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11 Tips

on How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Healthy eating often gets a bad rep for being “too expensive” compared to the average American diet. And while you can get ramen packets and candy bars for less than a dollar each, it’s not the only way to eat on a budget. 

After leaving for college, I often felt overly stressed regarding money. “Frugal Tiff” was my nickname and it fit me well. Being on my own for the first time, I had the responsibility of deciding how much I spent and the way in which I would spend it. I wanted to continue eating the way I had throughout high school but living in New York City made this an overwhelming task. The grocery store is usually my happy place! I love exploring and discovering new foods. Grocery shopping in NYC, however, was anything but. I put so much effort into planning ahead and organizing a budget for myself because I knew how expensive my school was and I couldn’t stand the thought of adding another burden onto my parents. But as I stood in the checkout line, hands wringing as I watched each item being scanned, I soon realized that I would once again go over my set budget. My mom always reassured me that it was okay and that she knows how expensive the city is but the disappointment I felt still lingered and that awful feeling was sure to return at the next week’s grocery trip. Since moving to Texas, those anxieties have lessened and although unpleasant at times, my experiences allowed me to gain some knowledge on various ways to save money that I still use today. I know how stressful money can make people feel and my heart goes out if you feel that burden. I hope that this blog can help just a tad in relieving some of that worry. 

[In this blog, I’ll list a few examples of healthy food options that are < $1 per serving, give a little insight on misconceptions surrounding the idea of health foods, and lastly list my top 11 tips on how to eat healthy on a budget!]

I decided to do a little personal research and break down individual serving prices for some healthy foods I enjoy. Here’s what I found. Based on my latest grocery trip to Walmart:

 

  • Yellow squash costs $1.18 per pound which will give you 2-3 yellow squash. That comes out to $.39 to $.59 per squash.

  • Sweet potatoes were $3.44 for a 3 lb bag which is equivalent to $1.15 per pound. There are 2-3 medium sweet potatoes per pound meaning each sweet potato cost somewhere between $.38 and $.58 (and often times people will split a sweet potato into 2 or more servings).

  • Avocados are $.50 to $1 each, bananas are $.15 each, brown rice costs $3.32 for a 5 lb bag (50 servings, $.07 per serving), organic cage-free brown eggs cost $3.48 per dozen making each egg $.29 and according to beaninstitute.com, a serving of dry pinto beans costs $.15 and a serving of canned pinto beans costs $.34.

 

I combined some of these ingredients and their prices to form a meal that I would likely eat and here’s what I came up with. If I made a dinner consisting of a 2 egg omelet with 1/2 yellow squash cut up inside and 1/2 avocado mashed on top, along with 1/2 baked sweet potato and a serving of pinto beans on the side, the grand total would come out to be $1.40. Even taking into consideration any cooking oil, seasonings, topping, etc., the price would still be less than $2! And all these examples are at average, local grocery stores without the consideration of buying in bulk at stores like Costco, which would likely save your more money. 

The type of food that people often think of when they hear the word “healthy” is the 100% organic, gluten free, non GMO, ultra health, superfood that will make you live 10 years longer and is apparently very scarce and therefore costs $15 per bag…oh and each bag only has 2 servings. There’s nothing wrong with organic or non GMO or gluten free but it’s the overstatement of a food’s health benefits for the sole purpose of that business feeling justified in putting an unnecessarily high price on an item that makes individuals feel pressured to buy those items in order to be considered “healthy” or even worse, it discourages individuals from making healthier food choices because of this marketing intimidation. My goal for this blog post is to show you that there are ways to stay within your budget and still eat foods that fuel and nourish your body. 

One last thing. These are some tips I’ve put together to give you some ideas on how to save money while making healthier food choices but **making healthier food choices is not an all or nothing type of thing** and it is 100% a personalized experience. If you don’t buy everything organic or if you decide to purchase ice cream along with your “health foods” or if you only decide to make one change such as packing your lunch each day instead of eating out, you’re making a positive difference for your health and your wallet. It doesn’t matter where others are compared to you in their health choices and it shouldn’t intimidate you on your own. Maybe your friend hasn’t eaten an ounce of junk food in 4 years (and two months but who’s counting) and only buys organic and never has dessert and guess what? That's awesome for them! But don't feel badly about yourself for choosing different. Try to be happy for your friend that they’ve found things that work for them and then move on. Be thankful for the positive changes you’ve made instead of feeling guilty that someone else seems to be doing more. My hope is that with this list, you’ll be inspired to make small changes for your health and your wallet that make your days a little less stressful and a little more organized. If you have friends, family, or acquaintances that you feel would benefit from this list, share it with them! Choose encouragement over the urge to constantly compare your life to others.  

