Updated by Melissa Rudy, 1/24/16
Sticking to a healthy diet is already challenging enough, but when you factor in climbing prices and shrinking grocery budgets, it can sometimes seem downright impossible. Don't throw in the towel and fall into the takeout trap just yet—with some smart strategies, you can eat higher-quality foods while still saving money. Some of our members offer their real-world tips for cutting costs and calories.
- "Consider adding cooked lentils to replace some meat when making chili or tacos. Most of the time you don't even notice." – ZELDA13
- "Instead of starting with what I want to eat, I start with what's on sale. A good rule of thumb for me has been to look for produce less than $1 per pound. I always look for the dented cans, quick-sale meat that is turning (cook that day or freeze) and manager's special (read: overripe or bruised) fruits and veggies. From there, I look through Pinterest for inspiration on dishes." – KOTWBB
- "Meat is more expensive (money and calories) than fruits and veggies. I dice a zucchini up to cook with taco meat to stretch it. I can have two huge taco salads with just four ounces of raw ground meat." – KOTWBB
- "I can routinely get a whole chicken on sale for 99 cents per pound. Pull up YouTube and learn to carve up a bird! I freeze pieces on cutting boards, then transfer to freezer bags. Make stock from the bones, too. If cutting up a raw bird isn't your thing, I started by roasting the whole chicken and carving it afterwards." – KOTWBB
- "Protein foods and fresh foods tend to be the most expensive. Luckily we don't have to only eat steak and avocados. Oatmeal, potatoes, milk, butter and oils, eggs, fatty meats and canned fish can make up a big part of the calories in a healthy diet." – GRATISHORE
- "If you have a yard, patio or sunny window, plant two or three pots of herbs. I believe that my small patio herb garden saves me hundreds of dollars a year. Even if you only have a sunny window, a little rosemary, thyme, parsley or cilantro can turn simple beans and rice into something sublime. A little oil with garlic and rosemary or thyme rubbed on chicken or pork (or whatever is on sale this week) makes a world of difference when it comes to flavor." – CLARISSABOND
- "We bake much of our own bread, but it is healthier and cheaper than most store bread, as we don't add any preservatives—just a little honey and oil sometimes—and use 100 percent whole wheat." – VIENNA61
- "Take advantage of reduced for quick sale veggies and meats. If you freeze the meats and cook the vegetables in a day or two, you're good to go." – CLARISSABOND
- "I buy peppers, celery, carrots, onions and eggplant on the sale rack, then wash, dice and freeze them in baggies. When I need a quick meal, I cook dry lentils with a tin of diced tomatoes and a handful of each veggie I have frozen with spices." – KAMELIA71
- "I like to make salads interesting by putting some fruit and nuts on them, or including fresh herbs you don't usually have like mint, watercress and/or flat leaf parsley. I also like a mixture of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce as a dressing, without oil or with just a tiny bit." – SQUEEDLE
- "For fish, canned salmon is a pretty good deal and very healthy (lots of canned salmon recipes!) and I try to serve it a couple of times a week. Tofu or canned salmon can be used instead of ground beef in a surprising number of recipes." – VIENNA61
- "Make your own stock by using trimmings from meats, chicken bones, etc. You can make great veggie stock if you save all your peelings and trims for a week or so. Put them in a large pot with enough water to cover and simmer about 20 to 30 minutes. Strain and freeze in saved plastic containers." – SHARONPENNING
- "I often plan homemade soup as the main course with homemade bread to go with it, or a nice Italian bread if it is on sale. You could also pair it with a salad or a bowl of applesauce. You could use leftovers for the meat, as soup doesn't need as much meat as a regular meal, so a little goes a long way." – RACEWIFE
- "The saying 'fresh is best' may not always be true. Most frozen and canned items are picked and processed at their peak. You just have to read the label to find out what is or is not in the package. Do a little research to ensure that you're making the best nutritional choices." – LONGLIFE
- "Farmers markets late in the day, community gardens and your own backyard garden can help a lot. I grow tomatoes and green peppers mostly for a high yield from a small space. Also, herbs and strawberries." – SHARONPENNING
- "If you have the storage room and have any staple dry foods, such as oats, rice or beans, get some prices from local markets that have bulk food sections to see if they'll order a full 25-pound bag for you. Most places give a discount for doing this." – STUZZICADENTI
- "Carrots are one of the cheaper vegetables. Cook them (they sweeten anything), scrape them and eat raw or dip into hummus, guacamole or even cottage cheese." – PATHFINDER52
- "A sleeve of barley is under $1.50—it tastes good with carrots, mushrooms and onions, and you can cook it in a slow cooker." – SUNSHINE6442
- "Eggs are a great buy, and two hardboiled eggs with a salad can easily make lunch." – PATHFINDER52
To help you get started on the road to eating healthier on a budget, try these affordable recipes from our nutritionist, Becky Hand.
- "As long as you are cooking from scratch, you are probably already leaning toward healthy and low cost. Stay away from convenience foods—anything that's ready to open and eat or just needs a microwave to be a meal." – KOTWBB
Are you able to eat healthy on a budget? How do you save money on groceries?