Eating Healthy on a Budget

Contrary to common belief you can eat healthy foods on a budget. This is a page about eating healthy on a budget.


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Recently, I was talking with a friend about the difficulty of feeding our growing families affordably but also in a healthy way. She was talking about the extra cost of buying and preparing "real food", meaning not processed and mostly from scratch. I started wondering if it is really more expensive?

Affording Real Food

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If you don't get enough sunshine (and we mostly don't, especially in northern/colder climates) mushrooms are a free resource. They absorb tremendous amounts of Vitamin D if the gills are exposed to sunlight for one to two days.

To get more of this important vitamin, leave your mushrooms out in the sun (with gill side facing up) for one to two days! They stop absorbing after two days and will retain the vitamin until you eat it.


Shiitake mushrooms are one of the best but any mushroom with gills will absorb the vitamin for you.

Source: Mother Earth News

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January 28, 2005

Even with being frugal, you need to look at the big picture. For overall health and weight loss, you have to look at long term eating and not just immediate gratification. I shop at Aldi's every other week and our Aldi's has a produce section where the healthy treats would be as inexpensive as chips.

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I am trying to change my eating habits. However, I have noticed that foods that are suppose to be healthy are very expensive. Foods like boneless chicken breast, salmon, fish, and shrimp can be very expensive when trying to feed your whole family.


Do you have any suggestions?

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January 28, 2005

A great tip I use for frugality healthy meals is: 1. When buying produce, try to buy items that can be frozen later on. . .

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September 18, 2009

I think something you should keep in mind is the fact that just because foods are cheap (such as prepared foods) it doesn't mean they're going to be healthy.

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September 21, 2010

This is a fantastic site I just found out about. They offer a flat shipping and handling fee of $4.99, and have lots of healthy, organic foods available at a fraction of the cost found locally! (If they can even be found.) I went on to the clearance section and was able to get twelve 1 pound jars of raw honey for only $12.15 and 2 pound packages of organic Jasmine rice for what I normally pay for just one locally! Fantastic savings can be found here with very healthy food!


You can also find some really good healthy foods on, such as Bob's Red Mill raisins and some beans and grains; be sure that it qualifies for free shipping and handling over $25.00

Source: recommended the site

By katrina from Medford, OR

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

April 16, 2010

I am desperately in need of losing weight. I am only 29 yet I have zero energy at all. I feel terrible. When I have money I do good with eating healthy because I can afford it. I struggle so much when I am so low on money though, which is most of the time.

I need some easy yet cheap and healthy meal ideas. Please. I need to keep the food budget under $200 a month. Thanks.

By Amy from GA



Eating Healthy on a Budget

You have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Please go to your doctor and have your thyroid checked. Have him do a complete thyroid panel, not just a T-4 test. (09/16/2009)

By Patricia Eldridge

Eating Healthy on a Budget

I make Stove Top Lasagna quite frequently. It is healthy (about 400 calories per serving) and inexpensive to make. I can usually make the whole thing for around $3 when I find sales and it makes 6 servings. The shopping list looks something like this: Turkey $2/lb., Sauce $1.50 (less with coupon), Whole Wheat pasta $1.20 (less with coupon), Shredded Cheese- $2 on sale.
1/2 lb lean ground turkey
1 jar (26 to 30 oz) chunky tomato pasta sauce (use Ragu's light variety)
3 Whole wheat Rotini
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning


1/2 cup shredded Italian-style cheese blend or mozzarella cheese (4 oz)
1. In 12-inch skillet or 4-quart Dutch oven, cook turkey over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink; drain.
2. Stir remaining ingredients except cheese into turkey. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.
3. Reduce heat to medium; simmer uncovered about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Sprinkle with cheese. Let stand 2 minutes. (09/16/2009)

By Catherine

Eating Healthy on a Budget

If you can get to a library, check out the SugarBusters! weight loss book. It helped me to better understand what we should eat and why. Oats, beans, lentils, veggies and fruit (bought on sale) can help you stay healthy and lose weight. If you can find peanuts or other nuts on sale, eat those as well. Meats can be prepared in a crockpot and a chicken can be used for several meals. Always try to start your lunch or dinner with a hearty vegetable soup or a salad spritzed with lemon juice or olive oil.

You will eat less and it helps with your sugar levels. Plan ahead and always carry a piece of fruit or a few nuts with you in case you get hungry. Canned tuna is very good with a whole grain cracker or slice of bread. But, do try to limit your whole grains to one meal a day. An example might be to have oatmeal for breakfast with a little milk on it, and berries if you can afford them. A few nuts or a piece of fruit midmorning.

