The healthiest food is unprocessed and chemical-free whole food. No matter if you eat plant-based or meat-based meals, you can meal plan on a budget.
There are many ways to save money on food. Healthy food is actually less expensive than processed food, fast food, or restaurant food. And nutrition is one of the most important parts of your fitness journey. My wife is the food expert in our house, so she’s going to visit with us today about eating healthy without breaking the bank because finances are an important part of overall wellness and the wellness wheel we follow.
Hi, I’m Christina and I have a home daycare with 7 kids. I feed my family and the kids on a tight budget every week. Most meals I make are for 9 people, so I do what I can do save.
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In my grocery store, I can buy a big sweet potato for $.78. A big package of fresh celery is $.98. A big bag of oranges is $4.48. How much did you spend on the last beverage you bought? What’s the price of a fancy coffee drink or soda with your meal at a restaurant?
There are so many ways to save money on food, but simple, whole foods are not that expensive. I can buy a bag of beans, cook it up and serve it throughout the week for a very healthy side dish to my meals for pennies a serving. I just dump it in the crockpot with a packet of taco seasoning (I make my own taco seasoning mix here) and fill it up with water. I turn it on and at the end of the day, it’s ready and delicious.
Brown rice is really inexpensive. So is a rice cooker. I toss it in there and it goes off when it’s done. Super easy and I save money all year. Rice is a great base for a lot of meals and will keep in the fridge for a week so you can use it different ways.
Eating healthy on a budget grocery list
My suggestions for healthy foods on a budget include:
- Packages of different kinds of dry beans
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Old fashioned rolled oats
- Whole wheat flour
- Canned tomatoes
- Frozen berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole chickens or chicken leg quarters
- Ground turkey
- Canned tuna
- Peanut butter
- Cottage cheese
Budget grocery list for family
Using these budget-friendly items, most under $1, you could make any number of meals.
- Baked chicken with brown rice and roasted broccoli.
- Turkey burgers with cabbage and oven fries.
- Whole wheat spaghetti with ground turkey and marinara sauce with a spinach and carrot salad.
- Think about your normal go to family recipes and find ways to tweak them for budget friendly health. Replacing boneless skinless chicken breast with leg quarters gives you a more flavorful meat for 1/3 of the price. Plus, you can use the bones leftover to make a nourishing bone broth.
- Buying old fashioned rolled oats and flavoring it yourself instead of buying sugary cereals or instant oatmeal packets is a great way to save money and know what’s in your food.
Using apples and oranges for snacks or making smoothies instead of stocking the pantry with little debbies will do your health a world of good. I have a great friend who calls little Debbie the devil’s wife. And you know why. So, leave that girl at the store!
Cooking at home is one of the best ways to save money. And leaving fast food alone is the number one way to get back to wellness. There is NOTHING in fast food that you need. Nothing.
Making food homemade like tossing a pork butt in the crockpot or a whole chicken instead of buying a tv dinner full of processed junk will save you years on your life of illness and a ton of bank. And it doesn’t have to be difficult.
You can cook one pork roast and make 5 meals for a family. It freezes great and you can portion it out into individual servings. You can top baked potatoes or sweet potatoes with it, make soup, tacos, just about anything you can imagine. It’s versatile, inexpensive, and all you need is an oven or crock pot to cook one up.
You can also cook one whole chicken and make 3 different meals out of it. Then use the bones to make broth. It’s a great money saver and using leftover meat is a wonderful time saver. We all need more of that.
Order food in bulk. You can get a 10-pound bag of rice or beans and it will last you months. They don’t go bad. Just keep them sealed in a container and you’ll be golden. These resources are great for healthy meal plans on a budget.
Making homemade bread is so much less expensive than buying store-bought. I know it’s a stretch and not a time-saver, but bread products are the most chemical-laden foods at the store in my opinion besides tv dinners and food mixes. So much so, that I can’t even eat them without getting a rash from all the preservatives in them. I have a lot of sensitivities. And bread products make me sick when I buy them store-bought.
