Ask the Readers: How Do You Eat Healthy on a Budget? (Chance to win $25!)

By Linsey Knerl on 4 May 2010 122 comments
Photo: Selma90

*** Congrats to our winners! ****

  • Emily - It's actually less expensive to eat healthily than not... a shopping basket filled to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables costs considerably less than one filled with ready-made meals, processed foods, etc.! Like many others, we...

    1) cook from scratch as much as possible, freezing leftovers if we'd cooked a big batch of food. This includes baking our own breads and making our own sauces most of the time.

    2) buying frozen and dried goods in bulk. we buy canned goods too, but they're generally not as healthy.

    3) avoid wasting food -- we cook as much as we can eat, freezing leftovers. We buy fresh produce once or twice a week, and finish them before they go bad.

    4) we compost our food wastes and use it towards our small vegetable garden.

    5) we mostly buy whatever's on sale

    6) limit meat products... this one's also tough for us because my husband loves his meats :-)

  • 1bets1 - I eat healthy on the cheap! I use beans for protein, and grains such as bulgar are very cheap. Add produce & milk- G2G. #WBAsk  

And check out these reader blog posts that share how they are eating healthy on a budget!

 

Many of us are starting gardens, watching what we eat, and giving organics a try. Others count calories, exercise more, or drink plenty of water to shed pounds and live longer. What are your strategies for maintaining a healthy diet? Can you do it with less money than you've been spending on unhealthy options? We think so!

In partnership with General Mill's Eat Better America, we are asking you, the readers, how you can amp up the health factor of your meals, without juicing up the grocery budget. It can be done, and with Eat Better America offering healthy recipes, tips, and savings coupons, it just got easier!

We want to know how you eat healthy on a dime. With so many of us living such busy lifestyles, it can be difficult to implement good eating habits — especially those that won't break the bank!! What kinds of tips can you offer others hoping to achieve good eats for less? By sharing your thoughts, you'll be entered to win a $25 grocery gift card!

Feel free to link to a blog post, if you're written on this topic! We'll include it in our post upon the conclusion of our giveaway!

For even more chances to win, visit Eat Better America's website and register for the chance to score a $1500 in groceries! You can also "Like" them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for updates on more exciting promotions, better living tips, and savings coupons.

Win one of two $25 grocery gift cards:

We're doing two giveaways — one for random comments, and another one for random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, May 10th at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced after May 10th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings — once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck!

*Prizes provided by General Mills and Eat Better America.

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Guest's picture

i eat less food less often

Guest's picture
Sarah R

The main way I save money is by knowing prices. And I shop around: Vons and Ralphs for sales only, ethnic market for produce, Trader Joes for staples, and sometimes a lower-priced-than-whole-foods natural market for bulk grains and cereals.

I eat no meat except for fish so I shop the canned tuna sales and never pay over $0.44 a can. The last three cans have been free with coupon.

I shop for fruit and veggies at an ethnic market where the prices are cheaper (and buy mostly in-season). I also buy dried beans there, preferably in bulk. They're really easy to cook--sort, drop in water, then wander off for a while.

I grow herbs year-round and tomatoes in the summer.

Basically, I have a low-priced, healthy diet that keeps me satiated... and I'm a food junkie!

Guest's picture
Eri

(1) We mostly shop at ethnic grocery stores (Chinese, Korean, Indian), farmer's markets, etc., and cook from scratch; at general grocery stores we use coupons (< $1.00 coupons are doubled) to get sales items (e.g., olive oil, sugar, salt, whole wheat, etc -- no processed food).
(2) We don't eat much meat (and only eat small amount of chicken, and some fish, occasionally). Instead eat beans and veggies a lot.

Guest's picture
A

Turn meat dishes into stir fry with veggies whether it's lettuce, broccoli, carrots, napa, bok choy, baby corn, water chestnuts, bell peppers, and/or onions, etc etc etc! Find veggies on sale and just add it to your chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp and it'll stretch the amount of food a long way - plus taste good. Feel free to add spices or sauces to your taste.
Apples, pears, and oranges are probably the cheapest fruit to buy and just set it out in plain sight/within hands reach (pre-washed) and you'll find yourself reaching for these when you feel the need to chew rather than head to the cupboards for chips, candy.

Guest's picture
Katrina

I buy from reduce price grocery stores (Aldi, local stores, and a food salvage/dented can store) and I'm careful to buy ingredients, not "pre-made" things. The only exception to this is at the local Indian grocery store, where I sometimes splurge on RTE meals that I can heat up any time.
No sodas, very few snacks, very few sugary things.

I buy rice in bulk and I eat it often. I have a bread machine, and I use it to make my own pizza dough (which is handy, because I worked at a Papa Johns for 5+ years and I know my way around pizza).

