13 Ways to Eat Healthily on a Budget
Do you want to know the best way to eat right on a budget
If so, here are some healthy habits that will help both of those things.
How can you eat healthy + keep your healthy habits when going out to eat?
Let’s start with my exact strategies on how I stick to my healthy habits of eating nutrient rich foods and save money doing one of my favorite things: EATING!
I like to enjoy the area I live in and support family run restaurants. In doing so, I’ve had to come up with some tricks to be able to afford restaurant life multiple times a week.
Now, I am a firm believer in cooking at home too because you can cook with LOVE and the positive effects of eating with your people are endless.
Even the simplicity of eating alone watching something awful like a reality tv show is something I enjoy. However, in real life there are dishes, homework, overtime, school sports, activities and celebrating, all of which keep us going out more and more. I know I always appreciate when someone else cooks for me and I don’t have to clean up.
Most families enjoy going out but stay in and order boring pizza because they’re not happy with how much they spend going out to eat.
My main goal is to eat nutrient rich foods that fit in my mindset of budget eating. That means looking for more whole foods to fill my empty stomach. Processed foods only fill me up for a short time. In the end they do not help a food budget.
How to eat healthy on a budget: Use my tips below to stay healthy and keep some money in your pocket.
1. Drink Water.
I know it sounds easy, but the restaurant server always seems to put the pressure on you to order a beverage. They do make lots of money on soda!
Nah… don’t do it. Order a nice water with lemon, and if you are at an establishment with a full bar ask for lemon and lime. The citrus has an alkalizing effect which, aids in the body’s natural digestion. Plus lemon adds a burst of flavor.
2. Save the alcohol for at home / special occasions.
Last year drinking out at dinner cost us a ton of money. I had to put an end to alcoholic beverages when we dined out. Plus it’s not easy for your body to digest booze with food at the same time.
Remember, alcohol is acidic. The more acidity you put in your body the harder your body will struggle to maintain alkalinity.
We are talking money saving tips here, so skip it, or settle with one with your meal.
3. Order off the soup, salad & sandwich menu.
When we go out, I don’t always want the portion size or price tag of a full entree. Prices for these meals are $15-$25+ for a piece of meat, starch and a veg, or a bowl of pasta that maybe comes with a small salad before the meal.
Next time look at what comes with an entree before you spend your hard earned money ordering a meal. I shoot for an average spending of $10- $15 per person when eating out. Lately, my average has been higher, it’s about $15-20 as food prices keep going up.
Here’s an example. When we go out we will get two items off the sandwich menu. Now we don’t always eat all the bread. I’ll take the top off the sandwich to get to the fish, chicken, or burger. The sandwiches generally come with a side. Choose wisely.
Don’t always get the fries! See if they have a sides available as a substitute. Look for rice, veggies, coleslaw, sweet potato or fruit for your side options too. Even if you upgrade your side to a side salad you often only pay $1-2 more. This is much better than a $20+ meal cost wise, right? Portion wise it’s probably better for ya too.
Other times, we may get a regular salad to spilt before our sandwich(es) arrive. When eating this way we can have a nice night out for under $30-$40. If you go out more than once a week, these savings add up!
Bonus Tip #1
If you do choose a more expensive dinner, remember this:
Most of those meals have large pieces of meat much larger than your body needs. A single digestible portion is 3-5 oz of meat. That’s the size of your palm of your hand or a deck of cards. If your order comes with the bigger piece of meat, CUT it in half, share the meat portion with your dinner guest or take it home and save it for the next day.
Now you don’t have to buy lunch! Even more savings!
4. Share Meals & Omit the “Kids Menu”
We often will order two different small items off the menu and spilt them. My daughter and I will get a salad and 2 fish tacos at our favorite ocean side restaurant in Florida when visiting. Easily under our $15 per person rule. Another great combo is sharing a large salad and a sandwich. Plus now we get some extra veggies in both our bellies.
If you have kids, maybe they can split a sandwich, salad, or meal. Kids’ menus are a stereotypical way to say “Kids Do Not Eat Well.”
I believe most kids don’t eat well these days because we don’t introduce them to different foods. There’s no such thing as “kids food.”
When my daughter was little she wanted to order off the kids menu to feel special. Rare are the restaurants that offer salads, veggies, or something more than mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, and chicken fingers.
Find a way to treat your kids with something else, like getting to listen to what they want on the radio on the way home if they share a meal or choose a better option than those on the dreaded kids’ menu.
Try to reward with something other than food. We need to break these habits of rewarding ourselves AND our kids with food.
Food is one way we fuel our bodies. Desserts are special and should be treated that way.
