap is because healthy foods require little processing. Things like carrots, strawberries, and potatoes go from farm to table pretty easily. This means you don’t have to pay for giant factories to turn healthy, whole foods into things like Doritos, Bagel Bites, or oatmeal cream pies.

Pro tip: When grocery shopping, avoid the middle aisles. The middle aisles are where the junk food lies. The perimeter of the store is where all the meats, dairy, vegetables, and fruits reside. Stick to the perimeter when possible. I only go down the center isles for things like canned vegetables and beans, or nuts.

cooking healthy foodsKeep It Cheap by Cooking

Furthermore, eating healthy is a lot about cooking from scratch. Cooking from scratch means you save money over having things chopped, packaged, and messed with by machines in a giant food processing factory.

One big point as well to consider is that eating whole food fills you up MUCH faster than trying to get full by eating pop-tarts and similar poo-poo items all day long. Those products are filled with things such as MSG, simple carbohydrates, and sugar. Many of their ingredients actually make you hungrier than you were before. Seriously, try to get satisfied by eating junk food all day. It won’t happen without an insane quantity. Try eating potatoes, carrots, beans, and breads. You’ll fill up for around a buck.

When shopping for healthy foods, consider how they are presented. Are they fresh, canned, or frozen? Fresh is good because it tastes great. One drawback though is usually fresh food gets picked early and then artificially ripened on its way to the store. When harvested early, the food is not mature. That means all nutrients haven’t been instilled in the food. Fresh foods are actually less healthy than canned or frozen. Canned is good because it’s cheap, keeps for ages, and requires no-fuss transport. The no-fuss transport bit is especially good if you use a bicycle and trailer to transport your groceries (I highly recommend).

I’ve been eating these types of healthy foods for about 2 years. I’ve never been more fit. I’ve never had more energy. Healthy shopping is definitely a lifestyle change which everyone should embrace. But I don’t mean to get preachy. In fact, if you want Little Debbie Cakes sometimes, go for it. But, if I can help you get just a little healthier on a budget, this post will have served you well.

Other Ways to Save on Healthy Groceries

healthy foodsThere are tons of people saving big money on groceries. Besides buying naturally cheap whole foods, here are a few other ways to save:

  • Get a club membership to a store like Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s.
  • Avoid wasting food whenever possible.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze. This way you can still eat healthy, even when you don’t have time to cook a meal. Some meals (especially tomato-based meals) are even better when reheated.
  • Try new food in small quantities. This will keep you from wasting it if you don’t like it.
  • Avoid overeating. It’s wasted money.
  • Use tools like Walmart’s ad match to save money on what you’ll already be buying
  • Stores like Target always have sales on certain foods. Take advantage of them.

Final Thoughts

Eating healthy is as much about mindset as it is about habit. Work hard to get your mind in the right place. Understand why it is you want to eat healthy. Do you want to live longer? Do you want more energy? Do you want to impress someone with your amazing figure? Whatever the reason, keep it in mind. Pretty soon, eating healthy foods on a budget will become a habit.

What cheap healthy foods do you like to eat?

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5 comments to Healthy Foods for a Tight Budget

  • Centering meals around inexpensive produce or meat is my best tip. Shopping at just one store (Aldi) helps us keep our grocery costs down, and our health levels up. About once a quarter, I shop at another grocer to buy Asian ingredients and dried beans, but for the most part it is simpler and more convenient to shop once.

  • Great loads of ideas here Derek – I agree with you about refried beans – though here in the UK they are *expensive* – like three or four times the price of “normal” beans 🙁

    One of the biggest things we do to eat healthy on a budget is grow most of our own veggies – and even some fruit. We also harvest in bulk, then blanch and freeze much of it, so it’s super-easy to pull out all sorts of pre-chopped veggies at a moment’s notice.

    Doing this we pretty much have a year-round supply (though it takes two freezers to keep the system going!)
    Richard recently posted..5 Ways Frugality Pays Off

    • Ha, my wife and I tried to grow some veggies this year….and we still have some more to learn. Pretty sure our tomatoes just didn’t get enough sun – they just wouldn’t ripen!! Too bad, but we’ll do better next year!

  • […] Healthy eating on a budget requires a certain amount of discipline, and may require you to open your mind before opening your mouth. However, once you master the basic tenets of shopping smart, cooking with a purpose, and focusing on nutrition, what once seemed impossible can become routine. Read on for an introduction to eating well on a budget. […]

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