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A woman is stirring a pan of healthy vegetables on a stovetop in a bright kitchen.

Staying Healthy on a Budget: 10 Tips for Eating Well Without Breaking the Bank

The best things in life may not always be free, but that doesn’t mean they have to be pricey. 

As the saying goes, health is wealth, and one of the greatest investments we can make is committing to our own wellbeing. Studies show that opting for healthier habits can have far-reaching impacts on all areas of our lives, from greater productivity and career success to longer life expectancy, lower lifetime medical costs, and even higher self-confidence. 

But when it comes to eating healthy on a budget, the price of a whole, nutrient rich diet can start to feel overwhelming. While the costs of specialty health foods and wellness services can add up quickly, a few small shifts in your approach to healthy living can make all the difference. 


1. Health is Homemade

Skip the Takeout - While it can be tempting to order delivery or visit your favorite local eatery at the end of a long day instead of cooking at home, the costs of restaurant meals plus service and delivery fees can quickly derail your budget. What’s more, these meals are often processed, low in nutrients, and high in calories, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. 

Focus on Quality - Cooking at home allows you to choose fresh ingredients, focus on nutrient intake, and spend less while eating more healthfully. Plus, making meals at home can be a fun way to spend quality time with loved ones.


2. Embrace Meal Planning

Create a Menu - Planning meals ahead can save both time and money on your healthy eating journey, and ensure healthy eating habits throughout the week. In fact, on average, a weekly meal plan can help a household save around $100 on groceries each month.

Shop with a List - At the start of the week, map out the meals you’ll make each day, and create a shopping list with only the ingredients you’ll need. When we’re intentional about sticking to meal plans, we can avoid overbuying and be deliberate about making sure we have healthier food choices at home.

Think Ahead - Having a plan for your meals also saves the often-dreaded task and time of trying to figure out what to have for dinner, and gives you the opportunity for easy meal prep in advance. This way, your fridge is stocked with healthy, on-the-go lunches and easy, quick to table dinners. 

3. Shop Smarter

Stick to Your List - Since you’ve planned your meals ahead and created a careful grocery list for healthy eating on a budget, you’ll be able to avoid overspending on impulse purchases and stay on track for both your budget and health goals.

Save on Sale Items - Download your local grocer’s app or subscribe to their email list to stay up to date on special offers, conduct grocery store price comparisons, and reach for healthy ingredients at a discount. For an added cost-saving hack, skip the name brands and add store brand items to your cart.

Avoid Shopping While Hungry - We’ve all been there. When we shop on an empty stomach, we are more likely to make unhealthy food choices, stray from our grocery lists, and ultimately overspend and overbuy. Avoid these shopping pitfalls by planning healthy snacks to enjoy before your grocery trips. Pack a smoothie to go, keep fresh fruit on hand, or carry individually-portioned nuts for a nutritious boost to keep hunger at bay before loading up the cart.

Buy in Bulk - If access to bulk retailers like Costco is available, bulk shopping can be a more cost-effective option. The decreased distribution and packaging costs of bulk items can mean a lower breakdown of cost per item. Plus, fewer trips to the grocery store can mean less time spent commuting and less money spent on gas. Try stocking up on pantry staples, like rice, beans, and grains to take advantage of budget grocery shopping with bulk savings.


4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Double-check Your Daily Water Requirements - While many of us have been taught to drink a recommended minimum of eight glasses of water each day, a recent report from the Mayo Clinic suggests that’s not enough. And, men and women may require different amounts. In fact, daily needs for men are likely closer to 15.5 cups (124 fl oz), while needs for women are closer to 11.5 cups (92 fl oz). 

Don't Mistake Thirst for Hunger - Often, dehydration can register in our bodies as hunger, causing us to consume unnecessary calories, stray from our meal plans, and reach for low-nutrient foods in a pinch. Because it is recommended to aim for 20% of our daily hydration from our diets, be sure to consume water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables in addition to drinking plenty of fluids like water and fresh juice and avoiding dehydrating caffeinated beverages. Try stashing a refillable water bottle in the car or at your desk to stay on top of hydration throughout the day.


5. Be Mindful

Practice Presence - It’s not just what we eat but how we eat that matters. Eating mindfully is the practice of tuning into our bodies’ nutritional needs by listening to our natural signals of hunger and fullness. When we practice mindful eating, we are less likely to overeat and more likely to make healthier food choices. Exercising this awareness of our bodies during mealtimes often means slower, more present eating, which leads to improvements in digestion and gives us the opportunity to reflect on our relationship with food and nutrition, building better habits overall. 

Slow Down - Embracing a mindful approach to eating has also been shown to reduce stress levels, providing a no-cost boost for both physical and emotional wellness. 


