The “Eating Healthy is Too Expensive” Diet Guide For Eating Healthy On a Budget

Eating on a budget diet guide cover

Are you totally ready to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but healthy food is just outside your budget right now? It turns out most people feel this way.

Here is the problem with the idea that eating healthy is too expensive. It’s wrong. This guide breaks down how to have an affordable and healthy diet balanced diet, and I call it the “Eating Healthy is Too Expensive” Healthy Diet Guide.

health vs. junk food

A little too on the nose? Read on and decide for yourself. Plus, you can learn if you actually can eat healthily and save money or if you are a unique diet butterfly that can only afford food with no nutritional value.

Common Issues and FAQs

Since this is a common belief, there are also some common problems people tend to think are stopping them. I want to address them immediately so you can jump to the section you need if they apply to you.

Don’t Have Time

fast food

Often people believe they do not have any time to prepare food. Do you not have any time to prepare food, or is that just not your priority right now?

I understand why it might not be a priority. I work 50-60 hour weeks outside the house, an additional 20 or so from home, and have a kid, and adult responsibilities.

Cooking is the last thing I want to do when I have some free time. However, there are some easy ways I have found to prepare food without losing my own time or breaking the bank. They can be found in the Cook at Home Section.

Cook with a microwave to cut down on food prep time

If you are going to try and tell me that you don’t have time to shop, I am going to stop you right now. How are you buying your current food? Even if you get every meal delivered, you can do that with groceries too.

Need more time to figure out meals and plan out a healthy diet? No worries! The internet exists. In fact, this week, I looked up “cheap high protein recipes that take less than 20 mins” and made a banging mushroom chicken recipe that I found.

Also, I included tons of recipes and tips in this guide, so I’ve got you covered.

Don’t Know How to Cook

Not knowing how to cook is a valid concern. However, the only potential problem I see here is you not owning anything to cook with. 

In this case, I want you to start scrolling Facebook marketplace, going to thrift stores, and stopping at yard sales. Look for things that are easy to cook with: InstaPots, Crock Pots, Etc.

Beyond that potential problem, not knowing how to cook will make eating healthy on a budget hard. So! I will share recipes with step-by-step instructions that are hard to screw up.

Cook at Home

fast food vs home prep meal cost comparison for those who believe eating healthy is too expensive

Cooking at home can be far cheaper than dining out, to the tune of about five times less money if you know how to do it!

Of course, most people are comparing the cost of fast food which generally seems pretty cheap. This just further pushes the myth of healthy foods being expensive. However, an average burger meal will cost about $7 while you could make a comparable, but healthier meal at home for about $2.

Here is what you need to know if you still believe eating healthy on a budget is impossible!

Fast and Healthy Meals That Require Little Effort

Now, I could put a bunch of recipes in this guide, but I would basically be copying and pasting ones that I have already found online, and this guide would get unbearably long for you to read. So, here is a link that I go to frequently when looking for fast high-protein meals.

20-Minute High-Protein Dinner Recipes

However, I want to inform you of a few things that will make them easier and even cheaper.

Some of these recipes ask you to buy pre-cooked meats like a cup of chopped rotisserie chicken. Don’t do that. That is expensive.

Instead, cook lean meats in bulk ahead of time, section them up and freeze or refrigerate them until you are ready to use them for recipes like these. In general, look for alterations and substitutions you can make so they are cheaper to prepare.

use an instant pot to cut down on rice prep effort

Additionally, these recipes often want you to physically cook pasta, brown rice, or whatever is in them on the stove. I would highly recommend using an InstaPot instead, so you can basically walk away from the food until it is done.

Use Less Meat (Given You are Consuming Enough Protein)

In general, meat is more expensive than other foods rich in protein. So simply using another protein source a few times per week can save you money.

Additionally, the cuts of meat you choose can drastically affect their cost. Below are some other high-protein options that will help keep your wallet happier.

10 Cheaper High-Protein Food Options

  1. Nuts/Nut Butters/Seeds
  2. Eggs
  3. Legumes (Beans/Peas/Lentils)
  4. Canned Tuna/Sardines
  5. Plain Greek Yogurt
  6. Cottage Cheese
  7. Whey Protein Powder
  8. Oats
  9. Milk
  10. Ground Turkey

4 Tips to Make Eating Nutritious Foods More Enjoyable

Do you not enjoy the food you cook? Here are four quick tips to make your food immediately better!

Is eating healthy too expensive? Try cooking for yourself more. Dried herbs are a great way to make your food more flavorful.

Use Green Flakeys to Make Healthy Eating Tasty

Pretty much any green flakey herb will immediately improve the flavor of your food. So next time you are at the store, sniff the herbs, be that person, see which ones you like, then buy the little plastic shaker full of that dried herb for like a dollar and use it when cooking for tastier healthy eating.