A lunch of a big salad, tuna from the can (no dressing) a dill pickle, and a few olives. Afternoon snack of a plain yogurt or more nuts. Dinner can be meat or fish with steamed vegies or sauteed peppers and mushrooms. If you have an egg for breakfast, pair it with cottage cheese or breakfast meat if you can. Then you can have brown rice or whole grain noodles at lunch or dinner. Top them with vegies in tomato sauce. Once a week, allow yourself some chocolate bar that is at least seventy percent cocoa. You can find them almost everywhere now, although they are pricey.

No food group is off limits, but you must try to eat only whole grains and severely limit your sugar. Try to stay as active as possible. You would be surprised at how just walking to the corner and back can lead to better health. Please read the book. I know this is a long post, but I wish you all the best! (09/16/2009)

By Sally

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Ditto what Patty Lynn said about the thyroid. I have had to take thyroid since I was in my 20's, and it feels like you can hardly get up and walk. And the weight piles on so easily. It is easily treated and the drugs for it are inexpensive. Good luck! (09/16/2009)

By Lizzyanny

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Amyece, you might check out a website called It's the best one I've found for folks trying to lose weight. I've lost 33 pounds since the end of May. It has all kinds of helpful hints, forums, etc. Plus, there's a terrific recipe browser for low cal recipes. Give it a try, and good luck to you! (09/16/2009)

By Bobbie9395

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Some of your low energy could be contributed to depression. Sally in the above post was right. Try to walk just a little each day and gradually work your way up to longer walks. Exercise releases a chemical in your brain to make you feel better. It's not necessarily what you eat, but how much you eat. Also the way you prepare your food can make a difference in calories. If losing weight were easy, we'd all be thin. Just making little changes can make a big difference over time. The weight did not come on overnight, so don't expect to lose overnight. Also, I find solace in reading my bible and having a close relationship to God. I too have money problems, but my faith keeps me strong. Without it I too could easily go into a depression. Some days I really have to force myself to not get into a slump. Turn off the TV and force yourself to go for a walk. Connect with friends and try to remain upbeat. I hope this helps. (09/17/2009)

By Kathy

Eating Healthy on a Budget

You have lots of good advice, especially about ruling out other health problem besides just overweight. The short answer about diet is to eat lots of whole grains, foods with fiber, fruits and vegetables (canned if you can't afford frozen or fresh), and make sure you get enough protein especially for your first meal of the day. Take it easy on the sugars and carbs. Invest in whole grain breads and pastas, not a cheap as plain white but worth the money.

Dried beans are inexpensive and a good source of protein and fiber. Even canned beans are not too costly. Eat plenty of eggs, assuming you don't have a problem with cholesterol. You can get quite a few meals out of a whole chicken, which is easy to roast or bake. Just throw away the skin and fat after cooking. (09/17/2009)

By ChloeA

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Hi Amyece: I hear you! Several years ago I also developed a weight issue due to the development of some health issues and the need to take prescriptions that brought on weight gain. I fought to get the pounds back off and finally found a frugal plan that works!
Breakfast: one envelope Quaker Oats weight control oatmeal
Snack: one Quaker or other brand low calorie granola bar
Lunch: one Lean Cuisine meal
Snack: one Quaker or other brand low calorie granola bar
Dinner: one Lean Cuisine meal

Here's the most important tip: make sure to eat every 3 hours. That is what the snacks are for because in dropping your calories by dieting your body will try to go into starvation mode and you will defeat your purpose. So whenever you eat breakfast any particular day, set your watch or timer for 3 hours, then eat your snack; 3 hours later eat your lunch; 3 hours later eat your snack . . . and so on. I lost 32 pounds using this method without even exercising. Good luck! (09/17/2009)

By Heather Coats

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy doesn't mean you need to put out great expense. In fact, when you eliminate most all convenience foods, pound for pound, you have healthy and tasty food with a bit of time involved but cooking your food and eating your hard work is very satisfying.

So many purchase the "Healthy Choice" type meals or "special diet" foods and while they are good, you don't get value for your money. Things to invest in to make your eating healthier include a pressure cooker and a Crock Pot (or other slow cooker).

Things like whole chickens are easy to plop in a Crock Pot with minimal ingredients and for some households a $4 chicken can turn into several meals (with veggies and such to make up the larger portion of your meal) and you can use the bones for soup.

Speaking of veggies, get frozen store brand whole veggies. You can do a lot of different things with them to up your health factor.

