How can I eat healthy on a budget?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Frozen, canned, and dried foods can contain as many or sometimes even more nutrients than fresh foods. Additional preservatives or sweeteners may be added to these foods during packaging, so choose foods with labels stating “no added salt”, “no added sugar”, or “in its own juice/syrup”. Often canned foods are less expensive than fresh. Another way to cut costs is to buy foods in bulk. Foods such as dried beans, brown rice, or whole grain pastas are usually less expensive, available in large quantities, and can provide bulk to salads, sautéed veggies, or other meat and protein-based entrees.


Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Fresh is nice, but it’s not always necessary if money is tight. Watch this video to learn which foods RealAge's Dr. Mike Roizen says you can buy on ice or in a can to eat healthy on the cheap.
Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics
With a little forethought and planning, eating healthy on a budget can be a reality.
  • Start by taking inventory and plan your meals based on what you already have on hand. It’s estimated that a family of four throws away an average of $500 a year in spoiled food -- $500! 
  • Use a shopping list to avoid bringing home extra items and staying too long in the store. Research shows that the longer you’re in the supermarket, the more money you spend. Get in and get out.
  • Use coupons and the supermarket’s weekly circulars to save while shopping.
  • Cook at home whenever possible. It costs more to dine out.
  • Use less meat. Prepare more meatless meals and stick to small portions of meat to save money and to keep meals healthy. 
  • Buy store brands -- especially for organics and staples like cereal and rice.
  • Shop for produce in season, when it’s cheapest. Stock plenty of frozen fruits and vegetables when they are on sale.
When money is tight and time is short, it may seem difficult to maintain a healthy diet. But mealtime doesn't have to be costly when you're trying to eat right. With planning, meals can be convenient, healthy and inexpensive. Consider these ways to save money and still maintain a healthy diet:
  • Search online for easy one-pot recipes: Many recipe Web sites offer nutrition information and grocery lists for their meals. You can find dinner options that can last for more than one night.
  • Use coupons: Clipping coupons or printing them from Web sites can save you 10 percent to 15 percent on your grocery bill. Also consider joining your supermarket's shopper's club for price specials.
  • Follow portions for protein: You can still keep your costs low when shopping in the meat section. Remember a three-ounce portion of cooked meat, fish or poultry is the size of a deck of cards.
  • Make a meatless meal: Beans are an excellent source of protein and an inexpensive way to create a healthy meal.
  • Think outside the crisper: Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables will last longer than fresh versions from the produce department and are equally nutritious.
  • Don't throw money away: Keep leftovers safe by refrigerating them quickly. Use before they go bad and you can stretch one meal into several.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.