7 Ways To Save Money on Healthy Food

Good nutrition doesn't have to be expensive.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you don't have to give up eating healthy because nutritious foods may cost more. While greater access to nutritious food for everyone is the goal, here is how you can cut costs and eat healthy on a budget.

"Healthy food doesn't have to be more expensive," Heather Adams, a Seattle-based meditation and wellness teacher, and writer told Health. "Fruits and vegetables that aren't pre-cut can fill a bowl and a belly cheaper than a lot of processed foods."

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Ways To Eat Healthy on a Budget

Still, the costs of eating healthy can add up for those facing food insecurity: Accessibility to healthy foods remains an obstacle for many low-income families.

A USDA study released in June 2021 found that 88% of individuals participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) experienced difficulty accessing a healthy diet. The most common reason—reported by 61% of the participants—was the cost of healthy food.

Cook at Home

Cooking tasty food that you like at home can be rewarding. Further, it's one of the main ways to eat healthier and save money. So, instead of buying pre-made foods from stores, get the ingredients and make them yourself. Easier said than done, of course. You may need to start slow.

If making entire meals is not your thing, or you don't have the time, a nutritious and cost-effective alternative is to start by making your healthy food staples, like salad dressing or granola. These types of foods can be costly when store-bought, and making them yourself with fresh ingredients is "an easy way not only to save money but also to eat healthier versions of your favorite convenience foods since they won't contain preservatives and you can control the amount of added salt and sugar," Stephanie Harris-Uyidi, a Southern California-based chef and host of the TV show The Posh Pescatarian, told Health.

Shop at Your Local Farmers Market

Visit your local farmers market for fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables. Shopping for produce that is in season is much cheaper than buying produce that isn't.

Plus, the best place to know what's in season is at a farmers' market. "Supporting local farmers means spending about half as much at the grocery store than you would otherwise," Jamie Hickey, RD, a certified trainer and registered dietician, told Health.

Harris-Uyidi said farmers' markets are budget-friendly because farmers bring their goods directly to customers without interference from shipping agents, retailers, and other go-betweens. So you get fresh, healthy fruits and veggies and support your local farmers.

Another tip? Make sure you use your produce entirely and try not to waste anything. "One head of cabbage can serve up to 10 meals depending on how you use it and will only run you about two to three dollars," said Adams.

Adams suggested getting creative and making different dishes with the same veggies, so you don't get sick of them. Any fruits and veggies you haven't used yet but are close to spoiling can be made into smoothies.

Buy Food in Bulk, and Try To Stick To Store Brands

When you can, buy food in bulk—especially foods that have a longer shelf life (e.g., whole grains and dry goods) or can be frozen. Buying your favorite healthy foods in bulk means fewer trips to the store and more money saved. Just remember to only purchase in bulk if you have the storage space and can use what you've bought before it goes bad.

Also, buying generic or store-brand versions of healthy foods—like peanut butter, cereals, yogurt, and granola—will be cheaper than name-brand versions. "Stocking up on supermarket-brand staples can save you an average of 15 to 30%," said Harris-Uyidi.

Use Store Sales, Grocery Store Coupons, and Cash-back Apps to Your Benefit

You can also plan to do your grocery shopping according to the sales at your store of choice. Other than taking time to compare the prices between national and store brands, checking store flyers for any discounts on foods you like can also help you save money.

Budgeting expert Andrea Woroch advised taking advantage of grocery store coupons, cash-back apps (such as the Coupons.com app or Fetch rewards), or credit cards that allow you to get cash back on your groceries.

Grocery gift cards, which you can find on sites such as Raise and GiftCardGranny, are another way to save money on your favorite healthy foods. You can also sell your gift cards for cash back on Raise, and GiftCardGranny lets you earn cash back on gift cards bought from their site, which can then be redeemed for gift cards.

Prep Meals in Advance

Sometimes the last thing you want to do after a long day is cook. To avoid reaching for the takeout menu, set aside one day a week for meal prep. Meal prepping doesn't have to be difficult. Plus, over time, you may be able to incorporate more regularly planned meals into your week and find ways to make meal prepping more efficient.

To keep it simple, Harris-Uyidi suggested having one source of protein in each meal, at least one vegetable, and a whole-grain or nutrient-rich starch. You can also use MyPlate to guide your meal planning, as it can show you a more individualized food plan for what you should eat and how much.

Making healthy meals in bulk saves you time and money while making it easy to eat healthily. "This ensures you have plenty of leftovers that you can freeze and reheat on nights you don't feel like cooking, which inevitably will deter you from ordering takeout and eating something that isn't as healthy," said Woroch.

Stock Up on Frozen Produce

Buying frozen fruits and veggies is a great way to eat healthy on a budget. Frozen produce costs about 30% less than fresh produce, said Woroch. Plus, fruits and veggies will last a lot longer and are usually all chopped and ready to go, so you don't have to spend time rinsing and cutting.

If you don't end up using a lot of the fresh produce you buy, or it spoils quickly, frozen might be a good option for you. "Flash-frozen produce keeps much longer than fresh and will maintain most of the nutrients," said Adams. This is because frozen produce is typically picked and frozen when it's freshest.

If you see a sale on fresh fruits or vegetables, Adams suggested buying in bulk and freezing some of it yourself so you can use it for longer. Keep in mind that this does not apply to canned foods—they tend to have higher levels of fat, salt, and sugar.

Eat Less Meat and Dairy

Explore plant-based or vegan options. "We noticed an immediate drop in our monthly grocery bill," said Rebecca Brooks, financial coach and owner of R&D Financial Coaching, LLC in Tennessee, when she switched to a plant-based diet in 2016.

Additionally, meat, in particular, is usually the most expensive part of a meal, so try including high-nutrition foods that won't break the bank (e.g., beans, lentils, or tofu). You can also substitute at least one or two days per week to incorporate plant-based sources of protein into your diet—it will save you money and keep your diet healthier, too.

A Quick Review

Eating healthy doesn't always have to break the bank. With money-saving methods like cooking at home, taking advantage of frozen produce, buying foods in bulk, and meal prepping, you can find ways that work for you to ensure you stay within your grocery budget. That way, you can still add the nutritious foods you need for a healthy diet.

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6 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Barriers that constrain the adequacy of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allotments.

  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 7 ways to enhance the flavor of your meals.

  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Shop healthy on a budget.

  4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 10 tips for eating right affordably.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Planning meals.

  6. U.S. Department of Agriculture. MyPlate plan.

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