Look around your area and see if they have bulk bins in some of your grocery stores. Whole grains, beans and such are good for the wallet when bought from the bulk bin. Keep an eye out for Rubbermaid type containers at a local discount or dollar store to store them in for longer life.

Buy items that can be frozen on sale.

To stretch your dollar further, think of the other items you buy at the grocery store you might find cheaper elsewhere - I am talking toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies. Those items are often much more expensive at the grocery store (not always) but I have found that a local big box carries a 12 pack of my toilet paper for about a buck more than a six roll pack at the grocery. It lasts me two months so I am ahead by about $4 or so.

Also, make it hard to eat junk food. If you have to prepare something, you are less likely to go to the effort to make it. A few apples in a bowl may seem like a large chunk of change but think of the chips you may have bought instead. That $3 may not buy you a lot of apples but they are so much healthier than those chips. Combine one with some cheese or a hard boiled egg and you have a decent snack that has fiber and protein.

When possible, shop at off peak store hours so you can read labels, learn to read "per unit pricing" so you get more bang for your buck. I love, love, love having Pace salsa around since it's a good add in to a lot of meals but I found that the 16 oz is cheaper per unit than the bigger 32 oz at a local store oddly enough.

Go through the Wednesday sales ad, not while hungry thank you very much, and plan a week of meals and snacks based on that. Make a list and stick to it. Don't vary your shopping plan.

Hope that helps. I seriously think it's super simple for people to eat healthy on a tight budget and some of the keys to that is to: invest time cooking (learn to cook if you don't know how), eliminate as many convenience foods as possible and rethink that cheap must mean ramen and macaroni and cheese. It's a lifestyle change and if you do it right your weight will go/stay down and your budget wont take a hit. Never diet, always eat well and you will never feel deprived.

PS If you are just shopping for you at $200 for food only, you have more than enough $ to eat healthy for one or two people. (09/17/2009)

By LizO

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Love; all the advice is really good but first you have to listen to what your body is saying to you. First if you can afford to; go to the doc if you can afford it; if not find a free clinic and get check out. Second cut out all the regular sodas and such. Drink water with lemon if you like. me I drink diet cola and now diet icy tea. I also go to a couple of different stores, so go check and get some splenda that is not to expensive and start using that instead of sugar. Try getting a cheap woman's day vitamin and take one everyday (check with your doc first ok).

Second. Get out an take a walk start slow ok. Yes sometimes eating healthy is sometimes expensive but start out small. If those frozen foods that they mention above are too expensive start by learning to cook healthier. Use canola oil, if you make something that is too much freeze the rest for another meal. Eat when you are hungry if you go out to a fast food place buy what's on the dollar menu or get a kids meal. Just don't order the extra large value meal. Dear, do you understand use common sense yes it is going to be hard but don't have the junk food in the house or if you do hide it until you want a special treat and just treat yourself to one or two not the whole bag.

If you take a bus to work get off a block early and walk the block if you drive park father from the place where you work take the stairs instead of the elevator. Also my mother in law use to walk up and down the aisle at the grocery store when she went in to get in extra steps. I still do because of her. Good luck we are all in the same steps that you are in. So hang in there, ok? (09/17/2009)

By Barbara Snyder

Eating Healthy on a Budget

You have all given me a lot to think about. :) I am going to compile the tips. :)
I do also plan to go to a clinic that charges based on income because I have thought for a while I have a thyroid problem. (09/18/2009)

By Amy

Eating Healthy on a Budget

I think something you should keep in mind is the fact that just because foods are cheap (such as prepared foods) it doesn't mean they're going to be healthy.

While Lean Cuisines and prepared mixes are fine to have sometimes, you really have to watch the sodium content as many of these foods are full of it. While you may not have a sodium issue (like hyptertension or heart disease) now, eating too many of these could lead to major problems down the road.

I buy these often, but in moderation. I make sure we're eating almost entirely fresh food rather than prepared or frozen entrees. Frozen veggies and fruit are another story though--use them all the time, buying when they're on sale.

I am a firm believer in sales, as was mentioned before. I always get high-fiber breads, frozen vegetables/fruits, and meat on sale to freeze. I also look for cheaper cuts of meat--it takes a little longer to get them done sometimes, but marinades are powerful in helping with tenderness. In reality, there are many cheaper cuts of meat that I have introduced my husband to that he actually prefers now to the others he used to have that were more costly.

I also always save on cost by cutting up my own veggies and fruits--the precut ones don't seem to ever be as fresh and you're paying for someone to do the work for you that really doesn't take that long.

