You can eat healthy meals on a budget. Any budget.
If you strip the idea of eating healthy to the basics, then you’re talking about eating a lot of whole, single-ingredient foods and fresh fruit and vegetables. And limited fatty, sugary and highly processed foods.
You do not need to go to high-end shops to acquire healthy food.
Across the UK, there are food stores that cater to a wide range of budgets, and it shouldn’t be hard to find fresh and non-processed food like rice, eggs, fruit and veg at any of them.
So how do you afford healthy eating on a budget all the time? Here’s how to plan low cost healthy eating and stick to it:
Budget for success
If you want to eat healthy on a budget, you must first decide what that budget is.
To do this, you want to assess your current grocery budget against your ideal spend.
A free app like Money Dashboard will make this easy by showing you how much you have spent each month on food and at what stores you spend it.
To reduce your spending and meet your new low budget healthy eating goal, you can take a few approaches.
- Cut out luxury items
- Cut out restaurants and take-away meals
- Shop at less expensive food shops
These three steps not only save money, but often coincide with healthier food choices.
Create consistent habits
With your budget in hand, it’s time to plan your cheap healthy food shopping. Here are some tips to develop budget friendly eating habits.
Order groceries online
It’s easiest to order ingredients online from a grocery chain for pickup or delivery. That way you can select healthy ingredients and watch the total price add up. This helps you to stay within your budget. You may also find this approach keeps you more accountable to buying “healthy foods” and prevents you from selecting luxury items.
When eating on a budget, it’s important to have a meal plan in mind for the week ahead. This helps you organise your grocery shopping, buy only what you need, and helps ensure nothing goes to waste. For healthy meal plans on a budget, look online for ideas. Buzzfeed’s Tasty and Jamie Oliver often curate affordable and easy recipe lists.
Cook at home
The best way to get cheap healthy meals is by cooking it yourself. And by cooking large portions you can utilise leftovers and worry less about going hungry. Pack your cooked lunch to-go if you will not be home for that meal.
If you aren’t inclined to plan or cook then this approach can seem a huge pain. But it’s well worth the effort: you set yourself up to eat healthy for the week without excuses, stay on budget and have less temptation to eat out.
Smart shopping tactics
Grocery shopping is usually when the best laid plans for healthy diets on a budget goes wrong. That’s because unhealthy foods and luxury foods often have the best marketing.
Here are some tips to resist temptations and stick with the plan:
Write a grocery list and stick to it. Grocery list apps make it easy to populate your list and satisfyingly check them off when you add items to your basket
Don't shop when hungry! When you’re hungry, everything looks good. You will be more likely to overshop and go off plan.
Buy whole foods. Instead of buying pre-cut, canned or processed versions of healthy foods like fruit and veg, get the original thing. This is generally cheaper and healthier.
Don't be tempted by well-known brands. The differences between brands are minimal, and the biggest impact will be on your wallet. Many grocery store chains sell their own brands, usually for much less and are just as good, if not better.
Buy in-season fruit and veg. If a product is in season – meaning it naturally grows and ripens at that time of year – it might not only be fresher and tastier, it will probably be cheaper too. Use tools like Eat Seasonably's handy calendar, or the Love British Food!'s "What's in Season When" guide to find seasonal produce that won't break the bank.
Shop the sales and use coupons where possible. I knew someone who exclusively bought on-sale items and lacked for nothing. This may be a bit extreme, but you can find lots of on sale items and alternatives if you look, potentially cutting your bill in half.
Remember to use your freezer. If a healthy item you love to eat can be frozen, load up when it goes on sale and freeze it for another day.