We all want to be able to eat healthy foods, most of the time, right? That’s why we’re a part of this vibrant and passionate community after all. But sometimes there are very real barriers that get in our way. That might be a lack of access to local organic stores, or time-consuming daily life eating into our cooking time. One thing that we’re increasingly finding is it’s because healthy foods are too expensive. For example, here in Australia, the local McDonald’s frequently runs a 50cent Big Mac day. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never seen a 50cent superfood smoothie down at the local blend bar – and I’m sure there’s good reason for it too.
Buying healthy food is expensive. It’s something that many people struggle with, and for families whose primary concern is making sure their children are fed and clothed, it just ends up being another weight on their shoulders. But one of the best parts about our community of healthy foodies is the ways we come together, especially with great ideas. Recently, you shared your favorite ways to make healthy foods affordable, and tossed in with a few team favorites, here are our top 50 ways to shop healthy on a budget.
Grow the foods you eat daily. It could be a vibrant veggie patch or a healthy herb garden on your windowsill.
Learn to cook with what you have on hand. This ensures little food wastage.
Buy organic, grass-fed animal products. Research shows that humanely produced animal products are more nutritious than their standard counterparts, meaning you’re fuller and more nourished off the same amount (or less) of meat. While this cost is initially expensive, it cuts down on costs with time.
Set a budget for your monthly shop. Start with the healthy essentials, then see what room you have to play with.
Shop seasonally. Locally produced foods cost less to grow, and less in food miles, making them kinder on your wallet.
Plan your meals ahead. When you know what you’re cooking for the coming days, you’ll be able to spend your grocery budget on the foods you need.
Stay away from canned and processed foods as much as possible. Remove this unnecessary step and make yourself from home.
Practice perimeter shopping at supermarkets. This means you only get the stuff you need on the outer aisles, nothing unnecessary on the inner aisles.
Freeze your own vegetables. When getting them fresh, you can prepare and freeze your own vegetables in sandwich bags instead of buying packaged ones.
Befriend your leftovers. Leftovers from dinner should always be enjoyed for lunches.
Make what you can from scratch. This way you can avoid expensive, packaged, and preservative-filled foods like hummus in favor of homemade alternatives.
Buy in bulk. Things are always cheaper when you can buy in bulk (and they’re often plastic-free too). Head to your local bulk foods store and work on your packageless pantry today.
Bottle your own tomatoes. If you’re able, take a leaf out of nonna’s book and bottle your own tomatoes for the year. When working with the seasons, you’ll either be able to grow your own, or buy cheaply from the farmer, and a day’s preserving prep will see you through till next season.
Hearty soups. Before chucking out aging foods or making a new shopping list, use a simple veggie broth to combine all of your leftover produce in one warming soup.
Buy less than you think you need. How often do you have produce left over? When we have less, we learn to work with what we’ve got.
Shop at your local farmers’ market. Once you’ve found the cheap, local healthy foods, you’ll never want to pay that supermarket tax again.
Organize a produce swap. Imagine your lemon tree is thriving, but you’re short on oranges – find a neighbor or friend and do a produce swap!
Eat vegetarian throughout the week. It’s a well-known fact that meat can be expensive. By limiting our consumption to weekends, we make more room in our food budget for healthy stuff.
Chop and prep. This extends the life of your produce, and in turn, limits your food wastage.
Shop the ‘Odds & Ends’ section. Supermarkets struggle to sell foods that don’t look perfect, so they often sell them cheaply. Here’s the catch – they taste the same and they’re still good for you! It’s a money win.
Invest in a slow-cooker. You really can chuck everything in, and it’s ready to go when you get home. That way after a long, tiring day, you don’t struggle with takeout temptations.
Make your own vegetable broth. You can use any scraps or leftover veggies, and it will freeze for months. Easy, cheap, and preservative-free.
Join an organic co-op if possible. You’ll get discounted prices, and as a shareholder, you’ll get a say in the operations of the store.
Beat your own mayo daily. It’s healthier, and you’ll be surprised how simple it is.
Start shopping online – or at least place your order online. That way, you won’t be tempted to fill your cart with the frilly stuff.
Stop off at the food bank. Some businesses will donate unused produce, or try a bakery for leftover loaves of bread.
Get involved with your local food rescue. They collect foods unused by restaurants and cafes and get them out to good homes.
Look for foods on sale! Often sellers will have specials on certain days of the week – so get familiar with them.
Buy the produce to the back of the shelf. We know it’s a nightmare for workers restocking shelves, but in doing so, you’re getting the freshest produce – meaning it’s going to last a lot longer.
Buy a cookbook and actually read it. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn and how much inspiration you can find, just by reading someone else’s wisdom.
Start composting. Food scraps make the best garden fertilizer, so that way you can get double the benefits from your veggies.
Make your own bone broths. The internet is alive with recipes of homemade bone broths – this way you can eliminate a large expense, and re-use the leftovers.
Keep a list of what’s in your kitchen. Then only buy foods that work with what you already have.
Make grocery shopping a weekly event. We spend most of our budget getting last-minute, fiddly ingredients for dinner each night.
Always buy salad greens. These help to bulk out a simple meal.
Have your own chickens! Okay, this takes a lot of space but hear me out. Eggs are expensive, chickens eat your scraps – and make great companions.
Cook your own pulses and beans. A pressure cooker will come in handy, but you can always make it in bulk and freeze it as needed. $1 cans of chickpeas seem cheap, but you’ll be surprised how much cheaper they are in bulk.
Aldi. This is where our community is divided – but here in Australia, our Aldi stores actually stock a lot of locally grown, organic produce at an affordable price. It’s worth looking into what your local Aldi has to offer.
Shop near closing time. Often foods will be marked down closer to this time, especially in the case of animal products – which can be a large expense.
Use the same ingredients throughout the week. You’ll be surprised how a few simple spices can change the taste of the same vegetables – our favorite Ottolenghi is a testament to that.
Limit takeout and meals out to once a week. You’ll be surprised how quickly it all adds up.
Regrow your foods from wastes. Spring onions roots in a glass of water are a great way to start – soon you’ll be hooked.
Collect rewards while shopping. Most supermarkets and even some farmers’ markets will offer rewards programs. These add up quickly and may lead to discounts in the future.
Make your own plant milks. Natural plant milks can get expensive, so make them fresh and as you need them.
Start collecting coupons. We know this may be disregarded as a thing of the past – but you’ll never know when they come in handy.
Look for five ingredient recipes. These rely on staple ingredients, that typically aren’t too expensive (and you can always add your own spices to jazz it up).
Save small amounts of vegetables. You can add these to an egg to make frittatas for breakfast the next week.
Don’t try to wow yourself every night. Sometimes keeping it simple with a healthy take on meat and three vegs can be just what the body craves – and is infinitely kinder on the pocket.
Prioritize healthy foods. Apply that ancient principle, if it’s not healthy, it will cost your health in the long run – which costs money.
Lastly, never, ever, shop while hungry. We all know what happens to those who do…