Salt Your Food

Before you start getting concerned about sodium intake, if you are reasonably active, you probably don’t need to worry about salt intake.

But also, I guarantee that any food you cook with salt will have less than any food you buy premade.

Salt before, during, and after the cooking process to bring out the most flavor in your food.

Fresh Ingredients Taste Better

fresh foods taste better

If you plan on preparing food (not throwing together quick recipes), then shop at local markets selling what is in season. The fresh produce will most likely cost less, and it will definitely taste better. Although, you can absolutely make frozen fruits and vegetables delicious.

Season Your Food

Probably the most common reason people do not enjoy their own cooking is that they don’t use enough flavor. So find a few seasoning shakers that you like and use them liberally!

Plan Meals to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Planning meals may be one of the biggest money-saving tips in the entire guide. Assuming you stick to your meal plan, that is.

Pick a day each week that you can take some time to decide what meals you will want to eat in the upcoming week. Try to stick to meals with shared ingredients.

For example, have multiple meals that will use chicken or potatoes. Then, of course, only buy the foods you will need in the quantities you need to make those meals. The exception is foods that store easily and won’t get wasted.

Pro Tip: Check your cupboards before you make your list. You’d be amazed how often I buy ingredients I already have because I failed to do this first.

Use Common Ingredients to Buy in Bulk for Less

Need to save money on food? Planning meals and buying in bulk can make eating healthy less expensive

Planning your meals will allow you to use common ingredients. Remember the chicken and potatoes above?

Common ingredients allow you to buy larger quantities and get bulk discounts! Additionally, if particular foods have a storable version (canned, frozen, long shelf life), you can buy these and continue using them beyond the current week. So save future you some money!

Freeze Leftovers – Make Leftovers on Purpose

Making larger quantities will save you time and money, given that you can freeze or store more servings for leftovers. There are a few ways to do this that will make your life easier.

Leftovers are a great way to keep yourself from eating out or buying quick, easy foods for lunch if you remember them.

Pre-cook Ingredients

Do you regularly cook chicken? Next time cook more than you need, or pre-cook a bunch of chicken so you can use it in recipes later in the week, or month even if you freeze it!

I recommend breaking it up into easily measured quantities—for example, 1 cup of pre-cooked chicken per frozen back.

Pre-cook Meals

Is there a particular meal that you enjoy eating more often? Then, Cook more than you need, package it, and store it to reheat and eat later!

Additionally, if you feel like meal planning, you can spend a day cooking out your meals for the week and package and store all of them!

A Few Cheap and Healthy Recipes

Here are some high-protein recipes that are easier on the old bank account and inexpensive.

Budget-Friendly High-Protein Recipes

I would recommend making larger quantities than what the recipes suggest so that you can save some to reheat and eat another day.

Shop With a List

All the planning above doesn’t do you any good if you don’t actually buy what you need to and avoid all the extra expenses.

Take your list of ingredients to the store with you and buy the food you plan on preparing. It sounds simple, but grocery stores get real tempting real fast.

Pro Tip: Eat before you go so you don’t buy a bunch of foods you weren’t planning on getting. The impulse buying is real.

Example of a Cheap Healthy Shopping List

Okay, it isn’t actually a full grocery shopping list. However, here are the foods you can buy to keep your grocery list cheap, easy, and full of nutritious foods.

  • Seasonal Fresh Fruits
    • Winter- grapefruit or oranges
    • Spring- strawberries, apricots, or pineapples
    • Summer- berries, cherries, peaches, or watermelon
    • Fall- grapes or pears
  • Seasonal Fresh Veggies
    • Winter– potatoes or squash
    • Spring- broccoli or asparagus
    • Summer- tomatoes, green beans, or eggplant
    • Fall- brussels sprouts, yams, sweet potatoes, or turnips
  • Roasts, Whole Chicken, or Ground Meat 
  • Frozen or Canned Fish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Bulk Oatmeal
  • Bulk Rice
  • Bulk or Canned Beans
  • Frozen Fruits and Berries
  • Frozen Produce
  • Spices/Seasonings
  • Olive Oil

Stick to Your List!

This one is important! The list will only do you good if you end up following it. If you want an additional snack or other food but want to wait and see what there is first, write down your budget to make sure you at least stick to that while shopping.

Bonus Tip: Eat Before Shopping!

Shopping while you are hungry increases impulse buying. Not a great place to be when you have a list to stick to unless you intend on being in a bad mood the whole time or spending a bunch of money. If that is your intention, then go ahead and skip that pre-shopping meal or snack.

This is also important if you are trying to lose weight! Don’t impulse buy foods you can’t resist, or you can throw your results out the window!

Buy Smart

You can do many things before and while at the store to make sure you can stretch your dollar further. Below are some tips to help you shop smarter and eat healthily!

