Healthy Eating on a Budget

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Purchasing unique foods, superfoods, plant-based foods, and whole foods in general can be quite expensive, I’ll be the first to admit. BUT it doesn’t have to be! You can navigate your own kitchen, markets, and bulk bins to continue living a healthy lifestyle eating whole foods. Today I’m going to share with you all another “How To” post about Healthy Eating on a Budget.

How to eat healthy plant-based and whole foods on a budget.

This has been a highly requested blog post for quite some time now, for good reason. All of us want to and should be able to, eat healthy whole foods as much as possible without spending our savings. Healthy eating can be an investment, but it’s an investment in your health which is the most important investment of all. Regardless of if you’re on a budget or not, these are amazing ways to eat healthy, plant-based, and whole foods and tips that I live by every week when I’m making a trip to the market!

Now I buy more food than the standard household because I’m constantly developing recipes and creating in the kitchen which requires a lot of tests (i.e. FOOD!) and I’ll occasionally have pitfalls in the kitchen where it goes to waste or the compost. Nonetheless, I’ve had to sharpen my skills in the past year with shopping in a more budget friendly way. Here’s what has helped me shop smart and still consume healthy foods daily.

1. Befriend beans

Beans, lentils, legumes, pulses – whatever you may call them, all are fantastic ways to bulk up any meal in terms of volume and also in calories and nutrition without costing you much. Dry pulses are great to purchase in bulk and store well in airtight containers or mason jars.

2. Prioritize organics

Stick to the “Dirty Dozen” list for the top foods that should ideally be purchased organic. This will help decrease the overall amount of “having” to purchase all organic produce.

3. Bulk

Buy in bulk as often as possible. At first, you may think you’re spending a lot of money on bulk specialty items, but when you breakdown the costs per serving, you’re actually saving money in the long term. For example, I always buy spirulina, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and other “superfoods” in bulk. This principle can also be applied to your beans, grains, and other produce items as well.

4. Shop smart

Frequent wholesale stores and your local farmer’s markets or get involved in CSAs, a community garden, or pick up gardening yourself. Wholesale stores are stepping up their game when it comes to offering high quality foods in bulk, organic produce, and even organic animal proteins if you incorporate those.

5. Garden

If you can’t buy it, try to grow it! Growing gardens, whether personal gardens or communal gardens, is a great way to have local, seasonal, and healthy food right at your fingertips. It also is a great teaching/learning experience for everyone in the family.

6. Seasonal

Remember the season! Trying to get strawberries in the dead of winter is quite expensive in comparison to purchasing them when they’re perfectly ripe and local to your region in the summer (Nashville for example).

7. Frozen

Don’t neglect the frozen isle of your grocery stores. To clarify, I’m not a fan of highly processed frozen entrees and meals. What I’m referring to is strictly the frozen veggies and fruits with nothing added to them. For example, if you’re shopping for frozen raspberries, then the only ingredient should be… frozen raspberries.

8. Batch cook

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it forever. Cooking in bulk or large batches will not only save you a tremendous amount of time for the week ahead, but it can also help you prepare meals using all your bulk purchased items for later by simply freezing.

9. Skip the “superfoods”

I know superfoods are all the rage now and I use them very often, but there’s no need for superfood powders. Don’t forget the not so glamorous and highly publicized superfoods like broccoli, red bell peppers, kale, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, etc. All whole foods are “super” foods in my book! The darker and more vibrant a colored fruit or vegetable, the better.

10. Nut and seed love

Start cooking with nuts and seeds. Not only are they calorically dense, but they’re also nutrient dense for a very small amount. I often buy nuts/seeds in bulk because I’m constantly using them in recipes and they’re so easy to top onto salads, make your own nut milks with, add to desserts, etc.

11. Homemade

Whenever possible, make your own version of the store bought. Ideas include hummus, baba ghanoush, soups, nut milks, ice creams, smoothies, juices, etc. You’re often paying for the convenience and brand rather than the actual ingredients, plus did I mention it’ll be much healthier? Well, it will be!

12. Make your own frozen meals

Cooking large batches of beans and lentils then freezing them in mason jars is a great way to save yourself time and cook on a budget. Other ideas for frozen foods include cooked rice, roasted vegetables, and proteins of your choice. Just freeze them in an airtight glass container until they’re ready to be reheated.

13. Share with friends

Buying in bulk? College student rooming with someone? Share the costs of healthy eating by buying in bulk or purchasing a CSA membership together.

14. Be last

Purposefully try to catch the tail end of farmers markets. Most often, farmers are willing to negotiate a bit more because they’d ideally like to share their produce with someone rather than bring it back home!

15. Meal plan

Preparing meal ideas for the week ahead not only saves you time, but can help save you money by purchasing only the necessary ingredients you need. Check out my Batch Cooking 101 post on more tips and how-tos to help your family prepare meals ahead of time.

16. Make a list

Prioritize the foods and items you need by making a list before you leave the house. This helps cut down on impulse buys and keeps you on track with the meals you’ve planned!

17. Clean out the pantry

It’s smart to clear the house with foods and goods that can easily be donated that don’t necessarily mesh with your goals and lifestyle. It’s also a great way to take inventory of what you do have to prioritize your next grocery trip. Also check out my post on Pantry Organization like a Pro to make sure you’re keeping the ingredients fresh!

