Healthy Eating on a Budget

How to eat healthy on a budget Purchasing unique foods, superfoods, plant-based foods and whole foods in general can be quite expensive, I’ll be the first to admit. BUT it doesn’t have to be! You can navigate your own kitchen, markets, and bulk bins to continue living a healthy lifestyle eating whole foods. Today I’m going to share with you all another “How to” series for Healthy Eating on a Budget.

This has been a highly requested blog post for quite some time now, for good reason. All of us want to and should be able to, eat healthy whole foods as much as possible without spending our savings. Healthy eating can be an investment, but it’s an investment to your health which is the most important investment of all. Regardless if you’re on a budget or not, these are amazing ways to eat healthy, plant-based, and whole foods- tips that I live by every week when I’m making a trip to the market!

Now granted I buy more food than the standard household, I’m constantly recipe developing and creating in the kitchen which requires a lot of tests (i.e. FOOD!) and I’ll occasionally have pitfalls in the kitchen where it goes to waste or the compost. Nonetheless, I’ve had to sharpen my skills in the past year with shopping in a more budget friendly way. Here’s what has helped me shop smart and still consume healthy foods daily.

Top 20 tips for eating healthy plant-based and whole foods on a budget: 

1 // Befriend beans. Beans, lentils, legumes, pulses- whatever you may call them, are all fantastic ways to bulk up any meal in terms of volume, but also with calories and nutrition without costing you much. Dry pulses are great to purchase in bulk and store well in airtight containers or mason jars.
2 // Prioritize organics. Stick to the “Dirty Dozen” list for the top foods that should ideally be purchased organic, that will help decrease the overall amount of “having” to purchase all organic produce.
3 // Bulk. Buy in bulk as often as possible. At first you may think you’re spending a lot of money on bulk specialty items, but when you breakdown the costs/serving you’re actually saving money in the long term. For example, I always buy spirulina, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and other “superfoods” in bulk. This can also be applied to your beans, grains, and other produce items.
4 // Shop smart. Frequent wholesale stores, your local farmers markets, get involved in CSA’s, a community garden, or pick up gardening yourself. Wholesale stores are stepping up their game when it comes to offering high quality foods in bulk, organic produce, and even organic animal proteins if you incorporate those.
5 // Garden. If you can’t buy it, try to grow it! Growing gardens, whether personal gardens or communal gardens, is a great way to have local, seasonal, and healthy food right at your fingertips. It also is a great teaching/learning experience for everyone in the family.
6 // Seasonal. Remember the season! Trying to get strawberries in the dead of winter is quite expensive, in comparison to purchasing them when they’re perfectly ripe and local to your region in the summer (Nashville for example).
7 // Frozen. Don’t neglect the frozen isle of your grocery stores. First, I’m not a fan of highly processed frozen entrees and meals, what I’m referring to is strictly the frozen veggies and fruits with nothing added to them. If you’re shopping for frozen raspberries, the only ingredient should be… frozen raspberries.
8 // Batch cook! I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it forever. Cooking in bulk or large batches will not only save you a tremendous amount of time for the week ahead, but it can also help you prepare meals using all your bulk purchased items for later by simply freezing.
9 // Skip the “superfoods”. I know superfoods are all the rage now and I use them very often, but no need for superfood powders. Don’t forget the not so glamorous and highly publicized superfoods like broccoli, red bell peppers, kale, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, etc. All whole foods are “super”foods in my book! The darker and more vibrant a colored fruit/vegetable the better.
10 // Nut and seed love. Start cooking with nuts and seeds, not only are they calorically dense but also nutrient dense for a very small amount. I often buy nuts/seeds in bulk, not only because I’m constantly using them in recipes, but because they’re so easy to top onto salads, make your own nut milks with, add to desserts, etc.