Buy in Bulk

I have touched on this a few times already above, but almost every food item you can buy has the option to purchase more for additional savings.

Easy foods to save on by buying in bulk include:

  • rice
  • grains
  • meats
  • frozen vegetables

All of these foods can easily be used in multiple recipes so that you don’t waste the “extra” food you bought.

Buy Whole Foods (Don’t Shop at Whole Foods)

Processed foods come at a higher cost than their ingredients because you are paying for all of the additional preparation that went into them. So skip over processed foods like cookies, soda, and premade meals to see pretty massive savings on your grocery bill.

And don’t think I am telling you that you can’t have these foods! If you are craving cookies and they fit your nutrition goals, absolutely make yourself some cookies!

You may also like: 11 Reasons Whole Foods Help You Lose Body Fat

Buy Canned and Frozen Foods

Buying canned or frozen foods may sound like it directly opposes the tip right above, but that is not my intention here. The trick with canned and frozen goods is that you can buy them in large quantities and save them to use over time.

If you have the time and means to can and freeze food yourself, then go for it! You will absolutely save even more money.

I want you to avoid getting a bulk deal on a bunch of green beans and then losing 70% of them because you couldn’t use them all in time. Instead, buy a flat of canned green beans, and now you can save them and use them as needed or desired!

Frozen foods can also be cheaper than fresh versions sometimes, so remember to check prices! Frozen fruits and vegetables will also store longer!

Watch for Deals and Use Coupons

Almost every time I buy food, I look for deals on the food I am looking for or something similar. For example, I might go in looking for ground beef, but there is a manager’s special on steaks close to the expiry. So I will buy the steaks instead and use them immediately or freeze them.

But, if you have the time for it, coupons can save you massive money on groceries. 

I am going to be honest; I am not a couponer at all. However, I know people who save 30-40% on their groceries simply by going through their grocery list and stacking coupons that apply to what they are planning to get.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a quick “look for coupons for 20 minutes” situation. They take it very seriously. However, if you are seriously trying to save, a few quick searches might get you an extra 10% on your next grocery run.

Always Check Cost by Weight/Volume/Quantity

I check “cost by X” religiously. Most likely, it is a serious problem that I should talk to a licensed professional about. But, aside from that, it saves me a decent amount of money every time I go to the store. Like, do I need 10 lbs of chicken breast? Probably not, but it is ten cents cheaper per pound than the 5 lb bag, so I’m totally going to buy it. And I will definitely use it all, so it works out in the end.

Buy Store Brands

Buying store brands can be tricky; it isn’t always the best deal to buy store brands. So make sure you are continuously checking cost by X from the tip above. However, in most cases, the store brand is the same product it looks similar to. It is packaged at the same location, with a different label slapped on, and sold at a lower price.

Grow Your Food

Growing food isn’t for everyone. I would love to grow my food, but I have neither the time nor the space to do so. However, in the warmer months, I generally buy some live spices that I use while cooking until the plant dies off from me picking pieces off to use all the time.

Usually, the live version is similar in cost or even cheaper than I would pay at the store for a package of the same herb, and I will get far more use and flavor out of it.

But growing a small garden can save a considerable amount of money if you have the time and resources to do so!

Pack a Lunch to Eat Healthier

I feel that I have adequately covered that eating out is expensive. However, this needed to be a tip all its own.

You would be amazed what packing your meals, snacks, and drinks will save you over the week. Plus, if you have followed the tips above, you should have some meals ready to grab and go!

I will throw this out, too: I get into a bad habit of running to the gas station and buying breakfast sandwiches when I am busy with excavation. By simply purchasing the frozen alternative to those same sandwiches at the grocery store and throwing them in the nuke right before I leave, I can save about $10 just on breakfast every day.

I know this doesn’t fit the whole eat healthy part of this guide; however, this can be applied to just about any food.

Is Eating Healthy Too Expensive?

So what do you think? Could some of this “Eating Healthy is Too Expensive” Healthy Diet Guide help you live healthier and save money? Or am I out of my mind for thinking the two can coexist in the same space?

I believe that you can have both more money and better health by planning nutritious meals, cooking at home, and making intelligent choices at the grocery store. You don’t have to go and get a new credit card to eat healthy on a budget. If you are willing to put in some extra effort, you can totally eat healthily, eat good food, and save on groceries every month.

Want to read more about eating healthy on a budget? Check out this eating healthy is expensive reddit thread.

Are you interested in seeing more content like this, free workout plans, and some absolutely terrible apparel I have designed? Just subscribe right below!


Can You Eat Healthy Foods Without Breaking The Bank?

Yes! You can learn more in the full post above. However, by doing something as simple as using a grocery list and buying generic or store brand foods, you can save right now.

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