Having the time and money to focus on health is a privilege. The vast majority of self-proclaimed health nuts are able to shop at Whole Foods, make superfood smoothies in their fancy blenders, and splurge on bougie dairy-free cheeses, and most are not worried about feeding a family on food stamps.
I am becoming increasingly passionate about helping men, women, and children from all communities access and enjoy healthy food. I know we have a long way to go in eradicating food deserts and making healthy options more widespread, but I also find that people perceive eating healthy to be much more expensive and unreasonable than it actually needs to be. With this in mind, I want to share some of my tips for eating healthy on budget with you today.
First things first, you need to examine your priorities. The average American family spends about 10% of their income on food now, compared to nearly double that (18%) in 1960, and about half of that is spent on eating out. In other words, even though food is expensive, Americans spend only a small percentage of their overall income on food, and only about half of that is spent on food in the home.
There are two lessons to take from these stats.
- Prioritize healthy eating. Consider that you may have to reallocate your spending if healthy food is a priority for you. Could you spend less money on clothes, technology, etc. and spend that money on food instead?
- Cook at home. Don’t spend so much money eating out. Pack a lunch, make coffee at home, and saving takeout or dinners out for special occasions rather than a daily occurrence. You will be SHOCKED by how much money this saves you.
And now that we have those two tips straight, here are 5 more of my best tips for eating healthy on a budget.
- Avoid packaged foods. Healthy snacks like paleo cookies or grain-free tortilla chips can be very tempting, but these foods are typically over-priced, more calorie-dense, and less filling than good old fruits, veggies, meats, etc. Try not to waste your money on the trendy items and instead stick to the basics: vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, high-quality meats. If you do need to buy packaged foods like nuts, nut butters, healthy fats, etc., I highly recommend Thrive Market for the lowest prices.
- Shop sales or in-season produce. Most grocery stores have sales on fresh foods when they have too much or it is close to going bad. Don’t be afraid to try new vegetables or, on the flip side, eat the same veggies for a few weeks in a row. I almost always just buy whatever is on sale at the grocery store and figure it out from there.
- Buy frozen produce. Frozen vegetables are way less expensive than fresh vegetables and just as nutritious! Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, and chopped onion and peppers are some of my favorites to buy frozen because they taste delicious steamed or roasted!
- Buy in bulk. Bulk grocery stores like Costco and Thrive Market have great prices for large amounts of food. I place a Thrive Market order at least once a month to stock up on vinegars, oils, nuts, nut butters, collagen, and other snacks. I also go to Costco regularly to get big bags of produce or large servings of well-raised meats. I freeze whatever I can’t use.
- Don’t buy everything organic. It would obviously be ideal to buy all organic produce and well-raised meats, but that is not always an option. Prioritize buying high-quality fats first, including animal products. If you have to buy conventional meat, go for lean meats because animals store toxins in their fats. After that, try following the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen guidelines for organic produce. Know that non-organic vegetables and fruits are still WAY better than junk food or fast food.
Have any other tips for eating healthy on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!
A note about Thrive Market: Thrive Market is a membership community that uses the power of direct buying to deliver the world’s best healthy food and natural products to at wholesale prices (think of it like a healthy version of Costco or Sam’s). They also sponsor free memberships for low-income American families, which makes healthy eating more accessible for all people. I absolutely LOVE Thrive Market and all of the company’s values. You can use any of the links in this article to get 25% off and free shipping on your first order!