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How to eat healthy on a budget

Eating healthy is one of the best things you can do for your body. It helps keep your weight in check and may also protect you against chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

But what if your food budget is limited? How do you fill your cart with nutritious foods that aren't budget busters?

Here are 8 tips to help you eat healthy on a tight budget:

  1. Shop smart. Buy in-season produce – it's cheaper and tastes better. Stock up on sale items that have a long shelf life. Look for discounted fresh food nearing its expiration date, but only buy if you can use or freeze it before it goes bad. Use coupons only for items you would buy anyway.
  2. Buy store brands. Most grocers sell many products with their own label that taste just as good and are just as nutritious as name-brand food manufacturers. And they usually cost less.
  3. Choose unprocessed foods. We pay a lot for convenience so buy unprocessed foods when possible. It's less expensive to buy a large bag of brown rice than a box of quick-serve flavored rice. Dry beans cost less than canned beans. Puffed wheat is cheaper than name-brand cereals.
  4. Stick to a list. If you head to the store with a list of what you need – and stick to it – you'll be less tempted to make impulse purchases, which can blow your budget.
  5. Plan meals. Sit down once a week to plan your meals. Look at what you already have in the house and what's on sale and plan meals around those items. Find ways to use leftovers so they don't go to waste.
  6. Cook. You may think it's hard to make a healthy meal on a tight budget, but even when you buy more expensive ingredients it's usually cheaper to eat a home-cooked meal than to buy convenience foods at the store or grab a meal out.
  7. Be honest about your spending. When you add up how much you pay for unhealthy foods like soda, cookies, chips and frozen pizza, you'll likely find it's cheaper to buy real food than junk food.
  8. Eat more plant-based meals: By swapping meat-based protein for plant-based protein a few times a week, you can save yourself some serious cash. For example, 1 lb of lean ground beef costs about $6.00, while 1lb of tofu costs about $2.50.

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Date Last Reviewed: September 3, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN
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