20 Member Ideas for Eating Healthy on a Budget

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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.
  1. "Consider adding cooked lentils to replace some meat when making chili or tacos. Most of the time you don't even notice." – ZELDA13
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "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
  1. "Eggs are a great buy, and two hardboiled eggs with a salad can easily make lunch." – PATHFINDER52
  1. "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
To help you get started on the road to eating healthier on a budget, try these affordable recipes from our nutritionist, Becky Hand.

Are you able to eat healthy on a budget? How do you save money on groceries?

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-KARMA- 11/13/2020
TVP is another way to save and it's healthier than ground meat Report
REDROBIN47 11/12/2020
Good article. Thank you Report
JILLIAN0216 11/12/2020
Thanks for the ideas. Report
RCLYKE 11/12/2020
Thank you for sharing Report
PAULAM201 11/12/2020
Lots of good ideas Thanks Report
ROBINRS 11/12/2020
JVANAM thanks for the quote.
Good suggestions - some I already do others I may start. Report
BURNINGTHYME101 11/12/2020
May have to update the way I shop since the C. Virus came to town. My store is not crazy about excepting printed coupon yet. However they welcome digital coupons, so the handling is a lot less. Your info is good and I thank you.?? Report
CECTARR 11/12/2020
Thanks Report
CECELW 11/12/2020
good ideas Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/12/2020
ty Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 11/12/2020
Great article. Report
EMGERBER 11/12/2020
A good article with some great tips. Report
Thanks Report
LIS193 11/12/2020
Great ideas Report
JANIEWWJD 11/12/2020
Thanks for all the great ideas!!! Report
KITTYHAWK1949 11/12/2020
some really helpful ideas Report
GEORGE815 10/28/2020
Thanks Report
PATRICIA-CR 9/15/2020
Great! Report
Honestly, the best way I save money in this house is to only make what can be eaten in one sitting, and to adjust the grocery shopping accordingly. We used to throw out a lot of leftovers. I find I buy less. the only things I buy that last a week are fresh and frozen veggies, and other frozen items. We have some things we buy canned, but not too many. Report
NASFKAB 2/6/2020

Excellent ideas. Another thing I do is use every part of the vegetable. Like to eat peels of pumpkin etc

Good tips! Report
Great ideas! Thanks! Report
I shop at the dollar stores & local produce stand. We know ppl in the ag business & get free stuff so we cook & freeze some things. Berries I freeze, apples going to cook or dehydrate, greens like broccoli & cauliflower or Brussels sprouts I freeze or use in stoups & stews. Only then do we go to Walmart or Target. We get some fruit at the farmer's mkt in summer & watch ads for sales. There are food coops nearby too but for two of us, we always have plenty. Also,there is a nearby local pizza place that has a super salad bar 40 items? Go about 3 times a month for a really fresh meal. I bring my own homemade salad dressing which is fat free. That saves $ too. I use tofu, ACV & berries. Report
Good ideas. Report
Great ideas! Thanks! Report
Thanks! Report
Some great suggestions Report
I was poor when I lost my weight, it CAN be done! Report
Thank you for these great tips! Report
I could read this article over and over. I love a lot of these ideas. Report
Thanks for all the good ideas. Report
Great info, some I was already doing but it's good reinforcement. One thing that helps me is to plan ahead so I can minimize waste. Also helps for me to do some meal prep especially for my lunches that way I make sure I portion and use everything I've purchased. But more than anything, the key for me is to prepare most of what I eat from fresh or frozen foods. I am at the point where I no longer buy canned beans anymore. It's quite easy to prepare a batch and freeze them for future use in corn salsa, chili & the like. At the end of the summer I plan on getting a couple of bushels of tomatoes, peppers & corn to prepare and place in my freezer. I wish I could make my own bread but I am prediabetic & find I do better with the Aldi mini-seedtastic loaves. It's also good to keep some things already prepared in freezer. I buy bone in skin on chicken breasts and roast & freeze those. Also if I'm make any type of soup or stew I freeze half of it so I can have something on hand when I'm too busy or tired to cook. Now I just need to master a healthier pizza dough made with whole wheat flour.

Thanks for the info Becky. Report
Lots of great ideas. Thanks! Report
Try stores that specialise in different cuisines. The local Asian market, for example, may sell tofu, spices, dried mushrooms, noodles, and many many other things at far lower prices than you'll find in your supermarket. A Mexican or Latin or Halal market may have similar bargains. You'll also end up trying something new you may love! Report
All good ideas but I worked right adjacent to a brewery in high school .Even the smell of cooked barley makes me nauseated. Report
Thank you for the tips, I will put some of those ideas to good use! Report
Thanks for the great tips! Report
It is indeed more expensive to eat healthy, thanks for all the tips. Report
Thanks for the article. Yes, buy what's on sale. Report
Good article. Thanks. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks Report
Thanks Report
Thanks Report
Great ideas Report
Such a great useful article. Thanks Report
I’ve incorporated a flexitarian diet into my lifestyle. I only eat meat a few times a week. Not only is eating a mostly plant based diet less expensive, but it’s usually healthier too. Report
Wonderful! Have to remember this article when members ask about cooking healthy on a budget. Report