11 // Homemade. Whenever possible, make your own version of the store bought. Including hummus, baba ghanoush, soups, nut milks, ice creams, smoothies, juices, etc. You’re often paying for the convenience and brand rather than the actual ingredients. did I mention it’ll be much healthier? Well it will be!
12 // Make your own frozen meals. Cooking large batches of beans and lentils, then freezing them in mason jars is a great way to save yourself time and cook on a budget. Other ideas include cooking rice, roasted vegetables, or proteins of your choice and freezing them in tupperwares to be reheated.
13 // Share with friends. Buying in bulk? College student rooming with someone? Share the costs of healthy eating by buying in bulk or purchasing a CSA membership together.
14 // Be the last one. Purposefully try to catch the tail end of farmers markets, most often farmers are willing to negotiate a bit more because they’d ideally like to share their produce with someone rather than bring it back home!
15 // Meal plan for the week. Preparing meal ideas for the week ahead not only saves you time, but can help save you money by purchasing only the necessary ingredients you need. Check out my Meal Planning 101 sheet on more tips and how-to’s to help your family prepare meals ahead of time.
16 // Make a list. Prioritize the foods and items you need by making a list before you leave the house. This helps cut down on impulse buys and keeps you on track with the meals you’ve planned!
17 // Clean out the pantry. Just like in my Pantry Makeover service I offer, it’s smart to clear the house with foods and goods that can easily be donated that don’t necessarily mesh with your goals and lifestyle. It’s also a great way to take inventory of what you do have to prioritize your next grocery trip.
Also check out my post on Pantry Organization like a Pro to make sure you’re keeping the ingredients fresh!
18 // Make your own jams and special condiments. Using frozen or leftover fresh fruit is a great way to make your own canned jams for several months ahead. You’re not wasting any fruit by discarding, but reusing! Check out my recipe for Raspberry Orange Chia Jam to get you started.
19 // Be smart about storage. Storing your bulk items in airtight containers like mason jars are great ways to keep your grains, nuts, seeds, and beans optimally fresh. Arrange your refrigerator in a way that air is well circulated and keeps everything nice and fresh. I find it useful to store all my greens in large bags or bins to keep them fresh versus keeping them in store bought packages or wrappers.
20 // Flour power. Make your own flours! By purchasing grains, nuts, and seeds in bulk you can easily use a blender or grinder to make your own flour. Store in a mason jar in the fridge to keep it optimally fresh.

CLICK HERE Healthy Eating on a Budget for a free downloadable/printable PDF of my Healthy Eating on a Budget tips to share!

What was your favorite tip today? Share and comment below, I’d love to hear what you all think of these tips and more “how to” blog posts you’d like me to cover. I hope these tips help you on your next trip to the store!

Stay tuned tomorrow I’m bringing you another sweet and simple treat… I’ve obviously had  a sweet tooth lately ;)

xx McKel

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Share Your Thoughts

  1. says

    Hi McKel,

    Thanks for these excellent tips! I especially agree with you about superfood powders being a luxury rather than a necessity. I think that they can put people off eating healthily, because they think that they have to use them to be healthy! I occasionally add them into smoothies, but not every day :) I hope you’re having a lovely day!

    Jen

  2. says

    I totally do all of these things in order to stay on budget! I am GF (Celiac’s) and mostly vegan, so my pantry is always full of things I can make. I think one other important thing is having a basic whole-foods based pantry so that you can make cheap, quick meals easily. This goes with your part about freezing beans and grains, even roasted vegetables. I always like to have potatoes and eggs on hand too, because you can always make a meal with them. I also think investing in time-management kitchen items, like a blender, rice cooker, and a slow-cooker have greatly improved my ability to stay on my mostly plant-based budget. This was such a great post! I’m going to share it with my readers as well :)

  3. says

    Great tips McKel!

    I particularly like the dirty dozen list. Buying all my produce organic really adds up, so I always consult this list to keep my pesticide consumption to a minimal. Buying and cooking in bulk is great for those living the busy life.

    Looking forward to reading more of your How To posts!

    Anna

  4. Pam says

    Hello!

    All valuable points. :-)

    Homemade & freezing portions are my personal favorites. With preparing dishes myself, I not only save, but can control exactly what goes into it. And I love being able to “shop” my freezer…whether it’s for an ingredient or a meal!

    Enjoy hearing your ideas!
    Pam

  5. Jessica press says

    Love this thank you! The problem I find at my local sprouts is a lot of the bulk items are not organic I.e. Beans nuts seeds and dry fruit. How important are each to get organic? Thanks!

  6. Julia says

    Yay! Thanks so much for these great tips! This was my first time reading one of your blog posts and I am so glad I did! I just subscribed to your newsletter! :) As an aspiring dietitian from Memphis, TN, I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future. Thanks again!!

  7. Sarah says

    I loved this post! I was wondering if you could do a post on how to transition your skin from using chemical-full face washes and products to all natural without freaking out your skin? Thanks!

    • says

      Thank you so much Sarah! Great question- not being a skin expert (i.e. dermatologist), I can’t say whether or not that would actually happen- in my experience my skin actually became clearer because it was an easier transition to a product that wasn’t harsh on the skin. If you have specific worries or a history with skin rashes, etc. I would contact your dermatologist too!

  8. says

    What a great list of wonderful practical tips.
    I love going to the markets a little later sometimes to get great deals on the last bunches of kale or some other wonderful organic produce.
    Like you mentioned the dirty dozen list is a great place to start if you can’t afford all organic at least buy organic from the dirty dozen list.

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