Happy Herbivore Blog

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

Can "eating healthy" and "budget" coexist in the same sentence? Yes! 

While there is no denying that some healthy foods can be pricey, it's possible to eat well (and save!) on a budget with a little leg work, smart shopping and planning.

A little more than a year ago I did a poverty awareness challenge where I had to eat for a week on $15 - in New York City.

Sure I wasn't going to win any gourmet awards with the foods I was eating, but it was healthful, full of grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and I was satisfied with the diversity and my meals. 

Cooking a pot of lentils for dinner might not be the sexiest option, but it's healthy, affordable and cheap. It also only takes a little extra work. You can throw a big pot of lentils together on the weekend and repurpose them all week long. Beans are also super affordable. You can buy a bag of dried beans for $1.00 and it will last for many, many meals. Store brand brown rice is also dirt cheap.

When it comes to produce: head to the freezer. At my local grocery store, you can buy 10 bags of frozen store brand vegetables for $10 and the bags are quite generous in size. You're also free to mix and match so you can get peas, corn, bell pepers, stir-fry veggies and so on. Frozen vegetables were my lifesaver on my $15 challenge and I find if you add them at the end of cooking, just to warm them up enough from their frozen state, they stay crisp and feel like fresh. 

If you really hate frozen, you can still find deals in the produce section. This week my store was selling 10 bell peppers for $10 or a bag of apples (10-12 apple) for $2.50. Those were both cheap options, along with bags of potatoes and leftover pumpkins that were practically free.

Another secret is to shop in the "ethnic section"-- you'll find spices are much cheaper on that isle (compared to the baking isle) and even things like dry beans and rice might be cheaper. It's an isle you never want to miss!

On that note, even better is an ethnic market. You'll be amazed at the savings you can find. I used to frequent this Indian market in Los Angeles where I could get a bag of lentils the size of a pillow case for $5! Spices were also really cheap there and rice too. At an Asian market in NYC I once found 10 tofu's for $3! 

Another way to save? Bulk. Bulk bins are a bargain and buying in bulk online (such as bulkfoods.com) or from a bulk store like Costco can be a deal. A friend of mine got a 5lb bag of quinoa at Costco for $5... which is about how much I paid for a tiny box of quinoa. 

Other tips:

1. Shop around. While visiting one store may be convenient, if you live in a place where you can visit several stores you should shop around. You can price items, look at sales, and figure out where to get your staples at the cheapest price.

2. Decipher between “staples” and “convenient.” I always thought canned beans were staples, when really they’re more convenient for me.

3. Try cooking 1 day a week.

4. Don’t let anything go to waste! You can recycle and repurpose anything -- even vegetable scraps (vegetable trimmings make great vegetable stock).

5. Try HH's meal plans. I've shaved $20/wk off our shopping list by sticking to my own plans!

A word about spices: I've choked looking at the prices of spices in supermarkets -- steer clear. I nearly died when I saw the price tag for dried basil at my mom's supermarket. It was almost $3 higher than what I paid for organic basil at Whole Foods Market (a place she insisted was too expensive to shop at). Whole Foods Market and Trader Joes have great deals on spices. Target also has spices at a reasonable price and many of them carry my favorite brand, Badia. 

You can also buy spices online from stores such as Penzeys or even Amazon. My friends over at Swanson have organic spices and herbs (and at a low price) and after some begging, they agreed to give you guys a discount! Click here for 15% off their spices

Lastly, skip over anything that involves individual packaging of any kind. You can get a big, giant tub of oats for the same price as a box of 6 packets of instant oatmeal. Take the few extra minutes to measure out portions of your oatmeal and save!

Have a thrifty tip? share it!

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