10 Tips: Eating Healthy on a Budget!

Hi Davey,

I really want to get in better shape. I’ve been following your blog and doing a lot of the “at home” training as I cant afford a gym. Actually, I cant afford a good diet either. I’m unemployed and have to stretch my dollars.

Are there any suggestions you could make for a good diet on a very low budget?

Cheers,
Pauly

Hey Pauly,

That healthy diets tend to be more expensive is a huge challenge for this country and our planet. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that unhealthy diets – though cheaper at the register – will contribute to expensive and potentially debilitating medical issues down the road. So while the upfront costs of an unhealthy diet may be less, the longer term costs can become quite staggering.

Having said that, there are plenty of ways to eat healthier while still on a budget.

Try these tips:

  1. Buy in bulk. Lean meats can be expensive – but when you buy in greater quantities, the cost per serving becomes discounted. Freeze your bulk purchases and defrost as needed.
  2. Drink water. And not just any water – drink tap water. The water that comes out of your faucet is probably quite similar in quality to the water you can buy in bottles, but it’s a fraction of a price. The national average price for tap water in the United States is $2.00 per 1,000 gallons. Now that’s cheap. Moreover, water is a healthy (and cheaper) alternative to other beverages – like sugary juices and soda.
  3. Buy in season. Seasonal produce tends to be much cheaper than purchasing out of season; stock up when you can.
  4. Buy generic. Opting for store brands can save you a bundle. The foods are likely similar in taste, ingredients and flavor – and usually only differ in price.
  5. Eat eggs! Yes, eggs are cheap – and a great source of protein. True, eggs have cholesterol – but dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol are not one in the same; they are healthy (and delicious!) to eat in moderation.
  6. Eat fish – from a can. Canned tuna is another great way to get protein without breaking the bank – just make sure that the sodium levels aren’t too high. Fuel your body by adding tuna to salads and sandwiches.
  7. Avoid packaged and processed foods. If your meal is coming out of a box, it’s probably not going to be healthy. Cooking from raw ingredients isn’t only healthier, it’s cheaper. To that end, make your own meals.
  8. Buy frozen veggies and fruits. Fresh produce, especially when it’s not in season, can be super expensive. Berries, in particular, tend to be very pricey. However, buying frozen produce is a great alternative – and because the produce is frozen at peak ripeness, frozen produce often contains more nutrients than the fresh alternatives.
  9. Grow a vegetable garden. If you have the outdoor space and some extra time, grow your own vegetables. It’s fun, easy and it will help curb your weekly grocery bill.
  10. Don’t buy junk food. Instead of buying junk food like potato chips and candy – which are neither filling nor nourishing – put that money towards healthier, more wholesome purchases.

Is eating healthy on a budget a challenge? Yes. But it’s not impossible – and, longer term, it will result in better health and reduced medical and healthcare costs down the road.

Love,
Davey Wavey

P.S. If you have any tips for eating healthy on a budget, please share them in the comments below!

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.

Comments

  1. Hey, one thing I found really cheap is if your flatting, try to buy, cook and eat together. This makes it much cheaper and also motivates you to eat better, be social, save on washing up time (many hands make lite work) and also is kind on your bank balance.

  2. Going meatless for some meals is a great way to stretch money, using beans, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta keeps protein, but also lowers fat!

  3. Purchase vegetables and fruit from a farmers market. The produce may not look as pretty as in the grocery store, but it is usually cheaper – anywhere from 25 to 50 percent cheaper.

  4. I am in a similar boat as the writer, I’m a college student that doesn’t have a ton of money going to my weekly-eating allowance, but I have some great tips on how to save on healthy food!

    – Learn to love lentils and chickpeas! These are usually pretty cheap and are good sources of protein and fiber. And similarly, use those chickpeas to make your own hummus, it’s super easy (recipes are all over the internet) and only take like one can of chickpeas for enough hummus to last a week (or at least a week for a hummus-lover like me).

    – Make soups and stews. Making your own soups and stews allows you to control what goes into them, and they’re usually low in calories (assuming you’re not making some kind of creamy-cheesy soup). I make a veggie-lentil soup and take it to work/school for lunch everyday of the week, then mix it up, and do a different soup the next week.