 1. Decide which health trends are worth buying into (literally) 

  • It’s important, especially when on a budget, to research specific health foods, supplements, and products before spending a lot of money on them or feeling bad because you choose not to. Many trendy health foods are expensive simply because of their popularity at the time, not necessarily because of how much healthier they are than other foods. Find out what nutrients the item possesses and/or the benefits it is said to have and see if it can be replaced with a less expensive option (if it’s even worth paying attention to). One example would be goji berries which have a reputation for being an ultra healthy “superfood.” While goji berries do have great health benefits and are very tasty, they can be replaced with regular berries for very similar nutrients/benefits for a much lower price. 

 2. Make meals at home and pack food

  • It may sound like a “duh” because we hear this advice drift around all the time but limiting take out is not only healthier for you but it will also save you a lot of money. By making your own meals, you know exactly what ingredients are being used and how they are prepared. As I mentioned in the intro above, making a homemade meal can be less than $2 but I’ve had some takeout salads cost $10-$15. Although it seems time consuming, making your own meals can be made easier with a little organization and planning. It’ll take some thought and a couple extra minutes but if you know you’re going to be out and about during the day, pack meals and snacks the night before. It may take slightly longer than the drive through line would but if you’re committing to this lifestyle, you probably know there’s going to be some effort that has to be put it that includes experimenting with how to manage your time. But, I assure you, the outcome is well worth it! You can also look up recipes for the the more expensive store-bought items you enjoy such as natural peanut butter, pesto, bread, granola, and condiments so you can make them at home. 

3. Make the most out of your purchases

  • If you’re going to spend the time and effort it takes to plan and make your own meals, make sure you’re getting the most our of your purchases. Try to find ways you can use one item for multiple things. For example, if you buy a huge butternut squash, don’t just cook it all and then let it sit in the fridge until it goes bad. Be creative and explore different ways you can use it. You could roast it for a side at dinner, throw it on a salad, freeze it and put it in a smoothie, or try out a new recipe. The less waste, the better. You can also research ways to use food scraps such as boiling orange peels to fill your home with all the good smells. By purchasing multi-purpose ingredients, it will help you spend less at each grocery trip and expose you to various ways in which that ingredient can be utilized. 

4. Eat your veggies!

  • Okay, y’all have heard this one about a million times before, from the dinner table as a toddler to the current screen you’re reading this off of. The thing is, it’s the darn truth. Vegetables nourish your body in ways that are often unseen by the naked eye. This causes some neglect within the average diet but I’m here to tell you that not only are vegetables wonderful for your health, they’re also great for your budget! Most vegetables are cheap and PS you don’t have to buy everything organic. Organic is always a safe route so if you’re able to, I say go for it but I usually just try to avoid items on the dirty dozen list. This list consists of produce that has most likely been sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.

2019 dirty dozen:

  • Strawberries

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Nectarines

  • Apples

  • Grapes

  • Peaches

  • Cherries

  • Pears

  • Tomatoes

  • Celery

  • Potatoes

  • And if this still isn’t feasible for you, an article I recently read on the dirty dozen stated, “the benefits of eating produce outweigh any risk from pesticide exposure,” which hopefully encourages you to lower some of that stress and get in that produce!

5. Learn to love your freezer

  • Your freezer will become your best friend when on a budget. If you have limited time and a busy schedule, as most do, you can make large batches of whatever recipe you’re making and then freeze extras to pull out later. This allows you to double the amount of meals made with the same amount of time. Take advantage of sales and freeze extras! Sales come and go so when one pops up that will save you money in the long run, take advantage of it and freeze whatever you can’t use at the time. A lot of times more money spent at one time will save you money in the future. The freezer also works great for those times when you want a homemade dessert but don’t necessarily want a whole batch. Since I bake frequently to create recipes, I often times will freeze leftovers of what I make. Otherwise, I would have baked goods all over the house and I wouldn’t be able to finish all of it before going bad. I’ll bake a batch of cookie or brownies, keep a few out to enjoy, and freeze the rest. They still come out delicious warmed up at a later time. 

6. Limit processed snacks

  • Processed, packaged foods are often overpriced and devoid of nutrients. And the ones that are nutritious are usually out of price range for a lot of us. Instead of store-bought energy bars or bags of crackers, go for homemade bars or replace crackers with nuts and fruit or veggies and hummus. It may take a few minutes to prep the night before but it’ll save you more money than you might think. I always strive to eat one- ingredient foods as much as I can. This means foods such as avocado, banana, egg, spinach, beans, nuts, etc. 

