3 Steps to Eating Healthy on a Budget

We’ve all heard it  – eating healthy is just so expensive.

We may have even muttered those words to ourself while strolling the aisles of Whole Foods.

And there’s a lot of truth to it – I mean, who has $400 to blow at Whole Foods every week?


Priorities & Choices

Eating healthy with a budget comes down to 2 things:

1) Setting priorities

2) Making choices


Setting Priorities

Def. of priority : a thing that is regarded as more important than another.


Let’s compare 2 statements:

Statement Number #1 : “I can’t afford to eat healthy”

Statement Number #2 : “Eating healthy (and my health) is not a priority for me right now. Paying for rent is my priority because I don’t want to sleep under a bridge on a piece of cardboard." 

A bit extreme, yes. But, saying out loud the why behind our choice is both freeing and informative.


Extra Dimes

Now we have some money.

We are able to pay for rent, gas and lights – but we’re still saying “I can’t afford to eat healthy”.

What’s gobbling up our cash?

Here are some rabbit holes that can suck down our cash:


  • Going Out to Eat

It’s easy to drop $100 on a nice dinner for two with a few drinks and a generous tip.

If you spend $200 per week on groceries, that 1 dinner equals 3.5 days of meals or roughly 20 meals for 2 people.


  • Drink – Lattes, Kombucha, Sparkling Water

Yes, it’s the classic $4 latte a day example. But, think about those other drinks – kombucha, sparkling water, smoothies, juices – they all add up!


  • Supplements

The pill box of cash! I consider supplements to be luxury items. The cost of high-quality vitamins, minerals and probiotics add up quickly. My advice : Priority #1 = eat quality food. Priority #2 = supplements.


  • Protein Powder

Oh my gosh with the protein powder. (DELETED 3 PARAGRAPH RANT) Quality protein powder is expensive. If you're strapped for cash – eat real food. It will be cheaper. And you won’t have to listen to my rant.


  • Lifestyle choices: clothes, cable bill, electronics

Hey, I'm not knocking anyone for spending money on things they enjoy. I LOVE me some Lulus. But we must prioritize spending. 

What’s your priority? What’s important to you? We have a finite amount of money and time in this life. And we choose how to spend both.  

Are clothes, lots of cable channels and new gadgets important to you? Great, spend money on that.

Are food, a gym membership and a hiking passing important to you? Fine, spend money on those things.

We cannot spend our time and money on everything. Live with intention.


Making Choices

Let’s get practical.

1) Set a budget

I love budgeting. After college, my husband and I followed Dave Ramsey’s program to learn how to budget. We now use Mint to track our expenses.  

If you’ve never created a budget, simply start by tracking how much you spend each month in various categories (groceries, utilities, gas). When you determine how much you can spend, set a grocery budget and buy accordingly.


2) Choose Your Price

Is your budget...? 

  •  Nothing But Caviar – Budget? What budget? Food is my world.
  • I’ve Got Wiggle Room – I’m budget conscious, but have a bit of moo-la to spend.
  • Budget Maven – I’m on a super tight budget! Pinching pennies and praying at the checkout!

Pick one and shop accordingly!


3) Take a trip down the aisle


A healthy animal provides a more nutrient-dense meat, egg and dairy product.

Toxins – antibiotics and hormones -- are stored in the fat cells of animals. If you choose to buy fattier cuts, try to buy grass-fed or pasture-raised. If you can’t afford grass-fed, choose leaner cuts.

Is your budget...?

  • Nothing But Caviar: Choose grass-fed beef and dairy, fresh wild-caught fish, pasture-raised pork, chicken and eggs. These protein sources will provide the richest nutrient profile.


  • I’ve Got Wiggle Room: Choose a mix of meats -- fattier cuts of grass-fed beef, canned wild-caught salmon and leaner cuts of conventionally-raised chicken, like chicken breast. If you can afford pasture-raised eggs, buy them! Sure, a dozen eggs may be $6 per carton, but consider that your breakfast protein source for 4-6 meals.  


  • Budget Maven: Buy the leanest cuts of conventionally-raised meat because toxins are stored in the fat cells of animals. Remove the skin from chicken. Avoid cuts of pork, as pork has a high amount of Omega-6 fat. Packaged turkey slices and sausages are convenient, but pricey. Buy larger cuts on sale, cut to portion, bag and freeze for later.


Fruits & Vegetables

Is your budget...?

  • Nothing But Caviar: Buy all organic fruits and vegetables! Join a CSA and enjoy new, seasonal fruits and vegetables year around!


Produce on the clean fifteen list are the least likely to hold pesticide residue (OK to buy conventional): avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Produce on the dirty dozen list hold the most pesticide residue (best to buy organic):  apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.


  • Budget Maven: Focus on loading your shopping cart with fruits and vegetables. Skip the celery, cucumber and otherwise nutrient-poor produce in favor of nutrient-dense veggies like kale, spinach and green leafy vegetables! Buy frozen, too!

Shop your local farmer’s market. Many smaller farmers find it too expensive to obtain the “organic” label, but may grow their produce without pesticides – just ask! Shop late for negotiating power and a chance to grab a discount or buy in bulk at a discount. Some farmers would rather sell at a discount, instead of hauling the produce back home.



Is your budget...?

Buy dry-roasted, organic nuts (avoid nuts roasted in vegetable, sunflower, safflower and canola oil) and nut butter.


  • I’ve Got Wiggle Room: Buy a few quality fats -- grass-fed butter, cold-pressed olive oil and unrefined coconut oil.

Buy organic coconut milk, nuts and nut butters, when possible. When your budget allows, pick up dish-enhancers like coconut aminos, fish sauce, shredded coconut, olives and other condiments.


  • Budget Maven: Invest in quality butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Check out Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and less expensive grocers for high-quality, yet inexpensive oils and fats. Skip the pricey avocado oil and nut oils.

Nuts and nut butters are delicious, but quality nuts can be quite expensive. Make sure you’ve stocked up on the essentials – meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit and oils before spending your cash on nuts.


Yes, eating healthy takes effort. And planning. And is more expensive than a burger and coke at McD’s.

But doctor appointments and blood pressure medication are expensive, too.

Here’s the best part – you have a choice and you have options – whether your budget is to the moon and back, or can barely make it out the driveway – you can choose to eat healthy.