By: Alison Marras
September 16, 2018
(updated March 14, 2023)
We’ve all been there — we are trying to eat well, but it can be challenging depending on accessibility and affordability. But we know that by cooking at home and eating well, we’ll feel better and while it might cost more, it’s less in medical bills we have to pay later on, RIGHT? I always describe this by comparing our bodies to cars (stick with me here), if you put SUPER gasoline in your car regularly vs. the cheapest gas you find, then over time, it will last longer… while it costs a bit more money each time you fill up, it’s less money you’ll have to spend later down the line. It’s the same idea for eating well. That said, there are some great ways to save money and time. That’s why I’m sharing 10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget! I hope this helps – please PIN and share with a friend to make everyone’s lives easier.
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Not only is it more cost-effective to buy the fruits and veggies that are in season, but it’s healthier and more sustainable too! Our bodies respond to the seasons and need different amounts of vitamins and minerals at different times.
For example, in the summer… tomatoes are in season and they are filled with beneficial nutrients that are especially helpful with the sun. The lycopene found in tomatoes, an especially potent antioxidant, is able to quench biologically damaging free radicals. These molecular fragments are spawned by natural processes, disease, and a number of environmental insults–including overexposure to the sun. (source) So eating tomatoes on a day out in the sun is a natural dietary way to help your skin stay protected. It’s even suggested to eat them cooked with a little fat (I’d suggest some ghee, olive, or coconut oil) for the best results!
To know what’s in season, here is my favorite resource.
Take your list to the farmers market and connect with the source! Chat with farmers and ask any questions you have, such as the farming practices used, where they’re located, etc. If you don’t have access to a farmers market, head to the perimeter of your grocery store (where all the fresh produce is) and look for signs of origin to see how local they are (the more local the better for sustainability and freshness of course), you can also ask the associates there any questions you may have if you’re interested. I’d encourage anyone to ask questions here and there, not to be “that person” but to better connect with your food and where it comes from.
The Environmentally Working Group (EWG) puts out two lists each year, one is the Dirty Dozen and the other is the Clean 15. Here’s why this is helpful!
The Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 produce items that have been found to have been the most contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, etc. and it’s best to avoid the conventionally grown versions of these and instead buy them organic.
The Clean 15 is the reverse of the Dirty Dozen, it is a list of produce items that have been found with the least contamination of pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, etc., so you can rest easier buying them conventionally grown to save money.
You can download the app to always quickly access the most up to date version of it on your phone.
I had an aversion to frozen vegetables as an adult after growing up with those frozen vegetable “medleys” that my Mom would microwave every night. The result? A soggy, tasteless mess. Therefore, I didn’t love eating vegetables as a kid. My parents worked long hours and did their best, and that was the most convenient thing to do and they also didn’t really know a better way for weeknight cooking. Now at days, thankfully there are a lot more resources and we now know the magic of ROASTED VEGETABLES that make everything taste better ????! So getting frozen vegetables was not an easy try for me, having been scarred and all.
However, I’ve warmed up to the idea lately. Not only does buying frozen often cost less, but it’s more convenient so you don’t have to worry as much about produce going bad if you didn’t get to it. I wouldn’t recommend this for all fruits and veggies, (especially if you can get amazing fresh produce that’s in season), but with the convenience, and cost-savings it’s something to try! This is especially helpful when buying something that’s not in season, grab it frozen for the freshest option.
I love to buy all my smoothie ingredients frozen of course, for the best smooth texture, such as berries, butternut squash, beets, frozen spinach, and pineapple!
As for frozen veggies to prep and use… I love grabbing frozen cauliflower rice to save the mess and because it goes badly and stinks up the fridge SO QUICKLY so I find it hard to prep. Frozen cauliflower and broccoli florets are also a great option to later steam, sauté, and roast! Try out different kinds and compare prices near you to see what works best, just remember the water content when it defrosts.
These can be pretty pricey when you buy them on the fly and in small quantities. But if you buy either online or in bulk in-store (preferably when they’re on sale), you’ll save a lot more money!
A CAUTION though, nuts and seeds GO BAD. They’re filled with oils, and oil turns (just smell them). So make sure you’re getting them from a trusted source (see my favorites below – so you can complain to customer service if you get a bad batch for any reason). If they’re on sale in the store, I’d definitely pay close attention to smelling them in case they’re old… and the last thing you want is moldy food that’s spoiling. I’d also say to store nuts and seeds in the fridge so they last longer, hence saving you more money and a rotten experience.
Grabbing your favorite spices online, I’ve found is way cheaper. Whether you buy in bulk or not. (See below for my favorite online sources)
I’m all about cooking once and eating twice! Even as someone who loves to cook, I also love to work smarter and not harder. That’s what cooking large portions can do. If you don’t love leftovers… at least prep your meat ahead of time and keep plenty of fresh greens handy so you can eat them raw or whip them up in a flash which still saves you time.
Buying larger portions of meat/fish and veggies can save you money but mostly, this strategy SAVES YOU TIME. Which is super valuable.
photo of me by Sophie Sahara
Back to the freezer chronicles here, if you stocked up on in-season berries that you can’t simply finish before they spoil… freeze them! Same goes for just about everything. Don’t feel bad if your plans changed that week or feel like you’re a slave to an expiration date, simply throw them in the freezer and figure it out later. This will save a ton of money and on food-waste.
TIP: I always save my chicken bones and freeze them. When I’m ready, I make a big batch of bone broth and freeze the surplus, because it will go bad quickly if I don’t use it all (FYI– when freezing liquids, fill your container half or 3/4ths of the way so it doesn’t shatter if it’s glass). Then I can use that broth for drinking, cooking, and this soup or this weeknight bone broth ramen which takes no time at all.
If we waste less, we spend less… bottom line. So I am sharing some favorite healthy food storage products I use regularly:
This is a simple one: Make a shopping list before you go so you don’t buy unwanted or un-needed food! Also, beware of shopping when you’re hungry or that list will cease to matter. ????
Not only is this convenient, but you can buy in bulk and compare prices easily from the comfort of your own home. These are my favorite online discounted retailers as well as retailers with amazing and sustainable meat/fish.
Discount Retailers for Pantry:
Grass-fed/Organic Meat and Wild Fish:
For In-person Grocery Store Savings:
The beauty of the online resources I mentioned, is it’s a bit more accessible. However, if you are near one of the following stores, I know you can find some affordable options including organic. Check out the stores in your area, ask the staff questions, and feel free to make requests with a list of brands you’d like to see there and even get your friends to join in!
Listed above, are some great protein options but no matter what this can be the biggest strain on the budget. So be sure to switch it up. I love to keep canned tuna and salmon on hand (try Safe Catch brand or Thrive Market house-brand), as well as pasture-raised eggs (I love Vital Farms brand). For smoothies in the morning, I love using a plant-protein by the Truvani brand that is squeaky clean! Switching it up also means you won’t get bored or stagnant.
Don’t be afraid to also venture into those cheaper cuts of meat like ground meat or chuck pieces for a hearty stew. If you have an Instant pot you can make the tougher pieces of meat in half the time that is just as delicious!
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