Easy Ways to Eat Healthier on a Budget in 2018

Instead of making a big deal about resolutions, think about a few ways you can nudge your way towards healthier without it being overwhelming.

We’ve all been there – the new year comes & we’re headed out to the store to spend big bucks on everything healthy we can lay our hands on. We drop a bundle and then we lose our “oomph.”

Sometimes the most powerful changes are small ones we can implement bit by bit without too much pain! Here are a few suggestions to help you (and me!) on your way to healthier that will actually improve your bottom line.

popcorn in a paper bag, from Serious Eats

1.) nix the junk food:

Did you know a 9-ounce package of Lay’s Potato chips for $3.83 is actually $6.80 a pound? Snack on popcorn (freshly popped, not the microwave bag) instead. Buy a Whirley Pop to make it fun, shake it in a pan on the stove or do your own microwave bags – like this recipe from Serious Eats! I think I might have the definitive post for popcorn on my site, see my Freshly Popped Popcorn post.

photo from the Portland Water Bureau

2.) drink water:

It’s by far the healthiest (and the cheapest) drink around. Get yourself a bottle, if you don’t have any sitting around. If you need to (this is me!) start with a glass a day, increase as you go, replacing unhealthy (and expensive) alternatives.

from my private brand

3.) shop the weekly sales:

Sit with the flyer, plan your meals around the sales. Yes, it’s planning, it’s going to take some time, but less time than you’d spend going out to eat or making multiple trips to the store. You’ll save money in the long run and eat healthier.

Check this grocery list out from Today’s Mama

4.) make a list:

Make a list when you go to the store and stick to it! Avoid impulse buys and don’t shop when you’re hungry.

Vibrant Vegetarian Casserole

Vibrant Vegetarian Casserole

5.) plan meatless or vegetarian meals:

Vegetarian meals are generally less expensive and better for you than a standard American meal. Start once a week, see how it goes. Focus on healthier meals with a lot of varied vegetables like this Vibrant Vegetarian Casserole.

Seasonal Produce Guide from USDA

6.) buy in season, consider frozen & canned:

Buy in-season vegetables and fruits – if you don’t know what they are, let price be your guide. Check out frozen or canned options, which may or may not be cheaper, depending on the prices and whether or not you use coupons. If there’s a great price for a particular product, consider blanching and freezing.

Grocery Store Layout from Real Simple

7. shop the outer aisles:

The outer aisles are generally where you’ll find the vegetable aisle, bakery (which may be less expensive than the packaged bread aisle), dairy and proteins. Avoid center aisles unless you know what you want, and you’ll be less tempted by packaged items. Read the Secret to Grocery Store Layout from Real Simple.

Wraps made with hummus – made with dried Chickpeas

8.) consider alternative proteins instead of beef, pork & chicken:

Items that may cost less are eggs, nuts, nut butters, grains, beans & legumes, cottage cheese, canned salmon or tuna (look for Alaskan Wild canned Salmon for a clean option), frozen fish.

Thai Chicken Curry with Vegetables

Thai Chicken Curry with Vegetables

9.) use meat as a condiment:

Think meals full of vegetables and lighter on the meats. Stir-fries, ramen bowls, simple curries, like this Thai Chicken Curry with Vegetables. If you are into a higher protein meat-based diet, consider larger less expensive (and often tougher cuts) and braise, slow cook or pressure cook them into succulent meals.

10.) check alternative stores:

Aldi, if you have one, is a great place to pick up items at a discount and the local dollar store may have bargains galore. Keep an open mind as you check them out. I stocked up on canned greens from a Dollar General just so I’d have a grab and go option when fresh are out of season. Not my first choice, but a healthy one.

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11.) embrace and plan for leftovers:

Using leftovers is an ideal way to get a jump up on a lunch for the next day, a meal or portion of it later in the week, or to stock your fridge or freezer with easy to grab meals. Cook more than you need just for that purpose.

photo from Nola

12.) drop the booze:

So a little partying can be fun, but booze is expensive & high calorie with little to no redeemable food value. Consider setting it aside and sinking those dollars into more nutrient-dense foods.

photo from dupont

13.) indulge:

It’s easy to go awry if you’re feeling deprived. Indulge yourself with a high-quality treat or special dinner at home or out. One planned treat a week feels more indulgent with a lot less guilt than going off your “plan” is going to generate. Maybe your treat will even be a beer or a glass of wine.

And here’s wishing you a happy & healthy New Year!!

The Frugal Hausfrau - a dozen easy ways to eat healthier this year while saving money at the same time!

44 thoughts on “Easy Ways to Eat Healthier on a Budget in 2018

  1. Pingback: Healthy Eating On a Budget: Great Tips! – HealthNuts.club

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  3. Great post Mollie!!! Love the grocery store layout photo! So many good good ideas. My daughter and her husband do vegetarian January every year to get back on the good eating track. And I’m so with you on using leftovers and all your shopping tips. You are a genius! The only hard one for me is the once a week treat!! I’m more on the once a day schedule! Love you blog Mollie!! hugs from here!

  4. I love the diagram!!! the ‘eat something’ before you go shopping is key!!
    I religiously write lists and plan food, I even write my list in the order the products appear in the store!
    We do a single weekly food shop, and it’s time and cost efficient 🙂

  5. These are great ideas. I was a little overwhelmed, I wanted to change my lifestyle rather than go on a diet. Everything was so confusing hah the low carb, Keto, paleo. Whew my head was spinning.

    • I know exactly what you mean!! And most of them act like you HAVE to make a complete change over (which is great, I’m sure if you can – I don’t seem to be able to!) but I think any change is a positive, right? 🙂

    • It’s amazing what a difference it can make! I was a vegetarian for around seven years and I always scoff when I hear how “expensive” it is to “eat healthy.” I think it’s more that most people don’t value vegetables in the same way they value meat.

      The last 2 1/2 years, cooking for my folks really made me aware of how many people automatically consider pork, beef or chicken as the centerpiece of the meal.

      I think it took a toll on my health, all those Midwestern meals, so I’m looking forward to going fresher in this coming year! 🙂

  6. You had me until the part about dropping the booze. 😉 LOL! A very good list with some doable suggestions. I had never thought much about the grocery store layout until now but it does make sense. And now I’m off to have a glass of wine. 🙂

  7. Nix the junk food and drop the booze! Gasp. 🙂 But very good tips. Our portions with meat are small which keeps the budget in check. Just wish there were coupons for produce! Most coupons are for processed or junk food.

  8. Excellent tips! As a mom, I’m always thinking of ways to feed my family healthy meals on a budget. Some of my go-to ingredients are dry beans (a pound of cooked beans can be used to make soup, stews, salads and more), cauliflower (make it as “mashed potatoes”, “rice”, patties, roasted), and a whole chicken breast (cook it, make broth for soup, throw shredded chicken on top of any veggie or make a casserole or enchiladas).
    -Fabi at Wonder Fabi

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