If you have kids, set the tone BEFORE you go to the restaurant so they don’t “throw you under the bus” when ordering. Prep them on what to expect to order.
I want my daughter to enjoy her meal, but she is perfectly fine ordering water, or a healthy option when she knows the parameters of the ordering process before we get there.
Try this with your kids ➡️ No Soda For a YEAR!
I challenged my daughter to go an entire year without soda or sweet iced tea.
As a reward she got $100! She was allowed one cheat per month, otherwise she had to have water or juice. Now I know that those juices were just as sugar filled as the sodas I was trying to get her off of, but it was progress. Big Progress! That’s what we wanted. And it worked!
Those little changes add up over time! She made it and I did have to hand over $100 after the 12 months were over. It also kept soda products out of our house for a long time. If I wanted her to stop drinking soda and sugary drinks, I had to set the example as well.
Try it in your home! Use a reward that works- it doesn’t have to be cash!
Bonus Tip #2
Look for restaurants with early bird specials before 6 p.m. if you are able to make it in time. Yes, just do it, be a Golden Girl and get their early.
5. Skip the dessert- a low budget diet tip
We are especially lucky that I like to bake AND we have a grocery store with a particularly awesome bakery nearby. Skipping dessert when eating out will save so much money. Did you know you need to leave 30% of your stomach empty for proper digestion? When you stuff yourself, you are fuller longer, often
Think ahead. Have a special piece of pie that you can share at home, or bake your own healthier dessert options. It also doesn’t hurt to skip dessert altogether. Who needs the extra sugars late at night? *Try to eat at least 2 hours before bed so you can process your food before you lay down.
Eat Healthy Foods at Home
6. Filter your water.
Filter your water. I believe that bottled water is harmful for us especially if we keep it sitting in our cars where it warms up, freezes, and becomes a sloshing rattle rolling around the back somewhere. Believe me, I drink water in bottles more often than I’d like to admit, however, I drink it and finish it. Don’t let water bottles sit in your car. This is one of my cardinal rules. Go ahead and do your own research on this.
Plus saving the plastic in the landfill and recycling centers is always best.
Do the math: It’s Generally Cheaper.
One glass reusable bottle costs less than $15. Water filtering pitcher and filter $30= $45 first month. Filter lasts ~2 months. First month you pay for the goods, next month costs you much less. Say you have 3 bottles of water a day (one for your morning tea or coffee, one at lunch and one at dinner) that’s 90 bottles consumed by just you in one month. At $5 for a case of 24 bottles, you alone spend $18.75 a month on potentially harmful bottled water. I’m not even adding up our kids and family water consumption or the wasted half drank water bottles that I know I throw out after my daughter has friends over! What a waste! Month two will cost you under $10 to replace the filter for another two months. Filtering your water costs around $5-10 a month.
Buy that nice colorful plastic protected glass water bottle. Then filter your water and enjoy the savings and added health benefits! Family of 4 = saving of $20-$40 or more per month!
7. Cook Once – Eat Twice.
This is the single most amazing tip you can do for yourself if you are the main preparer of the food at home. Choose to make larger meals that offer leftovers for lunch or make multiple meals for the week. When we cook once, eat twice (or more) we spend less time preparing, cleaning up, and less on groceries for a unique meal for every day of the week. Keep in mind, this allows you to freeze leftovers to have more variety in the weeks to come as well. Make extra and freeze a good portion for next week.
8. Pack your lunch.
I’m a fan of dining out. However I really like to pack too- especially lunches. They’re healthier and money saving at the same time! Packing homemade lunches gives you the opportunity to add in so much more healthy goodness! I especially love packing with leftovers (see #7). It is the best way to feel good about saving money. I almost always benefit on the healthy aspects of things because I’m not going out in search of a quick meal. It’s virtually impossible to find quick (healthy) meals these days on your lunch hour!
My partner in crime will gladly take leftovers to work with him so he can be as productive in his day as possible without stopping his progress to go out for his lunch. I do the same when working at the home office. Makes thinking about what to eat so easy!
I like to use containers that keep my food / soups warm. These heat saving containers (nice pretty ones) are really nice to take my food when going to work or away from home for the day. Having nice food containers makes using them easier.
Reusing old plastic containers is so 80’s!
Microwaving in plastic is a complete No No! Do not do it!
First, get yourself a nice set of glass containers with plastic lids or better yet stainless steel containers. If you must heat food up, please use glass or microwave safe plates. No plastic.
I heat my lunch up on the stove before I leave in the morning so I can avoid using a microwave. Same works with chilled options. Those reusable containers really are helpful keeping you on the healthy bus.
9. Meal Plan your Inexpensive meals:
This helps you know what to eat on a budget
My family spends money when we are left to last minute choices on “what are we eating tonight?” Maybe you’re the same. If you plan in advance, have set meals ready to prepare when you need them, then you are a step ahead of the game and less likely to grab a poor choice. You don’t have to plan everything, but planning is key to making healthy decisions.
10. Healthy Eating Budget Tip: Grocery Shop every 5-7 days.
Here’s why I shop more often. I can’t forecast what I want to cook 2 weeks or 30 days in advance. I’m fickle that way. If I buy this or that in advance, I may or may not really want it when it comes time to eat, so we throw it out, it spoils, or it stays forever in the freezer.
I like to make sure my freezer has stocked frozen fruits and frozen vegetables at all time so at a moments notice I know I can be eating healthy nutritious meals. Keeping healthy foods on hand is part of healthy living.
Make a grocery list and keep to a grocery budget.
When I shop 1-2 times a week I get fresher produce, eat it while it’s at peek nutrient content levels, when I have a palette for what I bought, and I can address current cravings.
For instance, we women have fluctuating cravings during those times of the month. Living with my daughter has changed my whole outlook on meal planning because we are often on completely different craving planets. How can I project into the future what she will want or be willing to eat next week. Same goes for my partner. If it was up to him, we would have pizza everyday. Take it a week at a time at the longest my friend.
Weather, daily life, and other external forces can make us desire different foods. We need to tune into our bodies needs. Our bodies are telling us things. For instance, during September in Pennsylvania, temperatures can sway from 50-75 degrees.
After a warm summer, 50 degrees feels like it’s freezing out! We may want cooling foods on the warm days, and warming, grounding foods on the cool ones. How can you predict 2 weeks to a month in advance what your body will need or based on the weather?! Shopping often seems like a pain but it really makes all the difference in the world.
Shop Often + Waste Less =
Save Money + Eat Healthier Options!
11. Cutting Down on Meat for Balanced Meals
Most of my friends eat meat. That’s fine. We eat meat too. Problem is most of us eat too much meat. Remember a proper portion size is about 3-5 ounces. When buying an expensive steak to take home for dinner, instead of getting two 10 oz steaks for you and your partner get one: have the butcher cut it in half. I always cut chicken breasts smaller. I cut pre-portioned fish smaller as well. I know if I have less on my plate, I eat it and am perfectly full. If I have more on my plate I usually try to finish the plate of food without regard to how full I actually am and end up eating too much! Smaller portions are better.
Remember, Grocery stores want your money! Ask them to cut the already “proportioned” fillets in half, or thirds even. Usually they have better knives to make cleaner cuts than we can at home! We don’t need large amounts of animal protein we take in. Portion control is a huge issue to consider.
Eat less. Spend less. Have Healthier Options.
Bonus Tip #4 for a Balanced Diet
Buy meat in the bulk packages and break it down into freezer friendly container when you get home. Tip: Ground beef freezes well when cooked. Cook the entire package and freeze into separate portions for another meal. Saves Time + Money.
12. Make your morning coffee/ tea at home.
Now I can be the worst to follow this advice because I work from home and love the interaction and transaction of buying a coffee, but when money or time is tight you betcha I follow my own advice. Grabbing a healthier milk of your choice is an added benefit of making your coffee at home plus you can save time and money spent at the coffee shop. Try nut milks, bullet coffees or drink your beverage without adding a thing.
At a farmers market recently, I had a vendor offer me a sample of strong Kenyan coffee where I didn’t accept the cream or sugar they offered with it. Guess what, I LOVED the straight black coffee! Who would’ve thought this light and sweet coffee drinker would like black coffee. When you make purchases for your home, try and buy the best coffee you can afford. Reap the benefits offered in quality fair trade products.
If you’re a hot coffee lover, you can save lots money and time, in my humble opinion. I would invest in a coffee pot with an alarm on the machine that can be set for you to grab and go on your way out the door.
A coffee maker that takes less time and brews less coffee right into your travel mug may be the perfect option. When you pay the initial investment of the machine that works for you, you can save so much and you won’t be tempted to grab a muffin, donut or bagel on your way through the coffee shop.
13. Get Your Grains On
Whole foods and clean eating are the forefront of what we eat in our house. Food that is as close as possible to how it grows in nature. Grains are a great way to stretch your budget and add bountiful nutrients into your meals.
When cutting down on the meat, adding in some extra grains may help to fill your belly. These are just a few of the ways that work for me and my family.
When cooking veggies, add grains to make it a meal for a stir fry like option.
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice