We also both like to eat. Scratch that… We live to eat. Our mission is to show that healthy eating can blow your taste buds away, and actually be super cheap. We solemnly swear.
Here are some of our best suggestions for how to do it.
1. Meal plan like a bawse.
Yes, this is basic. Yes, this is boring. But it’s almost impossible to eat clean without making a plan for what you’re going to buy, cook, and eat over the course of a week.
Planning doesn’t have to be super complex; last week I didn’t have time to do it before going to the store, so I parked outside of Trader Joe’s, busted out my pen and paper, and quickly drafted up ingredients for some meals I wanted to make that week. Check out this video for more tips and get ideas for weeknight dinners here.
2. Bookmark your favorite healthy blogs.
You can do this right now: Find three budget-friendly, healthy blogs, and sign up for their newsletters, then filter the email updates into a “recipe” folder in your inbox. On meal-planning day, choose one to four new recipes you want to try, and add the ingredients to your shopping list.
Some of our favorites are Food Heaven Made Easy (see what we did there?), Sweet Potato Soul and Nutrition Stripped, which has delicious dairy-free and gluten-free recipes that are created by a fellow registered dietitian. Other faves include Cookie and Kate (vegetarian whole foods), Pinch of Yum (simple and healthy), and, of course, Budget Bytes (good and cheap).
4. Eat oatmeal for breakfast more often.
Oatmeal is one of the cheapest, healthiest foods ever. It’s full of soluble fiber, which is the kind that lowers your cholesterol and also keeps you full.
Buy in bulk, and try preparing your oatmeal overnight or in advance, portioned out for the week. Add a spoonful of almond or peanut butter, a sliced banana, cinnamon, and a sprinkle of chia seeds to make it more complete. Get more oatmeal ideas here.
5. Batch-prep in this bish.
Whoever told you you had to cook a different recipe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day was lying. Cook a couple of simple things you love and have them for the whole week. This is especially true if you are eating for just one or two. We usually spend a couple hours Saturday or Sunday cooking staples — like grains, beans, and vegetables — to form the base of our weekly meals. That way the main meals for the week are quick and easy to put together.
Get started by trying this prep-ahead meal plan for a week.
6. Recycle, reduce, and remix.
One great way to save cash is by focusing on a couple of key ingredients that can be repurposed into different meals for the week. Let’s take beans and sweet potatoes, for example. This can can be remixed into tacos, burritos, soup, or this delicious stuffed ranchero sweet potato. The possibilities are basically endless.
7. Don’t buy anything you don’t have a plan for.
Yes, the stuff at the farmers market is pretty, but it’s not going to do you any good unless you actually have a idea for what to make with it, and the other ingredients you need. Try to get serious about buying only the foods that fit into your meal or snack plan.
8. Learn how to store healthy foods the right way.
Food waste in America is kind of a hot mess. Seriously, in 2012, Americans ended up wasting nearly 40% of all the food we produced. To make sure you do actually use what you buy, get hip to storing fruits and veggies so they’ll last.
• Veggies need room and air to breathe in the fridge. Wrap them loosely, or if they’re in a plastic container, punch holes to allow for airflow. Chop the ends off your veggies before storing in the fridge, and place herb roots in water.
• If you wash your greens, pat them dry, wrap them in a paper towel, and put them in a plastic bag. They last longer this way.
• Delicate fruits like bell peppers, grapes, citrus and berries should go in the fridge to stay fresh, while tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, pears, and avocados can be left on the countertop (note that they will continue to ripen).
• Never store fruits and veggies together, as fruits give off high levels of the ripening agent ethylene. Before you know it, your perfectly good veggies are now in the trash bin. Bananas ripen especially fast, and will cause anything near them to ripen with a quickness as well. Keep them in their own little corner, and if you’re not ready to use them, peel and freeze.
9. Arrive fashionably late to the farmers market.
This is a must for eating healthy on a dime. Being first in line at the market will mean you pay bigger bucks for your fresh produce. Come an hour or two before closing and you’ll notice farmers tend to slash their prices, because they don’t want to take all of the leftover food home. You can end up saving up to 50% on the farmers market fare by being tardy for the party.
10. Have soup for breakfast.
Hear us out. A hearty soup is easy to make, cheap as hell, hydrating, and can be the perfect balanced breakfast recipe if you’re on a budget. Not into it for breakfast? Try it for lunch. We made this lentil and vegetable soup last week and had it for lunch a few times. Put two heaping ladles of this hearty goodness into a Tupperware container, and you’re ready to go.
11. Or make an “end of the week” soup with foods that are about to spoil.
Have leftovers of a bunch of randomness at the end of the week? Not a problem. Throw them into a pot and simmer it all down into a delicious soup or stew. You can do this with almost anything, from butternut squash to tomatoes to corn or lentils. Put ‘em all in a pot and you’ve got yourself a few days of an appetizer or hearty meal.
12. Instead of buying organic, stick to the “Clean 15.”
So you can’t afford to buy everything organic. Neither can we. This is when you focus on the dirty dozen and clean 15 lists of fruits and vegetables. The Environmental Working Group created a list of the foods with the highest and lowest amount of pesticide residue. The goal is to buy the dirty dozen foods organic, and get the clean fifteen foods conventionally grown to save cash.
13. Become a coupon lady (or lad).
Nothing feels better than saving on something you would have normally paid full price for. It helps if you get on the email list for some of your favorite stores; Costco and Safeway are good ones.
This also applies to non-food things, like toothpaste, face wash, and toilet paper. The cheaper you get these things for, the more you have to spend on groceries. Get some pro tips here.
14. Grow your own veggies, or start an herb garden.
This doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. If you have even a little bit of backyard space, try growing things that are usually expensive to buy. Some of our faves are kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, squash, and green onions.
If you don’t have space for a full-on garden, consider planting a cute windowsill or fire escape herb garden.
15. Consider joining a farm share.
CSA stands for community-supported agriculture, which is also known as a farm share. This is a partnership between a group of customers and a local farmer, where members pay an up-front fee for a weekly share of whatever the farm grows throughout the season. A lot of times, since the CSA food is local and you’re paying up front instead of as you go, the prices are better than what you’d pay for produce this nice at a grocery store or a farm market. Check Local Harvest to find a CSA in your area.
16. Get a membership at a club store like Costco.
You can save money on typically pricey things like chia seeds, flaxseeds and other nutrition superstars by getting a membership with a warehouse club store that sells groceries in bulk, like Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or signing up for a discount delivery service like Thrive Market.
This bag of chia seeds from Costco lasts almost six months, and that’s with adding a tablespoon or two into a daily smoothie. Costco also has great deals on bulk almond or soy milk, Greek yogurt, and vitamins.
17. Use frozen fruits and veggies for the win.
Most frozen fruits and veggies are frozen at the peak of freshness, and are often cheaper than their unfrozen counterparts. They also won’t go bad, so there’s not rush to use them up. Have things like frozen broccoli on hand to toss into your pasta salad, or frozen berries to add to your morning smoothie.