    – Learn to cook Indian food. The start-up cost (buying the spices, etc.) can be a bit pricey (and hard to find outside of urban areas), but those ingredients last quite a while. Then all you’ll ever need for a basic delicious healthy Indian meal (i.e. curry) is a bag of frozen veggies and a can of tomatoes.

    – Going along with Davey’s water idea, I bought a Bobble (http://www.waterbobble.com) and these are pretty cheap, made from 100% recycled products, filtered water bottles, and it’s awesome! I love mine, I feel comfortable refilling it where ever I am.

    – A cheap way to do breakfast is to make smoothies! I don’t like “eating” in the morning, so this is perfect for me, and cheap. Get a bunch of bananas (super cheap) and a bag of frozen blueberries and raspberries, I used soy milk (plain), but you could use regular milk, and that’s probably all you’ll need to get for the week. I freeze a banana the night before, then blend that with 1/2 cup of berries, about 1 1/2 cup of milk, and dash of cinnamon (which cinnamon, allegedly, curbs hunger).

    Those are just a few tips I can think of off the top of my head… Hope they help someone!

  5. I found that once I got into the habit of buying things that are good for me, my way of thinking changed to “I can’t afford healthy food,” to “I can’t afford junk food.” Junk food became a little treat after I got all my healthy staples and after looking at all the great stuff in my basket, I didn’t need to buy but one small bag of pretzels, or maybe a block of nice cheese (and there was certainly no room for Doritos . . . they would be crushed by the weight of my sack of apples ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I guess what I’m saying in simple, is that you may begin to realize that you start to eat healthier on a budget simply because you have to make more important choices with your money. When you think about how important the food we put in our body is, it becomes something you don’t want to skimp on, no matter how slim the budget.
    Also, being unemployed, if you are in America, you should check out the Nutritional Assistance program (Food Stamps) and also don’t be too proud to visit a food bank (times is tough).

  6. WereGrouch says:

    I feed a family of four on a very tight budget. We have a garden, and trade produce with others in the neighborhood to increase variety. I can or freeze everything we can’t use immediately. What we don’t grow, we buy at a farmer’s market. Meat and fish are purchased in bulk from a wholesale meat market for a fraction of the cost of the grocery store. Milk and eggs are delivered to my door from a local dairy. Once a week I make a huge batch of something- lasagne, soup, stew- with what I have available. I then freeze portions (individual and for 4). This allows me to defrost something healthy for a quick meal- a lifesaver because I won’t let my kids eat the lunches at school. My food budget per month is a quarter of that for my parents- two retired people on restrictive diets. And I have half the trash, because I don’t buy prepackaged foods.

  7. The number one cost-lowering idea is to buy dried beans, lentils, and grains, in bulk if you have a natural foods co-op nearby. You can find preparation instructions and great recipes online. I keep large containers of a variety of legumes and grains in the pantry at all times, so even in the leanest of times I have something to eat.

    If you have farmers’ markets, use them, especially at this time of year (harvest season).

    If community-supported agriculture (CSA) is available in your area, start saving up now to buy a share for next year. Shares are usually about $400, for which you get a share of the bounty every week during the growing season. Some CSAs let you do a little work on the farm in exchange for all or part of the cost of your share. Most CSAs start selling shares in January or February, and may sell out, so start looking for one now. Older, more established (and experienced) CSAs tend to provide larger shares of better quality, though newer CSAs can be less expensive and more willing to bargain. Some CSAs may have a sliding scale or financial assistance for members who cannot afford the whole cost of a share. Many also have an “egg share,” where you can get a dozen amazingly fresh eggs each week for a small added cost. If you are one person, a share will probably be too much, but you can always find someone to split it with. Some CSAs sell half or even quarter shares.

    Don’t be afraid to use produce that is a little wilted or sad-looking. Trim off bad spots. Plant foods will never hurt you because they are a little past their due date. They may not be as visually appealing, but a slightly wrinkly cucumber isn’t teeming with harmful bacteria like a moldy steak is.

