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Eating on a tight budget

Updated on April 30, 2015

Want to eat healthy on a budget?

I know times are tough these days and families are looking for ways to reduce their household expenses. Food is an obvious place to start when making your family budget. You can reduce your food expenses significantly, especially if you eat out a lot or mostly eat prepared food. Simply cooking from scratch, using fresh foods will be much better for your health and your wallet as well. I have many ideas so that you can eat healthy for less. There are lots of delicious meals that your family will love that you can make on a budget. Read on for a happy stomach and a happy bank account!

Don't forget to check out Iherb . It's the ultimate source for cheap, healthy food and shipping is often free.

beans, cheap food, healthy eating, cheap eating, eating on a budget, healthy diet, eat healthy
beans, cheap food, healthy eating, cheap eating, eating on a budget, healthy diet, eat healthy

Dried Beans: a cheap and healthy dinner choice

Beans are fabulously cheap, healthy and delicious! You can make so many recipes with them. Just do a basic internet search for the kind of bean you have and you'll see thousands of recipes.

The dried ones are much cheaper and healthier than the canned ones because they don't contain all the preservatives and salt that canned ones do. They're very easy to prepare. In order to reduce energy costs, soak the dried beans overnight. Cook for about an hour, take off the heat and cover. Check on them in a few hours when they cool down. Most varieties of beans should be done at this point. If they're still a bit crunchy, put them on the heat for another hour and you should be ready to use them.

My favorite meal with beans is chili. Just make chili like your normally would, but instead of meat use a variety of pre-cooked beans. It's delicious!

The best places to get dried beans is on Iherb. Cheap, often free-shipping and an excellent selection.

meat, healthy eating, budget, vegetarian eating
meat, healthy eating, budget, vegetarian eating

Eat less meat to reduce food expenses

Did you know that the average North American eats way too much meat? How about getting your protein through some other sources such as tofu or eggs. It's better for your health, the environment and your wallet.

My favorite way to cook tofu is to put salt and pepper on both sides. Fry it on both sides in a very hot pan with some oil. It's delicious served warm on a salad.

And for eggs, how about an omelet? Fry some vegetables, add the eggs and cook until almost done. Add a bit of cheese, salt and pepper and you have a delicious meal. Eat with some bread.

coupons, healthy eating, healthy recipes, eating on a budget
coupons, healthy eating, healthy recipes, eating on a budget

Coupons are an excellent way to save on grocery costs

Keep an eye on your fliers for coupons. Although it takes time, you can save a significant amount of money this way. Just be organized and have file folders for different categories of food. Be careful though to not clip coupons for things that you don't buy as this could end up costing you more money! And watch out for processed food as well, as this is unhealthy and expensive.

What's your secret to eating on a tight budget?

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Drink lots of water

Your body loves water! Drink at least 8 cups a day and your body will be happy. Even more is better if you exercise or live in a hot climate. If your stomach is full with water, you'll crave less food.

You only need one quality kitchen knife - This one is my top choice

fruit discount rack, healthy eating, eating on a budget, vegetables, recipes
fruit discount rack, healthy eating, eating on a budget, vegetables, recipes

Discount fruit and veggie rack

Most stores have a discount fruit and vegetable rack for produce at the end of their life cycles. This is where I buy almost all my produce as it's usually still usable for at least a couple days. My favorite way to use veggies is to make up a big soup or chili, with some beans.

And to use fruit, I often make a crisp with oatmeal topping. Delicious and healthy! Plus, you can eat it for breakfast the next day.

moosewood, healthy eating, cheap eating, recipe, healthy eating on a budget
moosewood, healthy eating, cheap eating, recipe, healthy eating on a budget

Learn to Cook to save money on food

It's very expensive to buy pre-packaged and processed food. Plus, it's bad for your healthy and the environment. My goal is to not buy anything in a can or box form. My grocery basket usually consists of produce, beans, and some grains. If you want to learn how to cook, I recommend Moosewood Cookbooks. Delicious, simple, vegetarian cooking.

Frugal Living: Choose your Friends Wisely

oatmeal, healthy eating, eating on a budget, vegetarian, fiber
oatmeal, healthy eating, eating on a budget, vegetarian, fiber

Oatmeal for breakfasts

Breakfast cereal is so expensive so why don't you try plain old oatmeal as an alternative. It's much healthier and cheaper if you don't buy those instant packs but instead make your own. It's super easy to just follow the directions on the package that you buy. To spice it up a little, I like to add some fruit, whatever is in season or in my garden works best. Sometimes, I cut up and apple, rhubarb or pear. Or, I throw in some frozen or dried blueberries or cranberries. What about raisins? It's all so delicious. Just add a bit of milk on top.

And, it's so healthy! Low calorie, with lots of fiber and it can reduce your cholesterol.


Cut Down on Junk Food

Junk Food is very expensive, so cut down on the amount that you eat if you want to eat cheaply. You drink 3 cans of soda everyday? Cut down to only 1. It's expensive and has no nutrients that your body needs. Same with potato chips, cookies and candy. Try eating it as a special treat a couple times/week instead of as a daily thing.

sale, healthy eating, budget, eating on a budget
sale, healthy eating, budget, eating on a budget

Only buy what's on sale

When I go shopping, I will almost always only buy what's on sale. It kills me to pay full-price for something and it should do the same to you if you're serious about living on a food budget. When stuff is really cheap, buy lots. When it's not cheap, be prepared to wait it out until it is. It's not such a big deal. Really!

