9 Simple Ways to Eat Well on a Budget

If you’re making the transition from college life to work life there’s a lot to juggle, including bills to pay. But fortunately, some simple tips and tricks can help you eat healthfully without breaking the bank. Here are 9 that will allow you say goodbye to ramen or PB&J dinners, and hello to nutrient-rich “grown up” meals, while still being able to pay the rent! 

1.    Shop for organic store brands

Most grocery chains now sell organic options within their store brand line. These products, known as private label goods, tend to be less expensive than brand name alternatives, so seek them out when filling up your cart.

2.    Eat more plant-based meals

Compared to $2.00 per pound for chicken on the bone or $5.99 a pound for chicken breast, a can of beans (which contains 3.5 servings) costs about $1.00. And bonus: beans are a superfood loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Use beans, lentils, or peas (like chickpeas, and black eyed peas) in place of meat in tacos, chili, stew, stuffed peppers, even stir frys.

 

3.    Buy in bulk

Tons of healthy staples are sold in bulk, like oats, brown and wild rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils. Because there’s no packaging bulk foods are often far more affordable than packaged counterparts. Invest in some glass containers for storage, and over time you’ll save big. 

4.    Make your own

Pre-made foods are super convenient, but they are typically more expensive than DIY versions. Try whipping up your own salad dressing, made from balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and dried Italian herb seasoning. Or invite friends over and cook something together you usually buy in a jar, like pasta sauce or pesto. 

5.    Become a farmer’s market regular

While Nature’s Greens leafy greens are available year-round at your local grocery store, supplement your meals with in-season, locally grown produce from farmers’ markets! They are a real bargain, and chock full of flavor and nutrients. If you have to buy more than you need split your goodies with a friend or coworker and share the cost. To find where and when to shop in your area visit www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets.

6.    Save on non-food items

To carve out more room in your budget for healthy food, like fresh veggies, shop for non-food items like laundry soap and cleaning supplies at discount stores, price clubs, and even $1 stores.   

7.    Grocery shop online

If you’re buying larger quantities you’ll find that many healthy shelf stable staples, like whole grains, cost less from sites like amazon.com. Check it out and compare.

Source: Photo by Atomic Taco, via Flickr.

Source: Photo by Atomic Taco, via Flickr.

8.    Order directly

Some of my favorite healthy products, like protein bars and dark chocolate, cost less ordered directly from the company, compared to the in store retail price. Most also offer free shipping, as well as discounts for regular customers.

9.    Cook quick and easy meals in place of takeout

When you’re tired, hungry, and tempted to place a takeout order opt for a fast and economical alternative instead. For example, keep bagged greens in the fridge, along with a few other go-to ingredients. Sauté greens in low sodium veggie broth seasoned with garlic, Italian seasoning, and any other herbs or spices you enjoy, like ginger, or crushed red pepper. Add an easy breezy protein, like canned drained, rinsed beans or chickpeas, or frozen pre-cooked shrimp, and a healthy starch, like instant brown rice. Dinner done!