Over 100 Ways to Eat Well on a Budget: The Ultimate List

Eat Well on a Budget

The main concern we hear about healthier whole foods is that it’s too expensive, but we believe that with a little research, organization, planning, and creativity, it’s possible to eat well on a budget.

We’ll be honest with you: the hardest part of eating healthy on a budget is going to be setting aside the time. We’re often used to paying for convenience. The average American eats about 5 restaurant or take-out meals per week. It’s usually more expensive than cooking at home. Americans also waste 40% of the food in our supply chain, and about 40% of that is food that is wasted in homes. Why pay for food we’re not going to eat?

The easiest/most convenient way to eat is often more expensive, but by spending time making your own food at home, you can make your budget stretch further. But instead of thinking of it as too much time, consider it as QUALITY TIME with your kids. Many of these activities can be fun for you and for your whole family, and as you learn these new ways and skills, your kids will learn them, too. We promise it is worth it! 

Try getting in touch with your inner pioneer spirit or think about how your grandparents and great grandparents ate when fewer options were available.

To get you started, we’ve outlined 100+ ways to eat well on a budget

Produce on a Budget

  1. Buy less more often. 
  2. Buy organic for the Dirty Dozen. Buy conventional for the Clean Fifteen. We created a printable PDF of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen so you can put it on your fridge. 
  3. Find recipes to match the seasonal produce vs. produce to match the recipe
  4. Join a CSA
  5. Store your produce so it lasts. We’ve compiled a handy printable guide on the best ways to store the most common fruits and veggies.
  6. Buy produce that isn’t too ripe, so it lasts longer
  1. Buy local and in season
  2. Shop at farmer’s markets
  3. Shop at roadside stands
  4. Buy root veggies and veggies that last longer in bulk
  5. Grow your own!
  6. Buy Ugly Produce
  7. Buy salad greens by the head, not in the bag
  8. Only wash what you’re going to eat.
  9. Check out ethnic grocery stores like H-Mart which often have great prices on produce.
  10. Volunteer at a local farm in exchange for produce.
  11. If you have a garden, barter with your neighbors for more variety.
  12. Join a community garden.
  13. Grow your own garden.
  14. Grow your own herbs.
  15. Sprout your own alfalfa sprouts. Your kids will love it! 
  16. Regrow green onions from root stems. Use the green part and put the white ends in water (root side down). Change the water every few days. As long as you change the water and remove the outer sheath when it becomes slimy, you’ll have a source of green onions for a while. Your kids will love this too! 
  17. Store celery and soft herbs like cilantro in a cup of water covered with a plastic bag. Replace the water every few days. 
  18. Grow a renewable lettuce garden
  19. Save seeds from produce
  20. Use your food waste for compost. No space? Consider composting eggshells and coffee grounds only. 
  21. Store mushrooms in a paper bag.
  22. Forage. If you’re completely new to eating wild foods, find a mentor or at least a good book to guide you. Be sure you’re familiar with some foraging ground rules before you go out harvesting
  23. If you use EBT/SNAP to purchase some of your regular groceries, check out this website to see if your state participates in Double Up Food Bucks.

Reduce Food Waste

  1. Finish all leftovers.
  2. Learn how to repurpose leftovers. 
  3. Use clear containers for leftovers so you can easily find them.
  4. Plate food mindfully. Don’t serve too much at once. We can always get seconds.
  5. Freeze produce when it’s starting to go bad. This works great for bananas, berries, grapes, kale and more! Wash and dry before freezing.
  6. Freeze meat and fish if you’re not going to eat it right away. Remember you can only freeze once. Thawing and freezing again affect quality and develop more bacteria. 
  7. Preserve produce you can’t eat right away. Try canning fruits and pickling different vegetables.
  8. Wrap and freeze blocks of cheese before they go bad.
  9. Freeze bread if you won’t eat it all before it goes stale. Wrap it first.
  10. Freeze extra dinner to eat at a later date.
  11. Repurpose leftovers.
  12. Pulse stale bread in a blender to make breadcrumbs. Freeze to use later.
  13. Slice then bake leftover pita bread or corn tortillas to make chips.
  14. Cut day-old bread into cubes. Toss with olive oil and herbs. Bake for homemade croutons.
  15. Use what you have until it’s gone.
  16. Blend wilting greens or herbs into pesto or sauce recipes.
  17. Save your veggie scraps and bones to make broth. Think asparagus ends, carrot ends, and cilantro stems.
  18. Learn about expiration dates. Just because it’s said to be expired, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Terms like “sell by” and “best by” aren’t regulated, and they’re usually based on peak quality not on spoilage date.

