Trust me, in my job as a health coach, I hear all the reasons why people “can’t” eat healthily, and most of them are just excuses. But when someone says they can’t eat healthily because it’s more expensive, my heart hurts for them. So today, I’ll address the common question, “Is healthy food more expensive?” and offer some budget-friendly healthy eating tips to keep you … and your wallet … healthy.
If you walk through Whole Foods, you can be easily dissuaded from eating more healthily – the aisles and aisles of superfoods and expensive products can be intimidating and expensive. And I’ll be honest … I love some of those products! My very favorite chips, Siete tortilla chips, are a lot more expensive than your standard store brand or Lay’s. Some of my favorite healthy snacks are Brad’s kale chips and No Cow bars, which are both several dollars per serving. And I truly feel grateful to get to choose these items (“the ability to purchase the food I want” appears very regularly as an entry in my Pepper Planner’s gratitude section!). I am the first to admit that I could skim my grocery bill far further than it currently is, and I feel grateful that Kevin and I choose to prioritize more expensive groceries in our budget.
But what is really healthy food? It’s not a packaged protein bar or a healthiER brand of chips. It’s whole foods (without the capitals!) … vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts … anything that occurs naturally, and often comes without a package. These things are often far less expensive than their fast food alternatives, and certainly less expensive than the trendy packaged products that we think of as health food.
I firmly believe you can fit healthy eating into almost any budget. Yes, it takes planning and preparation, and I realize that people feel overwhelmed as is, and often turn to fast food as “the only option to get food on the table.” But I encourage you to start small … take a few steps towards a whole food diet this week, and watch as your grocery bill decreases. Here are my top budget-friendly healthy eating tips to help you out!
Top Budget-Friendly Healthy Eating Tips
- Steer clear of “health products” and just choose FOOD. This study showed that items thought of as healthy are getting more expensive over time, and it’s clear to see that when you “accidentally” ring up a $150 grocery bill in a single bag at Whole Foods. But what you’re likely filling that bag with are specialty products with some touted benefits that may be nice to have, but are likely not necessary if you’re pinching pennies.
- Use meat sparingly (if at all). I do believe in buying the highest quality of meat that you can afford (ideally, choosing free range, organic chicken and grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef), but we do not need 6 ounces of steak at each meal to be healthy! Make your meat go further by putting it into stews and soups, and getting by with a smaller portion (like 3 ounces) per serving if you have beans or other protein sources in the dish. Eggs, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and collagen all provide great sources of meat-free protein. Getting meat from local butchers, choosing less popular cuts of meat, and participating in meat shares are all great ways to save money on meat. Personally, I buy my meat from Butcher Box, which is great quality and saves money vs. equivalent supermarket cuts.
- Shop seasonally. I adore berries, but buying fresh, organic blueberries is cost prohibitive in the winter, at up to $7 for less than a cup (6 ounces!). I can buy a 5-lb bag (13 times as much!) of frozen organic blueberries at Costco for about $10, or I can wait until summer to enjoy my berries, when they are in season and less expensive. Produce that grows more abundantly in the season is often priced less, so try to eat seasonally appropriate produce! Want to know what’s in season? Check out my free download here!
- Do the chopping. I’ll admit that sometimes I buy pre-cut veggies (especially jicama and butternut squash!), but for the most part, I’m chopping my own veggies to save money. Anything in a package has had to go through extra processing steps, which means it is more expensive. Think of this for other foods, too – the 60-second microwave single-serving rice is a lot more expensive than the bulk bin of dry rice grains.
- Buy frozen produce. Frozen vegetables and fruits (without sauce or anything added … just the fruit or vegetables themselves!) are frozen at the peak of their ripeness, so they are just as full of nutrients as fresh. In fact, they often have higher nutrient content than fresh, because the fresh vegetables we buy at supermarkets have had to travel many miles and have been off the vine for many days before we consume them. So, save money by buying frozen!
- Eat at home. Healthy “quick casual” or “grab and go” restaurants are far more expensive than their fast food counterparts. By planning, prepping, and cooking at home, you can save thousands of dollars each year.
- Think simple. You don’t need a goji-berry-spirulina-maca-wheatgrass smoothie to be healthy … just toss in a handful of spinach, some chia seeds, ½ a banana, and a scoop of protein powder (all for less than $2!) and call it a day. Need more smoothie tips and recipes? Check out my smoothie webinar here!
- Check out some of these recipes:
See it in action!
This meal plan is for a family of 4. It includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all 4 family members for 17 meals each (with two “eat out” meals) and snacks each day.
Let’s break this down:
Breakfasts: 6 (for 4 people: 24 breakfasts)
Lunches: 6 (for 4 people: 24 lunches)
Dinners: 6 (for 4 people: 24 dinners)
To calculate the total for this meal plan, I put everything on the grocery list (included in the meal plan) in my Instacart for Tom Thumb. Keep in mind that the Instacart prices are slightly marked up from what you’d normally find in the store, and there’s a good chance your local grocery store has coupons, sales, and discounts that aren’t available through a service like Instacart. Additionally, this total reflects purchasing things you probably already have in your pantry, like olive oil and spices. Four of the items on this grocery list I had to price online as they weren’t available at my local Tom Thumb, but the meal plan provides links to buy them when you’re doing this on your own!
58 total items purchased
72 total meals prepared
$225.12 grocery bill
$3.13 PER MEAL!!!
How amazing is that? Healthy, nutritious meals for your whole family for less than $5 each. Get the meal plan here.
Now it’s your turn … What’s your best money-saving tip for eating healthily?