Shopping for fresh foods and preparing healthful meals for your family is often thought of as an expensive way to live. This belief has many Americans turning to fast food, which in turn contributes to our worldwide obesity epidemic. The truth is, a healthy, balanced diet doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be more cost effective to prepare homemade, nutritious meals than it is to go out to eat or buy pre-packaged meals, especially if you follow our 6 simple tips for eating healthy on a budget:

  1. Eat less animal protein – It’s important to buy meat organic and local if possible, however this can be expensive. Try saving meat dishes for special occasions, or limit them to once or twice a week. Instead, add plenty of cheaper protein sources to your diet like eggs, tofu, or beans.
  2. It doesn’t all have to be organic – If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy all your food organic, don’t sweat it! Just use this handy guide to make sure you are buying the most pesticide laden foods organic, like apples or berries, but don’t worry too much about foods with thicker skins like avocados or bananas.
  3. Shop at the farmers markets – If there is a farmers market in your area, you can do the majority of your produce shopping there for more budget-friendly prices. For the best quality, and price, make sure you are buying produce that is currently in season. If you aren’t sure what is in season in your area, use this list or ask the farmer!
  4. Buy in bulk – don’t be afraid of the bulk aisle! Invest in a few glass jars or containers so you can stock up on grains, lentils and nuts in the bulk section where they are far less expensive than prepackaged options.
  5. Plan your menu – Before you go to the grocery store or farmers market, plan out what you are going to cook in the coming week. This will prevent you from throwing anything into the cart that you don’t actually need. Another good tip is to find a way to use an item more than once throughout the week, so instead of buying kale and spinach, you can use kale in two dishes, using up the entire bunch.
  6. Drink water – Drinking more water is not only good for your health, it’s also good for your wallet! Invest in a water filter so you can drink tap water, and skip the expensive water bottles and other beverages.

Institute for Integrative Nutrition