Savvy Shopping

  1. Buy generic brands
  2. Choose cheaper cuts of grass-fed and pastured meats
  3. Purchase a quarter grass-fed/grass-finished cow/steer from a local farm
  4. Meal plan so that you don’t buy more than you can eat/cook. 
  5. Shop on a Wednesday (most produce shipments come in midweek)
  6. Visit your local Aldi
  7. Compare grocery stores. 
  8. Check your weekly local deals
  9. Find bargains on the top and bottom shelves
  10.  Instead of browsing the stores aisle by aisle, let your list guide you to specific places in the store
  11. Compare prices by weight (called unit price) 
  12. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
  13. Buy nuts in bulk, not processed and flavored
  14. Buy grains in bulk 
  15. Buy the whole chicken, not just parts
  16. Check the unit price
  17. Buy whole foods, not prepared or pre-cut foods
  18. Avoid the impulse buy
  19. Consider frozen meats and fish which are often cheaper. 
  20. Stock up on sale items 
  21. Consider Misfits Market which has great prices on organic produce.
  22. Shop at Thrive Market which has great prices on organic staples.

Home Cooking

  1. Eat at restaurants less. Cook at home more.
  2. Consider cooking at home as quality time and get your kids involved! They’ll learn how to make things on their own. 
  3. Have an arsenal of kitchen sink recipes. These are the recipes like soups, frittata, shepherd’s pie where you can add everything but your kitchen sink.
  4. Love your grass-fed ground beef. It’s usually inexpensive and a pound can feed the whole family. It’s easy to prepare and very versatile. 
  5. Make your own beef tallow. It’s super easy! 
  6. Make a little extra dinner to serve as lunch the next day.
  7. Cook in bulk to either freeze or eat later in the week.
  8. Approach meals as an opportunity to spend time with kids and teach them. You save money vs eating out too.
  9. Pack your lunch!
  10. Experiment with different cuts of meat that are less popular.
  11. Stretch your grass-fed beef in recipes with black beans and other legumes.
  12. Make a batch of homemade granola for the week
  13. Make your own healthy snacks like trail mix. 
  14. Keep things simple! You don’t have to make that 50 step recipe. Many at home recipes have minimal ingredients and are super easy. 
  15. Blend leftover milk or yogurt into fruit pops that can be enjoyed well beyond the expiration date.
  16. Eat more vegetarian meals.
  17. Eat meals that are “light” on animal protein. 
  18. Make your own ketchup. It takes 5 minutes and it’s a great way to use up leftover tomato paste.
  19. Make your own yogurt. Super easy! 
  20. Make your own bread.
  21. Make your own nut butter.
  22. Make your own ghee.
  23. Make your own oat milk from bulk oats. It’s a bit messy but easier than you think! 
  24. Make your own salad dressings.
  25. Make popcorn from organic kernels instead of microwavable bags. 
  26. Make your own kombucha.

Food Choices/Swaps

  1. Drink water instead of sugary beverages/alcohol. 
  2. Bring water from home instead of buying bottled water when you’re out.
  3. Brew your own coffee and tea at home instead of going to cafes,
  4. Split an entree and add a salad if eating out.
  5. Try the fare at local food trucks.
  6. Try restaurants with counter service.
  7. Have a picnic instead of eating out. 
  8. Plan potlucks with friends.
  9. Always take home your leftovers when you eat out.

Organization

  1. Plan your meals, according to your time available.
  2. Keep the pantry clear of clutter, so you aren’t buying things you already have.
  3. Regularly survey the fridge to make sure you’re using food before it spoils 
  4. Use the first in, first out (FIFO) method. This means that you should have newer food on the back and the older food and leftovers in the front. 
  5. Make meals out of what you already have in the fridge/pantry.
  6. Store food in the ideal way so it doesn’t spoil.
  7. Label, label, label! Especially your leftovers so you don’t forget about them.
  8. Get creative with labels so it’s more encouraging to eat leftovers. “Delicious squash soup made with love” might be more appealing that an unknown jar of orange puree

From gardening to canning and freezing to meal planning, we hope these 112 ways have inspired you to get creative about eating healthy on a budget. Try not to get overwhelmed by making too many changes at once. Pick a few of these ways to try out each month and see what sticks! Within a few months, you’ll discover what’s doable for you, and also what you like doing most.

Have something to add to this list? Contact us to let us know! If we add your idea, we’ll send you a FREE digital copy of our book, My SuperHero Foods. Good luck!

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