Food for Thought with Morgan Atherton, RD, LD

Eating Healthy on a Budget

“Eating healthy is too expensive” is one of the most common phrases when it comes to trying to make dietary changes. Ultra-processed foods tend to appear cheaper up front and have a longer shelf life than fresh foods depending on the season. While it may take a little more effort and planning initially, there are many strategies for buying healthier foods while staying within your budget.

  • Unless there is a specific name brand that you personally prefer the taste of, buying the generic or store brand is a great way to save some money. Oftentimes, the store brand is the same thing as the name brand, just cheaper. Sometimes there can be a significant difference in price, which definitely can add up quickly overtime.


  • Try buying the whole food instead of the already processed version. For example, vegetables that are already washed and cut up are going to be more expensive than the whole version. While it may be more convenient at times, the price difference can end up being substantial. That being said, if buying fruits and vegetables that are already cut and ready to go help you or your family eat more and saves time, go for it. Just don’t feel like you have to buy those in order to follow a healthier diet.


  • Make a list and do your best to stick to it. Without a list it is even easier to buy items that you don’t really need and can add a lot to your grocery bill. By making a plan you can also use several of the same ingredients in multiple recipes, helping to cut down on your overall total.


  • Cook larger portion at meals and save the leftovers for meals later in the week. This can help reduce trips to the store and limit eating out as often throughout the week which can add up quickly, especially for families.


  • Look for sales and stock up when possible, especially on items that last longer and you use often. This works well for meats especially, as these tend to be one of the biggest expenses when it comes to grocery shopping. If you find meat that you like for a good price and you are able to buy extra, freeze what you aren’t going to eat soon and save the rest for later on.


  • Try incorporating some different protein sources. Items like beans, eggs, chickpeas, canned or packaged fish in water, canned chicken, or lentils are proteins that tend to have a longer shelf life and are less expensive than others. Most of these are also quick and easy to prepare and can be added to many different dishes for a good protein option.


  • Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Depending on the season, fresh fruits and vegetables can be more expensive and harder to find. It is also easy to have good intentions when purchasing fresh produce, but then something happens and it all goes bad before you are able to use it. Canned and frozen produce are just as good for us as fresh is, as they are usually picked at their peak value. These items are also available year round and can generally be bought in bulk which helps save even more money and you can use what you need and save the rest for later without it going bad quickly. Just try to buy frozen produce that is not is a sauce or gravy and canned vegetables that have no salt added. Try to buy canned fruit either in water or 100% fruit juice, and avoid fruit packed in any syrup.

It may take some time to find what works best for your budget, but even small changes can add up overtime. Plus, decreasing your intake of ultra-processed foods, even a little bit, can make a huge difference in your overall health saving a lot of money throughout your lifetime.