18. Make your own condiments

Using frozen or leftover fresh fruit is a great way to make your own canned jams for several months ahead. You’re not wasting any fruit by discarding, but reusing instead! Check out my recipe for Raspberry Orange Chia Jam to get you started.

19. Be smart about storage

Storing your bulk items in airtight containers is a great way to keep your grains, nuts, seeds, and beans optimally fresh. Arrange your refrigerator in a way that air is well circulated and keeps everything nice and fresh. I find it useful to store all my greens in large bags or bins to keep them fresh versus keeping them in store-bought packages or wrappers.

20. Flour power

Make your own flours! By purchasing grains, nuts, and seeds in bulk you can easily use a blender or grinder to make your own flour. Store in a mason jar in the fridge to keep it optimally fresh.

CLICK HERE —>Healthy Eating on a Budget for a free downloadable/printable PDF of my Healthy Eating on a Budget tips to share!

What was your favorite tip today? Share and comment below, I’d love to hear what you all think of these tips and more “how to” blog posts you’d like me to cover. I hope these tips help you on your next trip to the store!

xx McKel

Share your thoughts

  • Jen

    Hi McKel,

    Thanks for these excellent tips! I especially agree with you about superfood powders being a luxury rather than a necessity. I think that they can put people off eating healthily, because they think that they have to use them to be healthy! I occasionally add them into smoothies, but not every day 🙂 I hope you’re having a lovely day!


  • I totally do all of these things in order to stay on budget! I am GF (Celiac’s) and mostly vegan, so my pantry is always full of things I can make. I think one other important thing is having a basic whole-foods based pantry so that you can make cheap, quick meals easily. This goes with your part about freezing beans and grains, even roasted vegetables. I always like to have potatoes and eggs on hand too, because you can always make a meal with them. I also think investing in time-management kitchen items, like a blender, rice cooker, and a slow-cooker have greatly improved my ability to stay on my mostly plant-based budget. This was such a great post! I’m going to share it with my readers as well 🙂

    • Exactly! It takes time, organization, and preparation to stay on point especially with speciality diets. So glad you’ve found this helpful and you have some great tips as well 🙂

  • Great tips McKel!

    I particularly like the dirty dozen list. Buying all my produce organic really adds up, so I always consult this list to keep my pesticide consumption to a minimal. Buying and cooking in bulk is great for those living the busy life.

    Looking forward to reading more of your How To posts!


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post Anna! Any other requests for “how to” posts?! Love to hear 🙂

  • Pam


    All valuable points. 🙂

    Homemade & freezing portions are my personal favorites. With preparing dishes myself, I not only save, but can control exactly what goes into it. And I love being able to “shop” my freezer…whether it’s for an ingredient or a meal!

    Enjoy hearing your ideas!

  • I really need to start batch cooking and buying in bulk. Thanks for the tips!

    – Christina

  • Christina

    I just bought your batch cooking PDF! Thanks!

  • Jessica press

    Love this thank you! The problem I find at my local sprouts is a lot of the bulk items are not organic I.e. Beans nuts seeds and dry fruit. How important are each to get organic? Thanks!

  • Thank you for sharing this one! Not only we will be able to save money from your tips but then we are staying up in becoming healthy and in staying fit at all times!

  • Julia

    Yay! Thanks so much for these great tips! This was my first time reading one of your blog posts and I am so glad I did! I just subscribed to your newsletter! 🙂 As an aspiring dietitian from Memphis, TN, I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future. Thanks again!!

    • Thank you so much Julia, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post and thought it was helpful. Thanks for sharing with others too 🙂

  • Sarah

    I loved this post! I was wondering if you could do a post on how to transition your skin from using chemical-full face washes and products to all natural without freaking out your skin? Thanks!

    • Thank you so much Sarah! Great question- not being a skin expert (i.e. dermatologist), I can’t say whether or not that would actually happen- in my experience my skin actually became clearer because it was an easier transition to a product that wasn’t harsh on the skin. If you have specific worries or a history with skin rashes, etc. I would contact your dermatologist too!

  • What a great list of wonderful practical tips.
    I love going to the markets a little later sometimes to get great deals on the last bunches of kale or some other wonderful organic produce.
    Like you mentioned the dirty dozen list is a great place to start if you can’t afford all organic at least buy organic from the dirty dozen list.

  • Hi McKel! Thank you so much for sharing this. So many good tips. I will have to start making my own frozen meals and being the last one. So clever!!

  • Sofiyah

    This was extremely helpful! Thank you!

    • McKel Hill

      Glad it was!

  • Alex @ Free in the forest

    These are awesome tips! I adhere to most of these rules to stay under budget, but I really need to start cooking in bulk. I think cooking in bulk also inadvertently saves money because of decreased electricity usage by not using the stove so often.

    • McKel Hill

      It totally does Alex! I hope you give these tips a try next weekend and if you need batch cooking and meal planning support you gotta check out the NS Society! 🙂

  • Pingback: How Going Green Can Help You Save Big on Your Food Budget - TheEverygirl()


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