7. Utilize inexpensive grains

  • Grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa are inexpensive and easy to buy in bulk. These are sustaining foods so you don’t need a ton to keep you full and it’s easy to prep ahead and keep in the fridge. If you opt for whole grains, you’ll also be getting more fiber and nutrients which the average diet is usually low on. As mentioned in the intro, you can buy brown rice for less than one cent per serving!

8. Educate yourself on meatless meals

  • You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy meatless meals. Meat can be really pricey, especially if you’re purchasing free range, grass fed, less hormones, organic, etc. Research meals that don’t include meat but that still include protein and other essential nutrients. You could set a goal for 3-4 meatless dinners throughout the week and save quite a bit of money. Some meatless protein ideas: beans, lentils, hummus, nuts, tofu, eggs, seeds, whole grains, nutritional yeast. 

9. Buy in bulk

  • Check for a bulk section at your grocery store. A grocery near me has one and it’s full of oats, grains, nuts, seeds, lentils, dried fruit, seasonings, and a ton of other foods. Recently, I purchased two large bags of oats for less than $3 which is much cheaper than what it would have been in the normal aisle. You can also buy in bulk from stores like Costco. Buying in bulk can sometimes be pricer at the time of purchase, like with Costco, or it doesn’t have to be, like at a local grocery. Either way, you’re saving money. I usually prefer the grocery bulk bins, though, because you can choose exactly how much you want and then weigh periodically to stay below a certain price. 

10. Reduce unnecessary items

  • I’m not telling you to completely devoid yourself of any enjoyment with your food choices but there are certain replacements and substitutions that you can make that will save you money and allow you to use it towards other things. One example would be water in smoothies instead of milk. If you use milk as your protein source, I wouldn’t omit it but if you just use almond or cashew milk, try switching it out for water. It doesn’t really change the taste too much, it just makes the smoothie less milky. You could also try half milk and half water. It’s a small change but it does save money. Another example would be replacing flavored drinks with water. Water is so good for your body and often times, individuals don’t drink enough water because other drinks such as soda, juice, and coffee take priority.

11. Plan ahead and stay organized

  • This is probably the most important tip which is why it has the honor of being last on the list. One of the best things you can do to stay under budget is to plan ahead. I'm not talking about the I have a rough idea of what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow, although that’s a good start. I’m talking about dedicating time to making a game plan for the upcoming week (or two weeks if you're a superstar) and writing out food you already have in the house, recipes you plan to make, meals you plan to have, and ingredients you still need to buy. Base meals off of what you already have in the house first and then buy as little remaining ingredients as possible. Have a plan laid out before you walk into the grocery so impulsive purchases don’t sneak their way in and have a plan laid out before the busy week begins so drive through lines and expensive instant meals don’t seem like the only option. Practically speaking, I would sit down one day for 30 minutes or so before your grocery run with a piece of paper and pencil. I would review what food you already have in the house and write down what meals you can make with them. Then, I would see how many meals are left to fill in for the week and I would write down (based on memory, Pinterest boards, or wherever you get your meal inspo) a list of meals you want to try out to complete the week (aiming to find multipurpose ingredients that can double for more than one meal.) Lastly, using the tips above, I would come up with a budget and make a finalized grocery list that will likely stay under your budget. Sitting down and focusing with a pencil and paper helps me immensely in organizing my thoughts and feeling good about my purchases. It seems complicated but I promise you’ll get the hang of it with time. 

Overview

  1. Decide which health trends are worth buying into

  2. Make meals at home and pack food

  3. Make the most out of your purchases

  4. Eat your veggies!

  5. Learn to love you're freezer

  6. Limit processed snacks

  7. Utilize inexpensive grains

  8. Educate yourself on meatless meals

  9. Buy in bulk

  10. Reduce unnecessary items

  11. Plan ahead and stay organized

Well guys, these are my 11 tips on how to eat healthy on a budget! I’m still learning as I go but these have helped me a lot so far. It can be expensive to eat a healthy diet, but it doesn’t have to be. Try implementing some of these tips to make the most out of your purchases and hopefully relieve some stress surrounding health and finances. I hope these ideas helped you find some clarity on how you can continue or begin to eat healthy while still staying under that important budget. And remember that if you’re struggling with this, at least you’re trying! That’s the most important thing. If you have any further questions or comments, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email!!! Y’all are the best!

Talk To You Soon,

Tiffany Bopp

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My goal for Balanced Bopp is to promote a positive outlook on nutrition and exercise and an appreciation for a balanced lifestyle, free of overthinking, disappointment, and fear. 

In Christ Alone my hope is found

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