6. Waste Not

Blend Away - In a perfect world, nothing would be wasted with our meal plans and carefully curated shopping trips. But if you notice fruit ripening more quickly than expected, avoid tossing it by blending into a nutritious smoothie. 

Go Frozen - Freeze raw veggies and meat or buy frozen to prevent waste. Practice home food safety by always freezing meats, seafood, and poultry prior to their expiration dates and wrapping properly in air-tight containers. Keep track of freeze time with dated labels, follow safe thawing practices, and be on the lookout for signs of decline in quality such as color change.

Get Creative - Try this fun, no-waste meal challenge: Before stepping out for another shopping trip, be inventive by seeing what tasty meals you can dream up with what you already have in the pantry.


7. Rest Well

Clock a Minimum of Seven Hours - We know that getting adequate sleep is crucial for good health. Not only does a solid slumber help to generate energy, sharpen focus, enhance memory, and support emotional health, it’s also as vital to your physical health as good nutrition and physical exercise. Studies show that getting less than seven hours of sleep per night may actually put our health at risk, leaving us more vulnerable to disease, injury, and depression.

Don’t Sleep on Healthy Habits - But you may not know that sleep deprivation is also closely tied to poor nutrition. According to the Sleep Foundation, when we are sleep deprived, we are more likely to overeat and choose unhealthy foods. Making small shifts, like practicing good sleep hygiene, can help us get more restful sleep and in turn, we’ll be more likely to stick to our meal plans and make better dietary choices (without spending a penny).


8. Explore Resources

See what healthy savings programs and benefits are already available:

In Your Community

  • Seek Assistance - What nutritional assistance is available in your area? Check out resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infant & Children Programs (WIC), and local food banks for additional support with purchasing affordable, nutritious foods. 
  • Support Local Growers - Look into local farmer’s markets for less expensive options to the produce aisle, or an additional resource for healthy foods if they’re hard to come by your area. In some cases, buying your fruits, veggies, and other natural food items directly from the source can help you save up to 40% off supermarket prices – especially if you’re shopping organic. The USDA’s Local Food Directory is a great place to start. 


  • Level Up Your Skills - Whether you’re looking for help with honing your cooking skills or guidance on making your first weekly meal plan, check out YouTube for a vast resource of free recipes, lessons, and how-tos. As a bonus, incorporate free fitness tutorials and workouts into your health journey with one of the over 30 million exercise videos currently available on the platform. 
  • Explore Free Apps - Consider downloading a free health app like MyFitnessPal to track calorie and nutrient intake, and help get a clear picture of your diet to identify any gaps in nutrition. 
  • Try A Value Grocery Service - Responsibly sourced services, like Misfit Market or Imperfect Foods, prioritize increased access to produce and healthy foods, and offer sustainable delivery at value prices. It’s free to sign up for both services, and a convenient, discounted way to work more nutrient-rich foods into your busy schedule. 


9. Don’t Go It Alone

Prioritize Connection on Your Health Journey - Cultivate community and practice supporting one another on your healthy eating journeys. Not only are we more likely to succeed in reaching our health goals when we surround ourselves with like-minded friends, we are in fact more likely to be in good health overall when we invest in the health of our relationships. As human beings, sharing meals can be an undeniable element in building social connection. And, studies have shown how integral social health is to our wellbeing, with one recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine stating that social isolation can negatively impact our health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

Make Room at the Table - So as you’re skipping the restaurants and committing to your best nutrition yet, be sure to consider your social nourishment as well. Plan an affordable, healthy potluck gathering with friends, pair up with a meal planning buddy, or schedule time to take a walk with a loved one to stay connected.


And finally: 

10. Keep it Simple

Try Not to Overthink It - Instead of costly, extravagant recipes, simplify your meals and focus on including vital nutrients for overall health. Opt for whole over processed foods wherever you can, cook in batches to save time, and design meals around essential needs like protein, fiber, and whole grains. Learning to prepare a number of staple main courses and sides that you love can make it easier to plan nutritionally balanced meals while optimizing your ingredients and allowing you to mix and match for variety.

Seek Out Quality Supplements - Plan as we might, it can still be challenging to reach all of your nutritional goals with diet alone. For a convenient, reliable nutrient source, consider removing the guesswork by supplementing your body’s needs with essential vitamins. Multivitamins for complete health are a great place to start, and easy additions like fish oil for Omega-3 fatty acids or collagen to promote healthy skin, joints, and bones can help to address any nutritional gaps in your diet. 

With a thoughtful approach to planning, shopping, and enjoying your meals, and small shifts to everyday habits, staying healthy on a budget is well within reach. Here’s to feeling your best while nourishing your body, mind, and bank account. 

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