I hardly ever eat out. And I mean that. My boyfriend and I are in graduate school and we can't afford to do so. In fact, we love making dinner together more than eating out. It's better bonding, and cooking together lets you get to know a person better than going out to any restaurant will.

I live in Pittsburgh, and I just started shopping down at the strip district at the wholesale food places. I'll never buy veggies from a grocery store again; I got a bag of:

4 baby eggplants
3 avocados
1 acorn squash
3 chili peppers
and 1 pint of grape tomatoes
for $4.
FOUR DOLLARS! Can't beat that.
The other day my boyfriend and I brought our big blue ikea bag to that same place and filled it up with roughly 20 pounds of stuff for $20. That included 7 jalapenos, 3 acorn squash, mushrooms, a honeydew melon, two fistfuls of string beans, two full size eggplants, 4 avocados...

If I could shop at Trader Joes or Whole Foods I would; their food is lovely! However, I can't afford it and neither can my boyfriend. I can only try to do my best with what is given to me and what I have accessible.

Sugary snacks and deserts are special things that should only ever be eaten sparingly in my opinion.
As my last hurrah, I would also like to add that there's nothing wrong with dumpster diving as long as you know what you're getting, where you're getting it from, and the time span in which you need to eat it. There's nothing like scoring a free apple pie (still boxed up) from a local bakery for free. Places like Trader Joes are accommodating to this; and Einstein Bagels loves to throw out what they don't sell at the end of the day.

Guest's picture

Beans and rice! I like these mini english muffin pizzas, you can make them as healthy as you want depending on what veggies you put on them (or have on hand).
http://frugalplayground.com/?p=730

Guest's picture

How Do You Eat Healthy on a Budget is the topic which is we much important as each & every individual has to know about the healthy diet looking at the budget.We should eat green vegetables, lots of water had to avoid bad habits like smoking & alcohol etc through this you can save money & spend them on healthy diet.

Guest's picture

I purchased a freezer some years ago to help with food costs because I found most stores have one day a week for specials. I know some places you live will not allow for such items but if you are fortunate enough to be able to invest in such an item it will pay for itself in food saving in the long run. Buy on sale, currently both our stores have "Wednesday Specials". I try to buy my food items on those days to get a better deal. My family members are meat people so I buy what is on sale in family packs, most of the time the sale is only for family packs, then I divide them up into individual meal portions. We eat a lot of chicken and ground beef, as these a usually the less expensive meats where I live. We also use a lot of dry beans. Buy bulk and do the same with dry staple items as well. I just invested in a vacuum seal machine to help keep the shelf products more stable and to use when I break down the bulk items into individual meal serving sizes. Yes it is work but only once a week. It has saved me money over the years. The other tip I use is to plan your menus for the week or even for the month, this will also keep costs down and only buy what you need. Planning your menus will keep you on track with a budget. Try not to be repetitive in the meal planning for each week as that gets boring to you and the family. Buy vegetables in season and fruit in season. When affordable buy extra dry goods and keep in the pantry. Remember to rotate goods in the pantry so you do not loose them by letting them expire. Same with freezer items.

Guest's picture
Beth

I clip coupons for food I normally eat and save them until I can match them with a sale. I also make most of my food from scratch. In the spring/summer/fall, I hit up the local farmers market for great produce, meat, and dairy. I also use my freezer heavily to stock up on sales and to freeze 1-2 serving size amounts of homemade meals.

Guest's picture
Emily

It's actually less expensive to eat healthily than not... a shopping basket filled to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables costs considerably less than one filled with ready-made meals, processed foods, etc.!

Like many others, we...

1) cook from scratch as much as possible, freezing leftovers if we'd cooked a big batch of food. This includes baking our own breads and making our own sauces most of the time.

2) buying frozen and dried goods in bulk. we buy canned goods too, but they're generally not as healthy.

3) avoid wasting food -- we cook as much as we can eat, freezing leftovers. We buy fresh produce once or twice a week, and finish them before they go bad.

4) we compost our food wastes and use it towards our small vegetable garden.

5) we mostly buy whatever's on sale

6) limit meat products... this one's also tough for us because my husband loves his meats :-)

Guest's picture
Jessi

Research and planning are the most important parts of eating healthy with a budget in mind.

Eating on a budget relies heavily on the obvious tactics of cutting down on junk food and dinner outings. I saved the most money when I didn't drink any soda at all.

For items I use often, I try to buy in bulk. Rice, chicken, onion, garlic, and other bulk vegetables are convenient to process right away and grab handfuls out of the freezer later on. I learned that I could freeze onion and garlic from online communities, so don't be afraid to use the Internet to get advice form like-minded people.

I check the grocery store ads every week for items that are on sale. Mostly I keep an eye out for produce that doesn't freeze well, and staples for my pantry. I go to the store with a list and just enough money to pay for those items, and that helps me avoid adding anything else to my basket.

