Eating Well on a Budget

People often tell me that it costs too much to eat healthy and that budget constraints are a barrier to making healthier meals.  While some higher quality ingredients do cost more, there are many healthy foods that are budget friendly.  It can be quite possible to eat very healthy meals and save money.  The following are a few cost saving tips for healthy eating:

  • Make more home-cooked meals.  Eating out gets very expensive and you can always make the same meal at home for less money.  When you eat out, in addition to paying for the food, you are also paying extra money for them to prepare it for you.  You’re also paying for some of the restaurant’s overhead (i.e. rent/electric) and for them to make a profit.
  • Reduce portions of animal proteins at a meal.  Many people think fruits and vegetables cost too much, but meat (beef, chicken, turkey, fish) are often the most expensive part of a meal.  A serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards, but we rarely eat portions this small.  By replacing some of the protein on the plate with some vegetables or whole grains, you will often save money.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season to save money.  You can also buy frozen fruits and vegetables to save money, and you’re not losing any of the nutritional value.
  • Use coupons and look for store specials to save money.  You can also save big by purchasing store brands vs. name brand products.
  • Buy in Bulk.  Larger containers often cost less than smaller ones.  For example, a large container of yogurt (~32 oz) will cost less per serving than buying the single serving sizes (6 oz).  A large container of instant oatmeal will save you a lot of money compared to buying the individual packets of oatmeal.
  • Always shop from a list. You can save money and often make healthier choices when you shop from a list instead of buying impulsively at the store.

For an example of budget-friendly recipes that are healthy, you can see some Healthy Entrees for Under $3 Per Serving at  For more tips on how to eat well on a budget, you can check out the USDA’s  Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals.