13 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget from New York City Certified Nutritionist

Groceries on a Budget

Money is tight for everyone right now. Balance that with the need to keep our health – mental and physical – up, and it might feel almost impossible to eat healthy on such a limited budget.

It’s not. It simply takes a little extra preparation and thoughtfulness.

  1. Plan ahead. Plan your meals out for the next week – including protein, carb, vegetables, and fruits. Plan meals using, first, what you have in your cupboards.
  2. Use what you’ve got on hand. It’s key to know what you’ve got in your pantry, freezer, and tucked on those shelves in your refrigerator before ordering or heading to the store. Make a grocery list, based on the meal plan, and stick to it, using pantry items first so they don’t get old.
  3. Don’t throw those mushy and bruised fruits away! When fruits and vegetables are starting to look limp, don’t toss them. Freeze vegetables (shredded zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower pulsed in the blender) to add to soups and sauces. Fruits are perfect for simple cakes, muffins, and/or fruit compotes to eat with plain yogurt or on top of wheat toast.
  4. Appreciate imperfections. Oftentimes that funny-looking fruit is less expensive. But it doesn’t taste any less delicious! Appreciate those imperfections and appreciate savings!
  5. Cook larger portions. This saves time and money. Freeze leftovers in family-meal sized Tupperware containers, or eat them the next day for lunch and/or dinner.
  6. Buy whole foods. Blocks of cheese are less expensive than sliced cheese. Uncooked beans are less expensive than refried beans, chili con carne, and other “already prepared” presentations. Yogurt is less expensive in a big container than individual-sized containers. And a bonus is these whole foods have less plastic waste and are more sustainable.
  7. Plant an herb garden. Every kitchen, every apartment, has space for your favorite herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme, spearmint). Plus, the aroma brightens up any home.Plant an Herb Garden
  8. Plant a garden! If you have a yard, take advantage of the space to plant a small garden. In just a month or two, you will reap the rewards. You can EVEN plant a garden in your apartment. Listen to this TED talk with Britta Riley to get inspired.
  9. Replace meat with a plant protein. Beans, lentils, chickpeas – all pulses  — are inexpensive protein supplements perfect for salads, soups, and sauces. Combine with quinoa, chia, or whole-grain rice. Going meatless not only saves money but also is a more sustainable way to eat. Just once or twice a week will make a difference in your wallet. Make a big batch of chili to portion and freeze for another day to save time and money!
  10. Buy in-season. In-season fruits and vegetables are less expensive and more sustainable. For those out-of-season cravings, look for frozen fruits and vegetables – that maintain the nutrition without the high price.
  11. Buy in bulk … as your pantry and/or freezer permits. Millet, brown rice, barley, and oats are often available, and less expensive, in larger presentations. Store in air-tight containers. Again, this is only a savings plan if you have the space and storage for them!
  12. Drink water! Flavored drinks, juices, and sodas are not only more expensive, but they’re also often high in sugar or sugar substitutes, neither of which are good for you! Slice up lemon and drink water.
  13. Treat yourself. Right now, our lives have been put on hold. Why not have your favorite “fun food” around? Schedule your favorite chips, ice cream, or other indulgence into your weekly eating in a way they don’t replace balanced meals and all of your snacks between meals.

Money is tight. But your health shouldn’t pay the price. We all can eat healthy without breaking the bank. Stay healthy during this time. Take care of yourselves.