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Here's How To Eat Healthy For A Week With Just $50

Take it from us: It can be done.

Well, hello.

We’re Wendy and Jess of Food Heaven Made Easy, an online resource for nutritious and delicious living. We’re both registered dietitians and BFFs. We love to cook, eat, travel, and save money. We also host the Food Heaven podcast, where we nerd out on all things nutrition-related.

In the spring we wrote this post, which explains how we manage to eat healthy and delicious meals every day without going broke. And the discussion continued in the comments, where one reader challenged us to eat healthy for an entire week for under $50.

Since we love a challenge, we decided to (at least attempt) to prove that it was possible to do just that. And here’s what happened...

First, we prepped.

If we were going to turn $50 turn into a week of healthy meals (for one person), we had to plan it out — all of it. We sat down for about half an hour to brainstorm meals and lay it all out. Next, we did a rough estimate of what we thought each ingredient would cost. Google calculator said we would come in just under $50. But could it be trusted?

We took our list and headed off into the sunset — er, grocery store. (Side note: Are we the only ones who feel like a trip to the grocery store on a Friday night is more exciting than the club? Just us? Cool.)

We filled our cart with all of the goodies and prayed that it would check out at checkout. The cashier slowly scanned the groceries. The suspense was excruciating.

And then the total:

$45.59, ALSO KNOWN AS: Forty-five dollars and fifty-nine cents! That’s right. We got everything we wanted and came in right under budget. We totally got this.

Here's a PDF grocery list you can print out of everything we used for this week.

Before we get into what we cooked with all those groceries, a few notes:

1. We are vegetarian, so all of these meals are, too. We do not think being vegetarian is the only way to be healthy. (Although the benefits of a plant-based diet are basically endless.) And this means we will not be making any meat-based recipes. This does not mean that you can’t substitute chicken or ground turkey instead of beans as the protein in some of these dishes.

2. We love Mexican food. We chose a Mexican theme because this type of cuisine is super inexpensive and delicious. It literally doesn't get much cheaper than beans and tortillas. Whenever we have a dinner party, tacos are our go-to because you can feed a whole group on a tight budget.

3. We drank water. Mostly because it’s healthy. But also because it’s free.

4. This challenge assumes that your kitchen is equipped with some of the basics, namely salt ‘n’ peppa, vinegar, and cooking oil. If you don’t have these things, you’ll have to buy them if you intend to re-create any of these recipes.

5. We had most of these meals and snacks more than once. Our motto is: recycle, reduce, reuse. If you have the time, money, and energy to cook a different meal and snack every day, that’s fabulous. We don’t. And we’re OK with that.

6. Take the time to prep cooked grains at the beginning of the week, so they're ready to use for these recipes. If you cook a pot each of brown rice and quinoa in advance, you can just warm up as much as you need in the microwave or a pan when you're putting together the dish.

Now that we’ve got all of the business out of the way, let’s get cooking. Here’s what we had to eat:


Breakfast: Hearty Oatmeal

300 calories; 10g fat, 45g carbs, 12g sugar, 9g protein.

This recipe is as basic as they come, which is a good thing. Just cook 1/2 cup of oatmeal according to the package directions and top with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and half a banana, sliced. We added cinnamon to amp up the flavor, but it’s not mandatory.

Morning Snack: Greek Yogurt and Fruit

179 calories, 1g fat, 17g carbs, 9g sugar, 17g protein.

Layer 1 kiwi, sliced, with 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt. This makes a great work snack; just pop on the lid, throw in your bag, and enjoy when you’re ready.

Lunch: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Bowl

413 calories, 15g fat, 63g carbs, 8g sugar, 12g protein.

Cut a sweet potato in half, poke several holes all over it with a fork, and bake at 400ºF until tender (this usually takes about 40 minutes). Then layer it with 1/2 cup of cooked black beans, 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice*, 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli florets, and a quarter of an avocado, sliced. To spice up the flavor, we added smoked paprika, cayenne, and ground black pepper.

Afternoon Snack: Apple and Peanut Butter

174 calories, 8g fat, 25g carbs, 17g sugar, 4g protein.

Slice 1 apple thinly (which makes it feel like you're eating more) and dip in 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. If you want to take the flavor up another notch, top with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dinner: Sautéed Spinach Tacos

538 calories, 28g fat, 54g carbs, 3g sugar, 21g protein

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté 3 cups fresh spinach with 1 sliced clove of garlic until the spinach wilts. Remove spinach from pan and heat 3 tortillas in the pan (one at a time) for 2-3 minutes or until soft; you can also heat them in the oven. Then stuff the tortillas evenly with the spinach, 1/2 cup of cooked black beans, and 1 ounce of shredded cheese. We topped these tacos with smoked paprika and sea salt to bring together all the flavors.

Total nutrition for day one: 1,603 calories, 61g fat, 205g carbs, 46g protein, and 63g sugar.


Breakfast: Power Smoothie

221 calories, 6g fat, 25g carbs, 17g sugar, 20g protein.

Smoothies are perfect for breakfast; they’re simple and take less than 5 minutes to make. Just blend 2 cups of fresh spinach, 1 cup of almond milk, ¾ cup of Greek yogurt, and half a banana until smooth. Tip: Add the almond milk (or liquid) first for better blending.

Morning Snack: Two Hardboiled Eggs

156 calories, 10g fat, 1g carbs, 1g sugar, 12g protein.

For tips on how to perfectly hard-boil an egg, click here. We topped with salt and fresh cracked pepper for more flav.

Lunch: Warm Kale Quinoa Salad

532 calories, 26g fat, 46g carbs, 5g sugar, 25g protein.

Head to our site to get the recipe for this beauty.

