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Healthy Eating Tips on a Budget

Yes, eating well without breaking the bank is possible. Here’s how to do it

A trip to the grocery store probably feels a little different today than it did a few years ago. Prices are rising for nearly everything — cereal, fruits and vegetables, soda, meat, and coffee — thanks to inflation. If you’re trying to maintain a well-balanced diet while sticking to a budget, your efforts might feel like an uphill battle.

While you can’t do anything to change the price of groceries or dining out, all is certainly not lost. There are many ways you can still meet your nutrition goals while conserving cash. Here are a few tips for eating healthy on a budget.

In this article:

1. Get in the habit of healthy meal planning

Meal planning is one of the simplest, most effective ways to reduce grocery expenditures and eat healthily. When you plan your meals, you outline precisely what you and your family will dine on for the week. You don’t make your grocery store trips on a whim. Instead, you have a list of items you need to purchase, which makes it easier to control your costs and the foods you eat.

To get started, choose a few meals to cook for the week ahead that meet your nutrition goals. Once you’re comfortable with your selections, identify the ingredients needed to make the food. Keep in mind that you might already have some items in your refrigerator or pantry, so check them both carefully as you make your grocery list.

When you have a set menu for the week, and the ingredients are already available for you to cook, it will be less tempting to dine out. You’ll also have a shopping list of items you need from the grocery store, helping you avoid splurge buys that can drive up costs and adversely impact your diet.

2. Focus on home-cooked meals

When you eat most of your meals at home, you’re in complete control of what goes in your mouth. You don’t need to worry about added excess fats, sugars, or salts that go into many restaurant and fast-food meals. You can add or remove ingredients you don’t want, customizing each meal to meet your specific nutrition objectives.

Plus, cooking at home saves money. While the cost of dining out varies depending on what you order and where you eat, you’ll likely find you spend less making your own food than eating fast food or at a restaurant.

3. Dine at healthy restaurants when on the go

Of course, you probably can’t eat every meal at home, even if you prefer to. Your schedule might make it impossible to cook sometimes. For example, if your children have after-school activities you need to attend, like basketball or softball games, cooking a meal afterward might take too much time. Eating out might be the preferable option.

You can still keep an eye on costs and nutrition when dining out. Look for inexpensive fast-food establishments or restaurants that offer healthy eating options. For instance, Panera Bread has a menu full of nutritious foods, including soups and salads. Chipotle also offers salads and protein-filled meals, including burrito bowls.

Chain restaurants often provide nutrition information on all their menu items so you can see whether your favorite choices are healthy.

Consider local establishments, too — not just restaurant chains. A local mom-and-pop restaurant in your neighborhood might offer budget-friendly meals you and your family will enjoy.

4. Replace processed snacks with fruits and vegetables

It’s all too easy to throw a few bags of chips, crackers, and other processed foods into your grocery cart, but they don’t do your wallet (or your stomach) many favors. Most chips and crackers don’t contain ingredients that help you meet the food pyramid requirements for a well-balanced diet, and they lack fiber that fills you up. As a result, you’ll still feel hungry after eating them, leading you to eat more food.

If you constantly reach for processed snacks, try replacing them with healthier, more filling options. For example, you might combine an apple with peanut butter, which provides a combination of vitamins, protein, and fiber. A greater mix of nutrients will help you reach your diet objectives while keeping you from spending money on foods that don’t benefit you.

5. Look to legumes for nutritional value and cost savings

If you’re wondering how to eat healthy without breaking the bank, look no further than legumes. Beans, lentils, and peas are all types of legumes, and they’re one of the cheapest food staples you can buy at the grocery store. You can purchase dried beans and lentils for maximum cost savings or buy them in cans to reduce cooking time.

Legumes offer lots of nutritional benefits. They’re an excellent source of plant protein and vitamins like folate, iron, zinc, and potassium.

Plus, they’re highly versatile. You can use them in soups, stews, casseroles, and salads. They also have a long shelf life, so you won’t need to worry about them going bad if you don’t use all of them immediately.

6. Buy frozen or canned produce to minimize waste

Some organic fresh fruits and vegetables tend to go bad pretty quickly. Bananas, berries, spinach, and lettuce all typically last less than a week, and sometimes just a few days, before they become inedible. If you find you constantly throw out expensive produce items, consider buying their frozen or canned counterparts instead.

Frozen produce is usually inexpensive and can last months before you need to throw it out. You won’t lose out on any nutritional value, either, since freezing produce locks in its nutrients for the long term. Canned produce is another alternative, but look for items with no added sugars and low sodium.

7. Start your own garden

If you have the space for it, like a backyard, patio or even a fire escape, you can grow some of your favorite produce items, so you no longer need to buy them at the grocery store. Lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, and carrots are all relatively easy to grow and don’t require a significant time commitment from you. If you tend to use lots of herbs or seasonings, grow them yourself to save money.

Gardening is more than a simple way to cut down on costs while eating healthy. It’s also an enjoyable hobby that people find relaxing. The pride of picking a tomato or cucumber you grew yourself can be quite satisfying. You can get your kids involved, too, teaching them lifelong skills and creating memories together.

8. Cook for more than one night at a time

It can be hard to find the time to make meals every night, especially if you work full-time or have childcare responsibilities, too. Rather than spending an hour or more every evening in the kitchen, try cooking in bulk instead. You can refrigerate or freeze the meals you make for later in the week, so all you need to do is pull them out and reheat them for an easy dinner.

You might devote a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to cooking. For maximum relaxation, turn on a football game you don’t want to miss or ask your kids to assist in small tasks, like chopping vegetables. Cooking on your day off removes the pressure you might feel on weeknights when you’re tired. It can also help you avoid the temptation to eat out.

A well-balanced diet is possible, even on a budget

It might seem challenging to meet your nutritional goals while sticking to a strict budget, but it’s doable. Use our tips to cut costs while maintaining a well-balanced diet. With the right strategies, you’ll eat healthier without digging too far into your wallet.

While figuring out how to eat better on a budget is one important task to tackle, another is providing financial protection for your family in case something happens to you. At Haven Life, we offer affordable term life insurance policies with a simple application process. Start by getting a free online life insurance quote today.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus

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