Eating Healthy On a Budget in 4 Simple Steps

    
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

Finding healthy foods that fit your budget and your health goals can feel like a jigsaw puzzle. But it is entirely possible to load up on quality, nutritious options each week without breaking the bank or losing your sanity.

Here’s how to set your budget and four simple steps to help you build a price savvy weekly menu for you and your family. 

How Much Should I Budget For Food?

The first logical step in learning how to master a nutritious diet on a budget, is ultimately to determine what your food allowance should be.

This amount can vary person to person based on income and lifestyle factors like where you live, how often you eat out, and your personal nutrition goals. Along with any additional family members you plan to feed.

You can estimate how much you should be spending on food each week using the national average - $690 a month or $173 each week (1). Or by calculating how much you are currently spending on food, including restaurants, and adjusting accordingly.

You can also set your food budget using your weekly salary. According to recent statistics, most Americans spend about 10% of their income on food. For example, if your household salary is $8,000 a month, your monthly food budget would be $800 or roughly $200 per week. 

How to Eat Healthy on A Budget

Oftentimes when we think of eating healthy, organic foods, clean eating comes to mind, along with the many pricey health food trends on the market. It's no wonder that eating well is attributed to spending more money. But you don't have to sacrifice nutrition for dollars.

A healthy diet is less about the bee pollen powder or acai berries you snagged from the store, and more about finding basic, nutritious foods that fit your personal health goals. 

This typically means loading up on simple, whole foods like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. And cutting out heavily processed foods high in added sugars, fats, and artificial ingredients. 

Eating at home more, shopping sales, and buying in bulk, are a few incredibly easy and common approaches to saving money each week. However, these are really only step one in the process, you’ve still got to understand how to plan and prep your meals for success each week. 

Fine tune your meal prep skills and you’ll often find yourself losing weight, eating better, spending less money on grub, and decreasing food waste in the long run. No more buying bagged salads and chicken every week at the store just to toss them in the trash when they inevitably go bad in the fridge. 

Here’s your go-to guide for mastering nutrition and your food costs each week. 

Step 1: Stop Eating Out

The majority of your food spend is likely going towards takeout and restaurant meals - including your regular gourmet coffee purchases. 

Sure the occasional Chipotle lunch and Starbucks stops don’t feel like a big deal, but you might be surprised to find out how much you’re actually spending. And don’t even get me started on the calorie counts you're racking up in the process. 

Taking control of your nutrition with more home cooked meals is the most efficient way to cut costs and eliminate less healthy food choices. 

Pro tip: Set a budget and routine for eating out and try to stick to it. And while you’re at it, track it each week to hold yourself accountable. 

Step 2: Plan Your Menu in Advance

I cannot stress enough the importance of a solid plan. This goes beyond just making a shopping list before you hit the grocery store. Meal planning is a crucial tool in designing a menu that fits your taste, health, and wallet. 

Take some time each week to think through what you want to eat in advance. Scour the web for recipes you like and check your pantry and fridge to see what you’ve already got on hand. 

Write it down, day by day, creating a menu or schedule to follow. Then, build your grocery list off this. 

Pro tip: Use recipes that share ingredients and seasonings so you don't have to buy more than you need. 

Step 2: Keep it Simple

You know your culinary skills better than anyone, so don’t kid yourself. Gourmet, made from scratch recipes always sound great on Sunday but mid week when you’re tired and push comes to shove, you’re probably not feeling it. 

Save yourself the heartache and set yourself up for success with the easiest recipes you can dig up. Even if this means eating the same things all the time, at least you're building a healthy habit and sticking to your plan. 

Try more one pot dishes like stir fries, pastas, casseroles and soups, or try some instapot and crock pot recipes. 

Opt for easy to cook veggies like green beans, broccolini, zucchini, and salads over options that require a lot of prep work (peeling, soaking, etc) and a longer cook time. 

And don't shy away from some already prepped options like canned and frozen foods. Just be sure to double check the label to ensure its meeting your nutrition standards. 

Pro tip: Frozen fruits and vegetables, canned beans, and brown rice all tend to be low cost and help you cut down on food prep time at the same time. 

Step 3: Eat What You Like

Get to know healthy food staples that work for you and stick with them. If you don’t enjoy the dishes you’re eating, there's little chance you're going to stick with it. 

This includes seasonings, sauces, and cooking ingredients like olive oil. 

Find affordable protein staples you can enjoy on the reg, like baked chicken thighs or lean ground beef patties. Then pair them with new side dishes each week to keep things interesting. 

Pro tip: Greek yogurt can be used as a sour cream or cream substitute, a high protein snack, and the base for many homemade dressings.

Step 4: Master Portion Control 

The better you get at planning a menu that matches your nutritional needs, the less food you tend to waste, and ultimately the better results you see. 

Learn how many calories you should be eating each day and how much food that actually translates to. 

Get familiar with food portioning tools like measuring cups, spoons, or even a food scale. Then build your meal plan and shopping list around the quantity you actually eat. 

Pro tip: Use a food tracking app to learn your calorie goals and track your daily intake to see how you’re doing overall. 

Build Healthy Meals Starting at $5

Or skip the meal prep altogether and get budget friendly healthy meals delivered straight to your door. You can get organic grains, veggies and high quality lean proteins like salmon or grass-fed steak, pre-cooked and ready to eat starting at only $5 a meal when you order Trifecta A La Carte.

Just pick and choose your favorites to mix and match and curate your own menu - it's like meal prep without any cooking. Add sauces or healthy seasonings or use in your favorite simple recipes. The possibilities for customization are endless.

Make Me Food

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