I set aside time on my days off to cook only enough food to last me the week, because if I let it sit longer I convince myself that it's all rotten and end up wasting food. I only have enough room in my freezer for ingredients.

Like others have said, cutting down on meat consumption can be a cheaper and healthier way to plan meals. Some of my favorite homemade meals were ones where I had to get creative because I had to avoid using meat.

Guest's picture
Jessi

I forgot to add that it's important to try to make many things for yourself. I bake my bread to save money grocery shopping, and so that I can have bread crumbs. I buy my chicken with the bone in so I can have chicken stock to flavor other meals. I turn my stale rice into fried rice. And so on. The fact that I can get so many meals out of just a few things I prepared on my own is my favorite part of cooking.

Guest's picture
jennifer

Cook from scratch, buy what's on sale only and use coupons, and buy bulk!

Guest's picture
Trish

I eat LESS. I can afford the organic meat and produce, because I buy and use the smallest amounts possible! I eat only one large meal a day (often using similar ingredients for several days in row: pasta with tomatoes, garlic, and red peppers, pizza with red peppers and mushrooms, Roasted tomato bruschetta... etc.). This works because I really love certain vegetables, and because I try to eat seasonally (which also helps cut costs!), so I don't get too tired of anything... Otherwise, I snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and drink lots of water and iced tea (that I make at home!).

Also a huge help to the grocery budget? Over the last year we have dramatically decreased the amount of processed foods we buy. I love how having a pantry stocked with flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, rice, yeast, salt, and sugar makes it possible for me to make lots and lots and lots of different dishes! (But I also love to cook, so there you go.)

Lastly, I make coffee at home. I can even afford to buy the organic fair trade coffee because it still is far FAR cheaper than getting a latte at Starbucks every day.

Guest's picture
Fireweed

Garden, garden, garden. Can and freeze. Buy in bulk with a friend.

Thanks for the chance to win money for groceries!

Guest's picture
JoAnn

I shop the along the walls of the supermarket where all of the real food is, not processed boxes of unpronouncable ingredients. I am using my slow cooker more and also cooking more on the weekends so that I have leftovers for the busier week days. I have a ceraminc travel mug in which I take my morning tea to work. I make homemade muffins or banana bread for breakfast or the lunch box. Cooking from scratch and buying dry ingredients in bulk helps me stay within my budget.

Guest's picture
Angela

We grow & raise some of our own food. We see gardening as a family project & a great learning experience. We trade surplus fruits and vegetables with friends who grow & raise different things than we do.

Guest's picture
Kay

One way to save money on bulk items like beans, oatmeal, dry milk etc. is to look into buying at a local LDS warehouse store. A friend of mine told me about this and I recently got dry milk for 1/4th the cost of the next cheapest place I could find. The prices on their other items are also exceptional. I asked a (formerly) Mormon friend about why the prices were so cheap and she thought the church subsidized the food. You can find out if you have one near you by looking at the LDS website - make sure to call ahead, the one in our area only sells to the public on Tuesdays.

Also factor in the cost of gas when going out of your way for deals to see if its still a deal. I remember reading (back when gas was $2 a gallon) that the actual cost per mile for driving your car is $.50 per mile figuring in insurance, maintenance, cost of your car etc. So although this is an indirect way to save money on food it still saves money overall.

Let people know that you are looking for fruit trees to pick from. When we did this we got several people offering to let us pick from their trees. Most people don't want the food to go to waste even if they aren't using it themselves. If we are picking from elderly or disabled people's trees we of course always pick enough for them too. If you leave the yard nicer than when you started you will both benefit from this arrangement.

Guest's picture
Diana

In addition to cooking everything from scratch, even making pizza dough from flour, buying and eating LESS really saves you a lot. This way you can loose weight as well (if one needs to that is). We eat lots of veggies, and I've discovered that adding a rice or another grain dish will stretch the meal farther. Eggs are also an inexpensive meal option, and they're not just for breakfast. Also, I grow lots of herbs and use regularly what the garden provides.

Guest's picture
Joel Gray

I really found your article full of information that I could actually implement easily in order to minimize my food bill. Thanks for sharing and I especially liked the tip on buying food in bulk, that is definitely doable. It is so possible to eat healthy on a dime.

My specialty is locating and sharing financial tips to help others survive in these troubled times. Feel free to drop me a line - would love to hear from you!

Guest's picture
Bucky

beans and rice.

rice and beans.

healthy, filling and cheap.

Guest's picture

We can save money by keeping our intake of heavily processed and junk foods to a minimum. We should drink plenty of water. Limit foods high in refined sugars and saturated fats. We should eat a balanced diet meaning get a good variety of all the food groups, especially vegetables and fruits.
http://www.healthandsoul.com/right-way-of-eating-fruits-and-healthy-ways...