I can’t eat healthy, you’ve probably thought. It’s just too expensive. Men and women everywhere are prevented from eating healthy every day, just because of the price.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but that excuse is pretty flimsy. It’s possible to grocery shop, cook, and eat healthy and delicious meals for under 50 dollars a week.
Chances are, if you’re buying only pre-prepared food, you’re spending over 50 dollars anyway. Even if you eat super-cheap fast food at every meal, you’re likely spending around five dollars on lunches and dinners. Without breakfast, snacking, or weekends included, those meals already surpass your fifty dollar budget.
Grocery shopping, cooking, and eating healthy are actually the cheapest ways to go.
So how is it that you always seem to walk into the grocery store with a plan and walk out with a sore bank account? Somehow, you ended up spending over a hundred on groceries in an attempt to eat better. Were those splurges on more “healthy” items like goji berries and smoked salmon really worth the cost?
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated eating. Simple foods like eggs, meat, beans, vegetables, and fruit are both inexpensive and super healthy. A one-dollar box of raisins is almost equivalent nutritionally to a twenty-dollar bag of goji berries. Simple and inexpensive ground beef contains just as much protein as costly salmon.
Once you get informed about how to plan your shopping trip in a way that works for you, you can fill your cart for less than 50 dollars — while feeling well-fed and profoundly healthy all week long.
Items like spices, oils, and vinegars are really cheap, but they can add up quickly. Restock your spices and keep cooking staples on hand — they’re often used in recipes, and having these items readily available can slash your grocery bill in half.
Decide what you really need before your week begins. Be realistic: Plan for snacks, healthy desserts, and other items you might be tempted to buy during the week. How much food will you need? This will also help to prevent you from buying an excess of food you won’t have time to eat before it goes bad.
Browse healthy food blogs, Pinterest, and other online resources to find a few recipes that look good to you. Look for recipes with healthy ingredients like whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats. Sometimes, you won’t even need a full recipe — avocado toast and eggs makes a perfectly healthy meal that doesn’t require instructions!
When looking for recipes, find some that use the same ingredients so you can double up on your purchases. No need to buy rice and quinoa when you can find hundreds of recipes that use the rice you’re already buying. This could go for the meat you use, fresh herbs, and versatile ingredients like sweet potato or avocado.
Use your recipes to make a list. Some things you might already have lying around (especially if you keep your pantry stocked), so the items from those that you need should be mostly fresh ingredients. Make sure you also list foods for snacking and add in a treat or two.
Soda, seltzers, and other unnecessary drinks can not only pile on sugar, but they can also pile onto your grocery budget. They add up quickly — one soda is around $2.50, so if you drink five a week you’re already spending upwards of $12.50 more than you wanted! In a way, you’re paying to sabotage your health; those sodas are seriously not worth it.
Put your fresh veggies in the crisper drawer and your bread in the fridge. Being mindful of your food storage can help keep your veggies from going brown and your fruit from rotting. Seeing that the vegetables you paid for at the start of the week have gone bad by the middle is the worst feeling, but it's completely avoidable.
Meal prepping your vegetables and meat is another great way to make sure they don’t go bad. Cook all the vegetables and meats you bought at the start of your week. Then, you can repurpose and eat your cooked food all week long and slash your food prep time in half.
We recommend roasting your vegetables with simple spices like garlic and black pepper. You can add these nutritious (and tasty) veggies to any and all of your meals.
This is key, especially if you cook a lot of your ingredients at once. Just because you’re making a spiced sweet potato skillet on Sunday doesn’t mean that’s the only use for your cooked sweet potato. Reserve some on the side and throw it in salad bowls, egg scrambles, and anything else you can think of.
You can also repurpose your leftovers from the recipe. Use the leftovers over a bed of greens, make a creative sandwich, or top them with an egg to keep it interesting.
Not everything you make has to be fancy — save money on groceries by keeping your meals and snacks basic. Stick to nutritious whole foods and simple ingredients.
Don’t make a grain bowl with a million expensive superfoods when you could add a few greens and olive oil for a way cheaper meal that’s just as good. Don’t buy premade versions of items when you could easily make things like dressings, sauces, and dip with a couple of inexpensive oils, vinegars, and spices. Not only is it better for your health, but it’s better for your wallet, too.
Salads don’t have to be complicated, and they also don’t have to have different stuff in them than your other meals. Adding roasted vegetables, beans, cheese, and other ingredients to your salad is a great way to keep whatever food you cooked interesting while adding some greens to your diet. Nuts and seeds are healthy and inexpensive ingredients, as well, and make for great salad toppings.
Don’t believe us that you can do it for less than $50? We made a sample grocery list for you, based on prices at a Fairway supermarket in Midtown, a notoriously expensive area of New York City — proof that it’s totally possible to maintain a grocery budget without skimping on health or flavor. Prices at your local grocery may vary somewhat, but our list offers a useful place to start.
Plain Greek yogurt, 32 ounces: $5.99
Six bananas: $2.50
One bag frozen mixed berries: $3
One jar of peanut butter: $3
Rolled oats, 18 ounces: $4
1.5 pounds chicken breast: $6
One bag frozen broccoli: $1.99
Canned black beans: $0.79
6 ounces crumbled feta cheese: $3.19
Half gallon of almond milk: $3.50
One large bunch of kale: $2.50
1 pound bag of brown rice: $1.19
One loaf of whole wheat bread: $2.50
2 avocados: $4
One dozen eggs: $1.66
Often the most repetitive meal, breakfast doesn’t have to be boring just because you’re on a budget. With the items on our list, you could make:
Using the groceries on our list, you could make:
— Burrito bowls with rice, kale, broccoli, avocado, salsa, black beans, and chicken
— Brown rice and beans topped with an egg
— Chicken, kale, and avocado sandwiches
— Kale salad with black beans, homemade dressing, feta cheese, and roasted broccoli
… and so much more! Get creative!
With the items on our under-$50 grocery list, there are a whole slew of snack options. Some of them are simple, like a piece of toast with hummus. But with a little creativity, healthy snacking could get so delicious.
You could keep it simple with a bowl of yogurt and fruit or get crafty with some no-bake peanut butter balls. Hard-boil some eggs for a quick, healthy, and portable snack. Slather peanut butter on a banana.
We could go on!