I also buy whole chickens and de-bone and skin them myself as they are almost always cheaper by weight.

I am also trying to lose weight and the best success I have had so far is by incorportaing more veggies and fruits into my diet. They seem cheaper in the long run, have fiber, minerals and vitamins and are very versatile. I usually look for recipes for them on vegetarian sites. They have some neat, unexpected ways to serve them that I just love!

Good luck to you! (09/18/2009)

By Marcie

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Don't buy any processed food. If you cut out flour and sugar, you'll lose weight. Walk 15 minutes, twice a day. Guaranteed you will lose weight, gain energy and feel SO much better. (09/19/2009)

By susan winship

Eating Healthy on a Budget

There are so many things to look at when discussing any kind of diet. There are foods which are always bad, and foods which are sometimes bad, such as yeast and bread, which can cause symptoms of fatigue, sinus infections, etc. Search the internet for foods that give energy, pro-biotic diet, and look at and search under diet. Everyone is unique. There are cases of people even getting really sick from teflon. Look at all that is going on and in your body and check to see if it is healthy, especially habits, such as cokes, beer, etc. Try to replace any food you want to eat less of with something you like better.

I changed one thing in my diet a year ago, and it messed me up so bad. I replaced bread with tortillas, and ate refried beans instead of peanut butter, well my iron levels went low and all these other medical things happened. So I am not sure that anyone can say one food is better than another, but I do keep a food journal and write down any positive feelings and experiences I feel after eating, or negative ones. I cannot eat the knock off brand of wheat thins at the dollar general with out getting a headache. Must be a preservative. I hate preservatives. I serve some boxed foods such as macaroni and cheese, or I make it myself, but most of the time I try to stick to foods that are not processed, or foods which look as if they would if you came across them on the ground on a farm (potatoes, apples, meat, nuts, grapes, etc).

I call it the caveman diet, but it is also a "better earth" diet because most of them don't come in packaging and won't take up room in a landfill. Speaking of recycling, I use to get rid of waste and clutter in the house. It makes you feel more energetic to have a non cluttered house where everything there is used often and not just sitting around.

Most of us are deficient in Vitamin B12, and Magnesium, and Niacin (the non time release kind), and C is a perfect vitamin to take lots of in the winter.

We also need light every day to feel energy. It is good to sit under a light for about thirty minutes everyday. For those of us who can afford it; a full spectrum light is helpful. is a great place to research any number of health issues, just don't do the inhaling of peroxide, I will tell you it doesn't work.

I hope these help. I have found this out from researching diet for my 19 year old who has specific deficiencies of vitamins and other chemicals.

Blessings, Robyn (12/17/2009)

By Robyn Fed

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Here is my list of good foods to eat. Every one is different though:

I scrub them and boil them for about thirty minutes and then put them in the microwave for about 5 or so minutes. I make lots at once like this.

This lasts long and is good for your heart and body.
You can eat it all through the day as snacks, or put in hamburger to make it go further.

Hamburger Patties:
I make patties out of a pound of ground meat and freeze them on a cookie sheet and then put them in plastic bags.

Full of Vitamins

This is actually a waste of money, and too much can harm your thyroid I read. Particularly the regular lettuce, if you must have salad, eat spinach or green leafy lettuce, a small amount, with other greens.

Great for anytime. I have a poacher I put in the microwave. I like open faced bread sandwiches. They are so good.

Powdered Milk:
I buy the big box and it lasts a long time. Buying regular milk is so expensive if a lot is consumed.

Green Beans:
Green beans, fresh, buy as much as you will eat in a week. They wilt fast, but they are great especially when steamed.

Tea is so good when you are thirsty.

Instead of chips or cokes, have cucumber water, which is a pitcher of water with a cucumber cut into slices (with about 5 or 6 slices) in it. It is a purifier. After drinking the water, put the slices over your eyes to make them feel better.

There are other ways to save money and be kinder to your body. One way is making room for more food by washing clothes with Ivory dishwasher liquid, or Palmolive. We have sensitive skin so we do this. Room refreshers are made out of fabric softener and water in a spray bottle, etc.

I like to do a certain amount of fun exercise around the house. About three times a day I kick a ball across and through the house for about 3 minutes, and I increase the time to five minutes about 4 times a day. And other activities burn calories. At diet sites you can plug in your weight and put in the amount of calories you need to burn a day, and through simple things like kicking a ball or walking back and forth for a few minutes a certain number of times a day, you can really burn a lot and bump up metabolism.

Have fun eating and living healthy!


By Robyn Fed

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