After I posted this photo on my instagram page, I got one of the most popular questions I get on my blog from readers and in regular life “is it expensive to eat healthy?” and “Is it hard to eat healthy on a budget?”.
My answer is always the same: no. When I became a vegetarian and began to eat much healthier, my (then boyfriend, now husband) and I noticed an immediate drop in food expenses which was most definitely attributed towards this new lifestyle. I’ve learned a few things along the way, and wanted to share my top 15 tips for how to eat healthy on a budget.
Stock Up On Pulses – Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils
2016, the year of the pulse. Oh pulses, I love you. Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, Peas…pulses are a part of the legumes family and something you should definitely stock up on. Without a doubt, they are the cheapest item for your meals, can be stretched the furthest for meals, and last a very long time. This is definitely my #1 tip for eating healthy on a budget. Buying your beans dried will stretch your budget even more because they will be cheaper than already cooked and canned beans, but canned do tend to be more convenient. My favourite recipes using these would have to be my Slower Cooker Black Bean Chili and my Coconut Chickpea Curry. Both have only one can of each and stretch for up 8 servings! More Pulses Recipes
Buy Local & Organic
Wherever you live in the world, buying local and organic are the best options for eating healthy, and even better while on a budget. Your food will cost much less than imported produce, and buying organic means buying the best possible option there is. Contrary to popular belief, I’ve found that buying organic produce is not only always better for you, but is also better priced.
Buy At a Farmer’s Market
Buying at your farmer’s market is always, always cheaper than buying in the supermarket. Even if your supermarket produce is organic, the supermarket needs to make a profit and so goods will always cost more once it’s in that cold section. Buying at the farmer’s market also means that you can negotiate directly with the farmers, and even get a little extra for free sometimes. I’ve had a farmer sell me a dozen tomatoes, only to throw in an extra two for free to finish up his batch. Prices also always drop near the end of the day at a farmer’s market, so you’re bound to go home with great deals.
Fresh over Frozen
I’ve found that once produce becomes frozen, the price raises significantly, especially when packaged by a major company. I would say stick to eating as fresh as possible and as often as possible. There’s nothing wrong with eating produce that has been flash-freezed to seal in freshness, but it will tend to come at an extra cost. If there’s a deal going on, I will buy my fruits fresh and freeze them myself, for anything from berries to bananas so that I can always have them on hand.
Nowadays you can have fruits and veggies even when it isn’t in season. This ties in a bit with eating locally since some produce is in season in other countries and is imported. Seasonal produce will always be the best priced since it’s the cheapest to source.
Meal Prep & Meal Plan
Meal Prepping/Planning has helped me enormously. Meal Prepping/Planning essentially means planning out what you will be eating ahead of time, be it a day ahead, a week or even for the entire month. I either make a list of all the ingredients in the house, then plan meals around them, or meal plan and buy foods around that list. This is great for a budget because you can definitely use up what ingredients are in your household especially helpful for utilising ingredients in more than one way. For example, if I have sweet potatoes and black beans, I can use black beans in Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos, but I can also use them in a slow cooker chili with the same ingredients. I’ve been able to stretch the use of many ingredients this way and have theme weeks. Helpful: Best Healthy Meal Prep Recipes and Tips + 7 Quick & Healthy Vegan Banana Smoothies for Busy Mornings
Shop With a List
Anyone guilty of going shopping for one item while hungry/with no list and coming out with 10 unpredicted items? Making a real grocery store list that ties into your meal planning means that you’re more in control and can keep you on track with only buying what you need. Helpful: FREE Printable Clean Eating Grocery List + Stocking a Vegetarian Pantry Grocery List
DIY, DIY, DIY
There are a lot of conveniences for healthy eating, plenty of which tend be costly. I’ve found that DIY – doing it myself, saves so much money. I make my own healthy condiments, hummus, marinara sauce, tahini, barbecue sauce and most definitely, my own pesto. I found that even making your own plant-based chips such as beet chips go a long way with savings over buying the same thing in the store. These are items that take healthy eating up a notch in terms of flavour, and while are expensive to buy, are actually really easy to make at home and cost much less.
Make Your Own Nut and Seed Butters
These does technically fall under DIY, but needed it’s own category due to how amazing nut butters are. Store-bought natural peanut butter (no additives, just peanuts), almond butter, sunflower butter, you name it, are all pretty costly. You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to make: put your ingredients in a food processor, and blend for about 7 minutes to achieve a creamy nut butter. This is such a quick and easy hack.
So I keep talking about making your own, but sometimes even raw nuts are costly. I avoid supermarkets for items like these, and instead head to wholesales. Here you’ll find the same items without the branded packaging and probably even locally packaged by the wholesale. This saves a lot of money off the price of the goods and they also tend to be in higher quantities. Sometimes speciality stores, like your local asian wholesale will sell certain items for much less than a supermarket, for example spring roll wrappers and mushrooms. Don’t be afraid to shop around!
Eat Out Less
This one is a bit obvious, but still worth mentioning. Cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out. The Mr. and I try to limit eating out to once a week. This means we look forward to it every time and it becomes a treat. Meal planning helps quite a lot with ensuring you don’t get bored with your food, and that you always have something to eat to reduce the temptation to dial that takeout number.
Bulk/Batch Cooking & Freezer Friendly Meals
Speaking of cooking at home, this is a big one. Bulk/Batch Cooking means double or even tripling a recipe that can easily become a freezer friendly meal. Curries, stews, chilis, breakfast burritos and even breakfast cookies all tend to fall within this category. You can have leftovers in the fridge for days in a multiple of varieties, and easy to thaw freezer friendly dishes that are always available.
Bulk buying is a great budget hack. Most supermarkets and wholesales give you a discount for buying a lot of a specific item, like 3 of each or even higher. This is a great way to stock up on beans, chickpeas, grains such as quinoa, chia seeds and even flax seeds.
Skip The Speciality Items
Now, I’m a big fan of date sugar, matcha powder and any other magical mixes that you can find at your local health store. But the simple fact is, they tend to be costly. These are not necessarily essential items for healthy eating, and so if you’re on a budget I would skip these. Explore how to DIY most of these, like how I made my own date syrup.
Eat What You Grow
No matter what the scenario, eating what you grow is not only cheaper, but tends to be free! Growing up my family always grew our own herbs, tomatoes, mangoes, bananas and coconuts. Can you say LUXURY living with these amazing treats without the cost of the luxury! I always had a constant supply of coconut water, fresh tomatoes, parsley straight from the plant and bananas on supply. You do not need to start here: even starting with your own herb garden is a great start. This is on my to do list for this year since moving out because not only does it save money, but home grown tastes absolutely incredible. Helpful: How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes
I hope these tips on how to eat healthy on a budget helped you out. What tips and tricks do you have for how to eat healthy on a budget? Let me know in the comments section below!