Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 20 money-saving grocery hacks for healthy eating on a budget.
Over the years I’ve been asked how we can go about eating healthy on a budget. I get it — it can be so expensive. And with rising food costs these days, most of us are finding our grocery bills increasing substantially (we certainly have).
While the health food industry can make us feel like we need the next trendiest superfood in order to be well, that’s not actually the case. It’s absolutely possible to eat well while not spending a fortune. A few simple tips and tricks is all you need to help you eat healthy on a budget, and I’ve got 20 of them to share with you today.
How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Meal Plan Based on What’s on Sale
I’m big into meal planning. We do it every single week. Meal planning is key to saving money on groceries because you’re quite literally planning out your meals and exactly what groceries you will need to use versus winging it and, in most cases, likely wasting food (which is essentially throwing money away!)
You can take this up a notch though and meal plan based on what’s on sale at your local grocery store. Go online or check flyers while planning, and while you’re at it, you can see if they have any coupons available.
Not sure how to get started with meal planning? Check out my Meal Planning Mini-Course.
2. Shop Your Pantry/Fridge/Freezer Before Heading Out
In other words, check what you have on hand before heading to the grocery store. This prevents you from buying items that you already have stashed in the back of your pantry. I’ve done this so many times before — buying a new bottle of vinegar or olive oil only to realize I already had an un-opened one at home. Checking what you have on hand also encourages you to make use of items you’ve got laying around, and the more we can use up items we already have, the less frequently we need to do bigger grocery hauls.
3. Buy Inherently Cheaper Produce
Cabbage, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and root veggies like carrots are all generally less expensive by nature. Find ways to add these to your weekly recipes more often. Here are some of my favourite ways to use these:
- Rosemary Rutabaga Beef Stew
- Stovetop Cabbage Casserole
- Cabbage Carrot Slaw
- Roasted Root Vegetables with Sausage & Tahini Sauce
- Easy Roasted Sweet Potatoes
4. Look for Discounted Produce
Bearing in mind that you’ll want to make sure you can actually use ’em up fast enough, many grocery stores have shelves with discounted items, sometimes even 50% off. Ripe bananas can be used for making banana bread or muffins as a snack for the week, other fruits or melons can be frozen or added to smoothies, and veggies can be tossed into soups, stews, or stir fry’s.
5. Buy Frozen Fruits & Veggies
This can depend on where you live, but frozen fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than fresh. They’re not only still super nutritious, but they last far longer than fresh foods (which can help reduce food waste) and they add convenience. I always like to have frozen green beans, peas, cauliflower, and a variety of frozen berries and fruit stocked up in my freezer for easy weeknight dinners and for my morning smoothies or oatmeal.
6. Choose Cheaper Nuts & Seeds
Gram for gram, sunflower seeds and walnuts are less expensive than others such as almonds, cashews, or pecans while still offering healthy fats, lots of fibre, and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So the next time you’re looking to add some nuts to your grocery cart, try those!
7. Eat More Legumes
Beans and lentils are such a fantastic, cost-effective foo rich in fibre, plant-based protein, and lots of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they can replace or reduce meat in many recipes which will save you even more money.
Dried legumes, while they do require more prep work (e.g. soaking, boiling first), tend to cost less per serving than canned, so try to opt for those more often if you really want to maximize your savings.
Here are some of my favourite ways to use legumes:
8. Reduce Meat Consumption
Meat is expensive, and while I’m not at all suggesting to cut it out completely, most of us (and our wallets) can benefit from just reducing our intake. One of the ways I like to do this is by replacing half the meat in a recipe, such as spaghetti sauce, with lentils, beans, mushrooms. or other veggies to bulk it back up again.
Enjoying more plant-based recipes throughout the week will also help you save.
9. Choose Less Expensive Cuts of Meat
While meat is generally pretty expensive, it doesn’t all have to be. Different cuts of meat come at different price points, and knowing which ones are more cost-effective will help you out big time. Buying a whole chicken vs. boneless, skinless breasts, or opting for bone-in chicken legs/thighs will be less expensive. Ground beef tends to be less expensive as well, and you can even try switching things up with ground turkey instead of beef.