I am allergic to sulfites and they are used to preserve many bread products, but when I found that out and studied what they do to your body, they are really responsible for a ton of illnesses and no one should be consuming them. So, if you don’t want to make your own, go to a bakery and get fresh bread that doesn’t have a shelf life. Leave the chemicals at the store.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are less expensive than frozen or canned. You can grab a head of broccoli or cauliflower or a bundle of green beans or carrots and roast them up in the oven for a magical flavor bomb. Just cut them up, season them the way you like, sprinkle on some olive oil, and bake at 400 until they are lightly brown on the edges and soft enough to stab easily with a fork. YUMMY!
If you roast up a couple of sheet pans full, you’ll have sides or ingredients for your meals for several days. I do this every week for us and the daycare kids. They love them, we love them, and I can add them to soup, pasta, use them to top a baked potato or homemade pizza, or use them as a side and they are ready to go to reduce my cooking time.
Cooking time reduction is important, especially when you have 7 kids that can go rogue while you’re working on their lunch. So, I’m obsessed with time-saving measures that still give my kids wonderful nutrition.
Saving money on food
Another great way to save money on your grocery budget is to eat less meat. Meat is expensive. And quality meat is really expensive. So, try using beans and dark leafy greens to get more of your protein. Also, making something like stir fry with a little chicken instead of a plate filled with a giant piece of chicken and a big serving of potatoes is a great way to stretch your dollars. And you don’t need a giant serving of protein. We just need two 4 oz servings of protein a day. And that doesn’t have to be meat for your meal plan.
Eating what’s in season gives you healthier tastier food AND saves money. In the summertime the foods that are cheaper are melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, cherries, squash, peppers, peaches, berries, greens, and eggplant. In fall you can get lettuce, potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage for less. In the winter the seasonal items are avocado, citrus fruits, apples, pears, and pineapples. And in the spring the cheapest and tastiest foods are lettuce, radishes, carrots, berries, greens, peas, and one of my favorites, asparagus.
You can also get really cheap produce from imperfect foods. They save missized or less pretty produce from the landfill by bringing it to people like me who appreciate delicious healthy food and don’t care if it looks funny.
Healthy weekly meal plan with grocery list
Here’s a healthy weekly meal plan for two people. If you are one person, you can freeze the second half or do leftovers every other day and use the menu for two weeks. If you have a big family, you can double everything. No matter who you are feeding, use this as a jumping off point to plan out your week.
- Dozen eggs
- Sour cream
- Parmesan cheese wedge
- Yogurt 4
- 2 c ricotta cheese
- Cheese sticks
- Block of cheddar cheese to shred for tacos
- Block of mozzarella to grate
- 2 pounds breakfast sausage
- 1-pound chicken thighs
- Citrus fruit of your choice 4
- Onions 5
- 2 heads lettuce
- Apples 8
- 2 pkg mushrooms
- 1 crown broccoli
- Bananas 8
- Butternut squash
- Cucumbers 2
- Zucchinis 4
- Bag of frozen corn
- Tortilla chips
- Canister of oatmeal
- White rice
- Wild rice
- Granola (or make some)
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Bag of beans
- Taco mix 3
- Mayo or miracle whip
- Spicy mustard
- Chicken stock 6 quarts
- 1 jar artichoke hearts
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat flour tortillas
- Can of Rotel
- English muffins
- Dried thyme
Once you have purchased all of these items, you’ll see that it’s far less expensive than a week of eating out and you’ll have leftover supplies for many meal plan dishes in the future.
Food prep day
Boil 8 eggs
Cut up carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers into sticks, chunks, and slices. Prep a big salad to use multiple times. If you like ranch dressing, this is the best ranch dressing you’ll ever taste.
Oatmeal, citrus fruit
Whole wheat toast
Handful of nuts
Chicken artichoke and wild rice casserole
Yogurt and granola
Boiled egg and raisins
Sliced cucumbers with a little drizzle of vinegar and salt and pepper.
Whole wheat toast
Cook up the pound of sausage in patties and put a pound of beans in the crockpot with taco mix.
Taco/Nacho salad using browned ground turkey and beans, fresh diced tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and shredded cheese.
Yogurt and granola
Soft taco using leftover meat, beans, and toppings from last night
Peanut butter and celery
Taco soup using leftover beans, a bag of frozen corn, and a can of Rotel
Sausage English Muffin
Snack celery (chop up the rest of the celery in slices and toss in the freezer for soups later)
Rest of the day use up any leftovers