Eating Healthier on a Budget


By Aubrie Curry
Roots for Life Marketing and Communications Volunteer

Society likes to tell you that you have two choices when it comes to eating. You can either eat healthier and spend more money or you can eat unhealthier and spend less. But in actuality, you can do both! You can eat healthier and not go over your budget. Eating healthier is as simple as adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet. It’s not an unattainable feat, no matter the family size or budget, everyone can eat healthier.

To help, we’ve rounded up some simple tips on how to do so.

Know Your Family

Cooking for one person is different then cooking for a family of five with different taste. Create a list for each family member. Write down their favorite recipes, snacks, and ingredients. Find similarities among them and then choose recipes or snacks that everyone will like based on their taste.

Meal Prep

Lasagna Wednesdays. Taco Tuesdays. Leftover Fridays. Break out the calendar and plan your meals for the week. Don’t over complicate it, the simpler the better. Note when produce is on sale and is in season. Produce that is not in season cost more. Make larger batches of the same thing so, your family can eat it for lunch and have leftovers for later. Also planning snacks can cut impulsive spending and trips down the middle aisles, the most tempting part of the supermarket.

Cut the Meat

Now, we’re not asking you to cut out meat entirely. That’s a hard thing to do for the average person, but cutting back over time is easier. Start by cutting out processed meats or meat that is altered from its natural state. That includes sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat sauces, lunch meats, and bacon. Substitute meat with chickpeas, black beans, mushrooms, or bulk the meal up with more vegetables. If you don’t want to cut out meat, buy it when it’s on sale to cut cost, prep the meat, and freeze for a later date. Another option is buying cheaper cuts of meat like lamb neck or beef shank. They taste just as good or even better.

Beans & Grains

Stock up your pantry with beans and grains. They come in a bag or a can and are cheaper than meat. Beans are a great source of protein, help build muscle, and are full of antioxidants. They’re great substitutes for meat in meals and if prepared correctly, can taste like it too. Grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta are healthier and can reduce your cholesterol. Popular pasta brands like Barilla have started to add vegetables to their pasta to keep up with consumer that are leaning toward a healthier diet.

Don’t be Scared to Freeze

Don’t be scared of the frozen section. Frozen vegetables and fruits are great when you are on a budget and buying fresh is more expensive. They are quick to cook, cheap, and can work with multiple meals. Just make sure to buy real food and read the labels. Frozen meals are often high in sodium, sugar and other additives to mimic the enjoyment of freshly cooked food. So, stick to the fruits and vegetables, that only have one ingredient on the label.

Stay the Course

Impulse decisions can wreck a budget. Stay away from the middle aisle of the supermarket along with the candy around the cash register. Products that are at eye level are sometimes more expensive and are usually best sellers. Look on the lower shelves or buy store brands to get cheaper prices. Remember, items are placed on the shelf to get the consumer to spend more money than planned.

Take it a Step Further

If you want to take healthy eating to the next level, consider buying organic produce from Farmers Market’s, ethnic supermarkets, Aldi, or Trader Joes. Their organic prices are often cheaper than larger chain supermarket stores.

For a beginner, who’s already added more fruits and vegetables, pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen” published every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). It’s a list of fruits and vegetables that have high amounts of pesticides. 2018’s Dirty Dozen includes:

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Nectarines

  4. Apples

  5. Grapes

  6. Peaches

  7. Cherries

  8. Pears

  9. Tomatoes

  10. Celery

  11. Potatoes

  12. Sweet Bell Peppers

Though all of these tips are great, circumstances may change and they may not be doable. A simple thing that everyone can do is to make sure that half of your plate is full of fruits and vegetables or is reminiscent of a rainbow. Making a conscious effort to eat healthier is enough.