Afternoon Snack: Apple and Peanut Butter

Dinner: Stuffed Peppers

521 calories, 3g fat, 103g carbs, 9g sugar, 23g protein.

Start by cutting the top off a green bell pepper and remove the flesh and seeds inside of it. Stuff the pepper with 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 cup of cooked black beans, 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, and 1 clove of garlic, chopped. Some of the stuffing may spill onto the baking dish, which is totally fine. Bake at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Top with half a large tomato, chopped, and add salt and pepper to taste. We also season this PYT with a dash of cumin and smoked paprika.

Total nutrition for day two: 1,610 calories, 54g fat, 201g carbs, 51g sugar, 84g protein.


Breakfast: Hearty Oatmeal

Morning Snack: Two Hardboiled Eggs

Lunch: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Bowl

Afternoon Snack: Frozen Banana "Nice Cream"

110 calories, 0g fat, 30g carbs, 19g sugar, 1g protein.

All you do here is chop up one banana and freeze it. Once it's frozen, let the food processor work its magic; blend until a smooth, creamy texture is reached. This “nice cream” works best if the banana is super ripe.

Dinner: Avocado and Black Bean Taquitos

623 calories, 21g fat, 98g carbs, 5g sugar, 23g protein.

Chop onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and mix with the juice of half a lime to make a simple "salsa." Heat 3 or 4 tortillas for 2-3 minutes or until soft, using a grill press or pan. Then stuff them evenly with 1 cup of cooked black beans, 3/4 of an avocado, mashed, and the homemade salsa. Top the tacos with smoked paprika and sea salt.

Total nutrition for day three: 1,601 calories, 56g fat, 237g carbs, 45g sugar, 57g protein.

Day 4

Breakfast: Spinach and Cheese Omelet

284 calories, 18g fat, 10g carbs, 6g sugar, 22g protein.

Coat a 12-inch nonstick skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Sauté 1 cup spinach with 1 sliced garlic clove until soft, and then remove from pan. Repeat with 1 cup sliced mushrooms and 1 tablespoon chopped onion and set aside. Beat 2 eggs with salt and pepper until blended. Spread the egg mixture around the pan — it should set immediately at the edges. Once the egg mixture has mostly set, fill with sautéed vegetables, 3 slices of tomato, and 1 ounce of shredded cheese, and then fold in half. Flip one or two times until cooked and then serve!

Morning Snack: Greek Yogurt and Fruit

Lunch: Broccoli and Cheddar Baked Potato

378 calories, 16g fat, 42g carbs, 4g sugar, 21g protein.

Poke some holes around 1 large potato, and then wrap it in aluminum foil. Pop it in the oven at 425ºF for 45 minutes. Uncover the potato, slice in half, top with 1 cup of broccoli florets and 2 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for another 10 minutes. Enjoy with smoked paprika (I’m sure by now you can tell we love this stuff), cracked black pepper, and salt to taste.

Afternoon Snack: Apple and Peanut Butter

Dinner: Sauteed Spinach Tacos

Total nutrition for day four: 1,648 calories, 78g fat, 152g carbs, 38g sugar, 88g protein.

Day 5

Breakfast: Power Smoothie

Morning Snack: Apple & Peanut Butter

Lunch: Sautéed Pepper Quesadillas

461 calories, 19g fat, 52g carbs, 9g sugar, 20g protein.

Slice up 1 bell pepper, 1/2 cup mushrooms, and 1/4 of an onion. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, and sauté the sliced vegetables for about 4-5 minutes or until soft. Salt to taste, layer half of the sautéed vegetables onto a corn tortilla, top with 1 ounce of shredded cheese, and cover with the other corn tortilla. Repeat with the remaining veggies, cheese, and 2 more tortillas for your second quesadilla. Pop these on a grill press or cook them on a pan until the tortillas are crisp and the cheese has melted. Sprinkle a dash of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper for some pop.

Afternoon Snack: Two Hardboiled Eggs

Dinner: Cucumber and Quinoa Salad

You can get the recipe for this salad on our website.

Total nutrition for day five: 1,604 calories, 78g fat, 162g carbs, 50g sugar, 73g protein.

Day 6

Breakfast: Spinach and Cheese Omelet

Morning Snack: Apple and Peanut Butter

Lunch: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Bowl

Afternoon Snack: Greek Yogurt and Fruit

Dinner: Stuffed Peppers

Total nutrition for day six: 1,761 calories, 63g fat, 222 carbs, 57g sugar, 90g protein.

Day 7

Breakfast: Hearty Oatmeal

Morning Snack: Frozen Banana "Nice Cream"

Lunch: Avocado and Black Bean Taquitos

Afternoon Snack: Apple and Peanut Butter

Dinner: Cucumber Quinoa Salad

Total nutrition for day seven: 1,711 calories, 67g fat, 244g carbs, 57g sugar, 53g protein.

And that’s it. Week’s up. We did it!

The verdict:

Eating healthy meals on a $50 budget was definitely a bit of a challenge (we were scanning for deals and coupons throughout the supermarket). Nonetheless, it's doable — and delicious.

The MOST important strategy for success is proper meal planning. If you need tips for planning, check out our video here.

Was this enough food? This meal plan was super filling. We had a full three meals and two snacks per day, which satisfied our 5'2", 120-pound, and 5'4", 131-pound female frames, respectively.

If you feel like you need more or less food, you have two options. Either eat fewer snacks ( = fewer calories) or increase the portion sizes of the meals and/or snacks ( = more calories). Just keep in mind that this will affect how much you spend on groceries.

Now: We want to hear from you! What are your go-to affordable healthy meals? Let us know in the comments below what you chow on when you are trying to keep it healthy on a budget.