Buy and Cook in bulk when eating on a strict budget

It is very expensive if you make things like chili, tomato sauce, vegetable soup or lasagna in small quantities because you have to use small size ingredients. For example, per 100 grams, cheese is much cheaper in a big block. Same with canned tomatoes, meat, and basically anything you buy.

So, when you're at the store, buy big amounts of ingredients in bigger size containers. Then, when you're cooking, cook a lot. You can eat the meal 2 or 3 times, and then freeze the rest. It works best if you put the food into individual, or family size containers so you can pull it out and heat it up really easily. Your family won't mind eating it again 2 or 3 weeks later and it will save you lots of time in preparation, as well as money.

Bake your own bread

If your family eats a lot of bread, it can get quite expensive. Also, the cheap bread that buy from the store is often low on vitamins and fiber. So, it's much better to make your own. However, you don't need to knead away and babysit it the whole day, just buy a breadmaker. It will take you about 5 minutes to put the ingredients into the machine and it will do the rest for you. In a couple hours, you'll have a delicious loaf of bread, ready to slice.

Bread that make yourself costs about 1/4 of the store stuff and is far healthier, so you'll make up for the money you spent on the bread machine in a few months. It's well worth it!

Frugal Living Tip: Get Organized

Eat in Season

If you buy things like apples in the fall, when they're in season, you can get them for really cheap. You can make applesauce to keep them for longer. Or, put them in muffins or a cake and put it in the freezer. You can try canning as well.

Or, if you buy strawberries in the spring-time, they are quite cheap. You can cut off the stems and freeze the berries. Use them in your smoothies all winter long.

These are just a few examples, use your imagination for other things you can do with fruits and veggies that are in season.

Make Your Own Yogurt

Making your own yogurt is a very simple thing to do and something you really should do if you're serious about eating cheaply since yogurt is very expensive at the grocery store. All you need is a bit of yogurt to get the starter bacteria, and a carton of milk. Put everything into the machine and in a few hours, you'll have cheap, delicious yogurt ready to eat. Add a bit of fruit or sugar to taste.

See my recommendation below for an economical yogurt maker that makes 7 individual portions.

Yogurt Maker


Make Your Own Beer

If you like to drink a lot, home-brewing can be a very economical option. Once you get the equipment and process down, it's very simple and cheap to make each 20L batch. You can make almost any kind of beer you can think of, and they are usually more delicious than the store-bought variety. You can even host parties on the cheap! Give it as gifts to your friends as well.


Have a small garden

By having a garden, you can save a substantial amount of money on food each month. If you're smart about it, and plant things that ripen at different times, you can have fresh and free vegetables for 6 months or longer of the year. If you don't have a backyard space, it's actually quite simple to grow things in big pots on your balcony or patio. Or, you can even grow things inside near a window. Things like lettuce and herbs do very well inside.

What are you best ideas for eating on a budget?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This might seem counter-intuitive, but I have a Vitamix, and it actually saves me money in the long run. I go to Costco and buy frozen fruits in bulk, along with spinach and kale in bulk (then freeze it). These fruits and vegetables are low cost but extremely healthy. I feel great when I make my green smoothies every day! And it's a lot less costly than eating out.

    • kaposzta profile image


      6 years ago

      My favorite tip is that one should buy something when it's on sale. I usually buy even the food based on this principle.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Buying food and preparing meals at home is the best way to save money and make that budget stretch. :)

    • choosehappy profile image


      7 years ago from US

      Great tips here! I love the challenge of eating on a budget. It's fun for me. lol

    • Commandrix profile image


      7 years ago from Benson, IL

      You can even make your own beer, huh? Interesting. I'm on a budget, so I do a lot of comparison shopping. Most of the time I'll go with the generic, unadvertised brands because when you buy the big brand names, you're paying for the advertising too. That pushes prices up.

    • onetime33 profile image


      7 years ago

      Lots of good information here because unfortunately, inexpensive foods are usually not good for you. Great Lens!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 

      7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Lots of really good suggestions. There was a time when my husband and I spent less than $100 per month at the grocery store. That's when we were growing most of our own food. Granted, it was a good bit of work, but it was satisfying work, we saved a LOT of money, and we always had plenty of extra to give away to friends and to sell at a self-serve stand. I haven't tried gardening here in Arizona ... yet, but with food prices going up, I'm seriously thinking of doing at least some container gardening, not to mention getting back into bulk cooking and cooking from scratch.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      7 years ago from US/TN

      Good tips!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent tips. I would add, save all your leftovers, freeze them if mecessary, and make pies - you'd be amazed how a delicious and nutritious pie can be created from leftovers.

    • AlphaChic profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas. I didn't realize how easy eating on a budget could be til I ran across your site.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great tips here! My family is always looking for ways to balance the need to stay on budget and eat healthfully.

    • MirandaBrooks LM profile image

      MirandaBrooks LM 

      7 years ago

      this is a great lens with some great tops, thanks :)

    • javr profile image


      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Buy in season. Don't buy products flown in during the winter. This lens has been blessed by a Squid Angel.


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