    • Having gone vegan, and then relaxing a bit to include tuna and eggs for the extra protein for muscle gains, I agree, lentils, black beans, rice and using walnuts in salads reduces the feeling of being hungry.

      The other thing that a lot of people complain about when eating bland foods is the lack of flavor; using lemon in lightly seasoned foods (tuna salad and egg salad for example) helps the flavors mix and enhance each other, this also helps you reduce the amount of salt you normally use to reduce your salt intake.

      Cheers and Peace!

      • Oh! I almost forgot, if you want to reduce the amount of flatulence from eggs add an eighth of a teaspoon of savory as seasoning per two eggs (a dash if there is a sprinkle attachment to the seasoning dispenser – this may make your eggs look a little green).

      • christopher says:

        try adding some Mrs Dash seasonings-works for me.

      • christopher says:

        canned fish-excellent idea-just this evening-canned salmon-sardines-tuna in water-89 cents canned tuna at Dominicks-a Safeway Company.

  8. Child, please… Tip 11:

    When your junk food craving inevitably comes to a head and you’re at the point where you could bite someone’s dick off if something sweet or salty isn’t put in your mouth ASAP, pump to the nearest dollar store and satiate your inner fatty. The larger “high-end” chains, where when you walk in sh|t isn’t all over the floor, have the most delightful South American candies and European chocolates. Your welcome, kiddies.

  9. Gurlz! Don’t drink the tap water in Oklahoma! It’s cancerous! ๐Ÿ™‚ huggles! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • christopher says:

      dont drink tap water if your farmhouse is located6 600-900 ft from a duck farm as the case in Racine County Wisconsin.but even so-if well water is miserable tasting-pour that tap water into one gallon empty milk containers or jugs-let sit in fridge overnight-and there you have fresh tasting water-without the bottled water price.

  10. jade soh yoke ting says:

    There is plenty of processed food in singapore, and a lot of places where they are selling nice cheap food, singaporeans don’t often cook, they eat junk and rubbish like mac and KF you know what, its sickening. Japan is better cox they all have habits of bringing their own lunch boxes, which when i did try to in singapore, i got stared at , like some freak (=.=) sad sad country, and they wasted a lot of food, tons!!

  11. hey pauly.. i am on a fixed income.. the best advice i can give you when buying healthy food on a tight budget is to shop around.. use your grocery store club card.. buy local.. i go through all the grocery store flyers that come in the mail every week and i find the lowest (best price) on produce and fresh foods and buy the stuff at a few different places… im actly saving money.. trader joes is amazing.. for the variety and price i havent found a better store..
    i hope things get better for you..

    ~ cheers…

    • christopher says:

      you can get good buys at Trader Joes-and although bulk packaged fruit and veggies are a good buy-try Aldi.Meijer-Food For Less-a Kroger division.Safeway has a big access to west coast produced produce-but watch their prices very carefully.

  12. Hey Davey, Im delighted that you post my question. You’ve given me some great ideas. I want to also thank the posters for making suggestions too. Ive got loads to think about now.

    Shopping on a budget can be really difficult, I dont have a car and having to get the train to the nearest town to do grocery shopping doesnt help the budget either but now with all this help Im looking forward to the next weekly shop!

    Cheers everyone
    Pauly

  13. Hello, great advice although I was shocked to see your number 2 suggestion to drink tap water as a healthy alternative, tap water contains toxic chemicals that will cause many health problems and even cause cancer so that was a suggestion that wasn’t thought thru especially for the health of your readers. Chlorine and fluoride stay away! Read up on the dangers of these chemicals! Get a shower head filter and use flouride free toothpaste like toms natural it’s great!

  14. I live in the UAE so I’m not entirely sure if the following item’s prices are relatable to the States but I’ve found that the salads from McDonalds while not as healthy as a home made one, can be very good to your body and your wallet – I usually eat one of their chicken salads a day and make a vinaigrette sauce at home (the french way). That and walking the 5k home from work 6 days a week has had a serious impact on my weight and my energy levels.

  15. Having lots of water is actually one of the most wise tips you could ever get. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I’d suggest eating tuna for protein, but you really gotta watch out for the mercury in it these days. There’s some websites that will tell you how much tuna it’s safe to eat based on your weight and age.

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