Take advantage of meats that are discounted as well. Sometimes you can find them 30-50% off. Just be sure to double check the best before date, and if you don’t think you’ll use them within the next couple days, freeze them for later use.
10. Stock Up on Staples When They’re on Sale
When your most-used items are on sale, stock up! Especially foods that have a longer shelf life like rice, pasta, or tomato sauces.
11. Buy in Bulk
It tends to be cheaper per unit to buy items in bulk. Beans, grains, nuts, dried fruit, and flour are great examples here. If you have a local bulk food store, pay it a visit and buy stock up on some of your most-used goods. Farmers markets can be another great place to sometimes score large quantities of foods at reasonable prices. If you think you can make use of it, take advantage of it!
12. Eat Seasonally
Shopping for and eating what’s in season is not only so delicious and nutritious but it can save you money too, due to the abundance of local crops and less traveling and storage expenses involved. Do a quick Google search to find out what’s in season in your area.
13. You Don’t Need to Buy Everything Organic
I know in the world of natural health and wellness, we love to buy organic food. And don’t get me wrong — I certainly do buy many foods organic. But I don’t buy everything organic. Nope. Here’s the thing: if you’re on a budget, don’t stress. It’s far better for you to be buying fruits and vegetables that are non-organic than to not be eating them at all.
If you do still want to try and minimize your exposure to pesticides, look out for local greenhouse grown produce. These will generally be less expensive and in some cases are sprayed with less chemicals, such as tomatoes (at least here in Ontario, Canada).
14. Make More Meals at Home
Most of us know that pre-made items like salad kits, pre-cut fruits and veg, or frozen packaged meals are far more expensive than buying the whole item and chopping it up or cooking it yourself. The more we can make meals at home, the more we’re going to save. Let’s be real though — we don’t (and can’t) always cook every single thing from scratch, so I totally get that. Just do your best.
This also goes for trendy, pre-made “health food” snacks and such we see at the store, like snack bites, energy balls, or granolas,. A lot of times we can simply make these ourselves. You should definitely try my 3 Easy & Healthy Date Ball Recipes!
15. Use Up Leftovers
Using up leftovers and getting creative with what you have on hand as much as possible will help you burn through your groceries slower, so you don’t need to stock up as much the next time you shop. You’ll also reduce food waste.
Keep leftovers toward the front of your fridge so they don’t get forgotten about. Some of my fave ways to use leftovers besides just reheating them are things like adding chicken breast to salad, mixing veg into an omelette, or tossing veggies into a soup or stew.
16. Freeze, Freeze, Freeze!
We can pretty much freeze just about anything. Your freezer is your friend, my friend. When you can’t use things up in time, like ripe bananas, veggies, spinach, or meats, freeze them for later use. You’ll thank yourself!
17. Compare your Prices
It’s a no brainer that different stores will often sell the same items for different prices, especially if we’re shopping at speciality stores like health food stores or fancier supermarkets. Know where you can get the same item for cheaper, such as at Costco or your discount grocer. You can do a bit of research here by even writing down the items you buy most often and literally comparing them store by store, either in person or online.
18. Opt for In-House Brands
We can easily get swindled into thinking the fancy or familiar marketed name brand is best, when we can often get a cheaper in-house brand that’s the exact same. Like, literally. I recently took a closer look at an in-house vs. name brand of canned coconut milk. The ingredients and size were identical, yet the price was different by two dollars. Same with a big container of coconut oil I bought recently. The in-house brand was $16.99 whereas the name brand was $22.99. Exact same thing, folks!
19. Don’t Shop When Hungry
Everything will look delicious and you’ll inevitably add more items to your cart. It’s just the truth. Be sure not to grocery shop on an empty stomach. Have a snack before you go!
20. Try Growing Your Own Food
This will depend on your living situation and how much time and effort you’re willing to put into growing different foods, but most people can pretty easily grow at least a couple things in small containers, like herbs. It’s a fun and rewarding experience and can certainly save you from needing to purchase those things as frequently from the store.
So that’s it! 20 ways to eat healthy on a budget. I hope these tips are useful for you. Please share in the comments below: what are your best tips for saving money on groceries?