Eating Healthy Without Breaking the Bank

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2022

It can be a challenge to eat healthy without spending a lot. And when you are living with a rare health condition that may be costly, it can be even harder.

Regardless of which health condition you live with, fueling your body properly can lead to better overall health. The best part is that you do not have to sacrifice taste in order to eat healthily. These simple tips and tricks can help you eat nutritious, whole foods without spending a ton of money.1

Plan your meals in advance

Meal planning is an investment of time, but it is time well spent. By planning your meals for the week, you know exactly what ingredients you need when you go shopping. This cuts down on unnecessary food items to buy. It also ensures you are not wasting food.2

To get the most bang for your buck, consider centering several meals around common ingredients. For example, cook a whole chicken and use it for multiple dishes during the week. The breast meat can be used for chicken salad, the thighs and legs for tacos, and the carcass for broth. Try chicken and vegetable stir-fry one night, chicken fajitas the next. Experiment with different herbs and spices to give your meals a variety of flavors.2

Focus on home-cooked meals

Eating out and ordering takeout – while convenient – is often less healthy and more expensive than cooking at home. Restaurants also tend to use added oil, salt, and preservatives. Serving sizes are typically much larger at restaurants as well.

Cooking at home gives you more control over what ingredients you use. You can also control portion sizes. Plus, you can enjoy leftovers, saving you time and money.

Look for discounts and sales

Sign up for your local grocery store’s discount alerts. These provide weekly specials and sales that you can take advantage of.2,3

Do not hesitate to use coupons, too. They can go a long way. Just be sure to use coupons and sales for items that you will cook with rather than unhealthy snacks and junk food.2,3

Be strategic when grocery shopping

It is good to have a strategy when grocery shopping. This helps you avoid expensive impulse buys. Here are some strategies that can help you save money while shopping for whole foods:1-4

  • Shop the perimeter of the store. The outside aisles of the grocery store are where you should do the bulk of your shopping. They contain the freshest foods, including fruits and vegetables, meat, and dairy products. The center aisles are where you find the majority of processed foods and items loaded with preservatives.
  • Shop with a list. Make a list before you do your shopping – and stick to it! Sticking to a grocery list can help you only buy the items you need. It also helps reduce waste.
  • Consider store brands. Store brands are cheaper than name brands. In fact, they can save you upward of 20 percent on your bill.
  • Buy in-season produce. Fruits and vegetables that are in season will be less expensive than their off-season counterparts.
  • Do not shop while hungry. We tend to give into temptation when our stomachs are rumbling. Eat a meal or a snack before you shop. That way you will not be as tempted by those aisles stocked with chocolate chip cookies and potato chips!

Consider canned and frozen fruits and veggies

Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are a great way to stock up on healthy foods. They cost less and last longer than fresh produce. And, frozen produce has the same nutritional value as fresh produce.2

In order to steer clear of added calories, select canned goods that come in water, not syrup. Also, read the label to make sure you are not selecting an item that contains added sugar or salt. Canned beans often come in a high-sodium sauce. Give them a good rinse before cooking with them.2

For frozen produce, avoid packages that have added butter or sauces. They contain more calories.2

Do your best

Eating well takes dedication and practice. Start slow. Try 1 or 2 of the above tips and slowly incorporate them into your daily routine, then add a few more. Over time, these practices will feel like second nature. Your overall health and your wallet will thank you!

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