How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Jenny/ January 20, 2020/ Thrifty Homeschool Mama Tips & Tricks

I hear this All.The.Time. “its too expensive to eat healthy, I can’t afford to eat healthy”… Oh really? I think you can’t afford to NOT eat healthy😜 in my humble opinion of course. But no, really, healthy eating doesn’t HAVE to be crazy expensive. Read on to find how to eat healthy on a budget!

Is Eating Healthy on a Budget POSSIBLE?

So a lot of people ask this question. Is eating healthy on a tight budget even doable? I’m here to tell you, ABSOLUTELY! In fact you’ll probably find that it saves you money to eat healthy! Why? I’m so glad you asked.

First off, healthy foods are not necessarily expensive foods. What I mean is you don’t have to buy pre-made, name brand or organic stamped foods. Is organic good? Of course it is! Do you have to buy everything organic? Nope you don’t! You buy as much as you can afford and don’t stress about the rest.

Anyway some amazingly healthy foods are crazy cheap. Here’s just a few off the top of my head: dry beans, brown rice, cabbage, sweet potatoes, raw veggies, frozen fruits, fresh fruit in season, eggs, oats. Most of these are available everywhere and for under a dollar a pound! (Frozen fruit might be a little more depending on the variety).

And homemade, ladies and gentlemen is the WAY to go for healthy eating on a budget. I mean seriously it will usually cost you pennies instead of dollars for the SAME product. I have a few exceptions. For example I buy my whole wheat tortillas instead of making them because of the time factor and I do buy some sauces and dressings. You can make those too and I eventually probably will. But 90% of my food is completely HOMEMADE. And it saves a ton!

The myth that it takes too long to make healthy food.

There’s a super popular myth that eating healthy not only require crazy expensive ingredients but also takes an insane amount of time in the kitchen. I’m here to tell ya’ll that ain’t true! (I know, I just said ain’t, my English teacher Momma would pass out). I cook healthy every single day and I am what you might call, a quick cook.

What’s a momma to do when you want to cook healthy buy think you only have time for a frozen pizza? Instant Pot to the rescue! I mean, seriously, this is the most awesome invention for quick, healthy eating. Read my article on Instant Pot Hacks for Busy Moms to see how I use mine All.The.Time. I mean, like, 2-4 times a day 🙂

You can also utilize freezer meals for fast, healthy meals! If you don’t want to cook the complete meal ahead of time, you can save yourself loads of time by simply chopping or mixing all your ingredients together and freezing.

What kind of healthy meals do I make on a budget?

I’ll be perfectly honest here, we are on a pretty tight food budget. Not like crazy tight, but around $600/month for 6 people. And that includes all our meals. My husband packs his lunch too and my kids are homeschooled so we have all our meals at home.

Some of my favorite meals are things like Mexican Rice in the Instant Pot, homemade oat waffles, bean dishes and casseroles or soups. All of these are very healthy and are super cheap to make! Win, win!

If you’re new to healthy eating, read this…

So, what if you’re completely new to healthy eating & you’re on a super tight budget? Guess what? You’re in luck! Like I said before, some of the healthies foods are the cheapest.

1. Buy brown rice, not white rice. I buy it in bulk 5 pound bags for under $3.00 a bag.

2. Buy dry beans in bulk 5-10 pound bags. I buy mine from Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club for under $8 for a 10 pound bag whenever I can.

3. Get whole heads of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower (especially when they’re on sale). Not only are they healthy and filling they also last a long time in the fridge. And when your cauliflower gets a bit wilty just steam it and make mashed cauliflower. You can also get frozen veggies on sale many times for under a $1/pound.

4. Choose fresh fruit as a snack and chop your own to save lots of money. Those prepackaged bowls of chopped fruit may be super convenient but they charge a premium price for that little convenience, not to mention they go bad quicker!

5. Choose water or homemade kombucha as your drink. Not only are these super healthy drinks but they also cost pennies! Trust me its not hard to eat healthy on a budget when you put these tips into practice.

6. Shop sales on healthy food of course. Sometimes it can be a bit harder to find sales (at least in our area) on healthy foods versus prepackaged junk food (there’s always sales on frozen dinners.sigh…) but if you’re watchful you can still find bargains. Its usually in season that you’ll find big sales on fruits and veggies so plan on drying or freezing your excess.

7. Grow your own or go to a U-pick farm. This can be a fantastic option if you have a small area you can plant for at least produce to eat fresh. I also grown fresh herbs which I dry for winter use. You can grow herbs, salad vegetables and green beans in a relatively small area. If that isn’t an option, try going to a U-pick farm. The produce is very fresh and usually you get a good bargain. Farmers markets are also a wonderful choice. I have a local Mennonite community that also has a bulk foods store. I simply asked if I could order in bulk with them and they were happy to have me to! I buy my wheat berries in 50 pound bags for under $30.

Change your mindset for eating healthy on a budget…

Like so many other things, eating healthy on a budget requires a mindset change. You have to get past the idea that you require special “fancy” foods to be healthy. While protein shakes and designer gluten free foods are fine, they are also unnecessary to eat healthy. You can make your own or use a substitute.

For example, while protein is super important, its also not a necessity to get it from solely meat or expensive shakes. You can use cheap dry beans, cheeses or nuts instead for a wholesome diet.

Meal plan to optimize your grocery budget!

This is so essential to your success. You must meal plan! Now, this doesn’t mean you have to sit down and plan out every single meal for a month, but it does mean you HAVE to have a plan in place. If you want to know how I meal plan read my post of Mealtime Strategy for Busy Moms. Meal planning just increases your ability to eat healthy on a budget!

You can also get a meal planning service that sends you weekly menus and the shopping list for them. There is one called $5 Meal Plans that is extremely popular. I currently subscribe 🙂

Use up those leftovers. Don’t be afraid to repackage your healthy leftovers as a brand new meal! Let’s say you grilled chicken breast. Shred that up and make taco bowls with it or taco soup!

Make sure to control portion sizes.

I have 4 kids and honestly if I let them, they will wipe out 2 pounds of grapes in 1 day! Yikes, that gets expensive! And quite frankly, sometimes they do annihilate an entire type of fruit within a couple days of grocery shopping. They LOVE fruit. But I can’t afford 2 pounds of grapes everyday, so what do I do?

I portion out what they get. I also feed the more perishable fruits and veggies first so they last longer and we don’t have spoiled produce. Yes, the kids may complain because they don’t get a 1/2 pound of grapes at one sitting, but they love that they can eat grapes for more than one sitting!

Remember, healthy eating is a lifelong investment!

Sure, you could probably eat ALOT cheaper on Ramen noodles and frozen pizzas but remember healthy eating is an investment. You will most likely spend so much less on doctor and dentists visits (and those things aren’t cheap!) that the savings will far outweigh the extra costs of healthy foods. Not to mention, you will feel good! How much is that worth? I think its priceless 🙂

I hope this article has been a practical help & encouragement to you that healthy eating on a budget is not only possible but very doable! I’m doing it and so CAN YOU!

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About Jenny

Jenny is a homeschooling mom of 4 and wife to a wonderful husband. She enjoys reading, a good cup of coffee, and spending time outdoors with her family. You can find her writing about Jesus, homeschooling, and life on her blog Our Inconvenient Family, and contributing regularly at Lifeschooling Conference.


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