Updated: Jul 30
Affordable Nutrition is the idea you can eat healthy on a budget. Check out this guide on ways to nourish your body without breaking the bank.
Life is expensive. Planning is key. The cost of groceries has been going up. According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 2022 prices for food at home rose 11.4% and food away from home rose by 7.7%. While we cannot predict what will happen with grocery prices in the future, we can use some simple, sustainable tools to support affordable nutrition. Eating healthy on a budget does not mean you have to sacrifice taste and nutrient density, it just takes a little bit of planning.
Here are some tips on ways to create nutrient dense, affordable, sustainable and delicious meals at home.
12 Tips To Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Do a Pantry Inventory
Step 1 in eating healthy on a budget is getting your kitchen organized. Take an inventory of what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer so you do not overbuy.
2. Create a Menu Plan for the Week and a Detailed Shopping List
Creating a weekly menu plan will give you structure for the week but also space get creative! Think about how you will use your leftovers. If you like chicken, you can do chicken soup one night, chicken stir fry for lunch and chicken fajitas later in the week. Meal prepping will also mean your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy, easy meals to have on hand.
After you do a pantry inventory create a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you need based on a weekly menu plan as well as snacks to have on hand. Creating a detailed list makes shopping easier, faster and you will be less likely to make impulsive buys.
3. Have a Snack Before Shopping
Simple and powerful - have a snack with clean protein and healthy fat to balance your blood sugar and prevent you from making hangry, impulsive buys. An apple with nut butter, veggies and hummus or eggs and avocado are all great options.
4. Eat Seasonally
When food is in season it is grown more frequently and in larger quantities, meaning less cost to you (basic supply and demand). If you buy a watermelon in the middle of winter it will be more expensive, less nutrient dense and not taste as good compared to buying a watermelon in the middle of summer in its peak season. Buying out of season produce will be more expensive since it has to be shipped from a further destination increasing cost of the item due to transportation and storage costs.
5. Shop Local
Shop at the farmers market, small grocery stores, or find your local farm. Check out the National Farmers Market Directory. I always go to the farmers market 30 minutes before it closes and produce is usually sold at a discounted rate. Also, always carry cash at a farmers market – you can sometimes get better deals. If you do not have a local farmers market, many farms offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. CSAs are a way to buy products from local farms, usually in the form of bundles of veggies, fruit or meat that you pay a flat monthly or yearly fee for. Buying local also benefits the overall community and environment.
6. Make Your Own Dressings, Dips & Spreads
An excellent way to save money, increase nutrient density of your food and get you back in the kitchen! I am a huge fan of making my own salsa, pesto, chimichurri, hummus and simple salad dressings.
7. Grow Your Own Food
This is one of my favorite tips - growing your own herbs, fruits and veggies is a great way to save money and also have nutrient dense food at your fingertips. If you do not have a garden start with growing herbs on a windowsill in your kitchen.
8. Shop on the Perimeter of the Grocery Store
In the inside isles you will typically find processed foods, cookies, chips, soda and other pre packaged foods. Pre packaged foods can increase your grocery bill with little nutritional value. On the perimeter of the grocery stores you will find produce, dairy, meat and other fresh items. Minimize those pre packaged food snacks by shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store!
9. Buy in Bulk
Bulk purchases are a great way to save money as long as they get used. Cooking in bulk also saves time and money – prepare food in bulk and freeze into family or individual sized portions. Growing up my mom always made pasta sauce in bulk and had it on hand in the freezer. To this day it is still my favorite sauce I have ever had (shout out to childhood food memories).
This is an excellent resource that helps you decide what produce is suggested to buy organic and what produce is suggested to buy conventional. Every year the Environmental Working Group tests for pesticides in produce. The 2023 guide includes data from 46,569 samples of 46 fruits and vegetables. The Dirty Dozen (suggested to buy organic) are most likely to be contaminated by pesticides and Clean Fifteen (ok to buy conventional) have a lower amount of pesticides.
11. Be Mindful of Food Waste
It is estimated that the United States wastes over 120 billion pounds of food each year. Use leftover veggies, poultry or meat in soups, stews, and salads to minimize costs. Put veggie scraps in a freezer bag and when it is full make mineral broth. Be mindful of what perishables you buy.
Chop and freeze any fresh herbs with olive oil into an ice cube tray
12. Know Your Stores
Know what stores have the best deals (for example, I buy my produce from Sprouts, pantry items from Trader Joes and protein from a local farmers market). You can ask a store what day produce is delivered every week and shop on that day to get the freshest options.
Bauman, Jessica. (2019). Affordable Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College