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How to Affordably Eat Well

Updated on July 24, 2013
Abby Campbell profile image

Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

Eating on a budget doesn't have to eat up your wallet. Just know what foods to buy.
Eating on a budget doesn't have to eat up your wallet. Just know what foods to buy. | Source

Healthy Meals on a Budget

"I can't afford healthy foods. How am I going to ever lose this weight or get healthy?" That is often the thought of many. Or, is it really an excuse? Do you really know what healthy foods are? Have you actually compared the prices and serving sizes of healthy foods to convenience foods? Or, are you just in denial because eating healthy really isn't your desire? Are your thoughts telling you that healthy eating is not palatable?

With modern conveniences surrounding us, our taste buds have grown to love certain types of food. Foods that are sweet, salty, or a combination of both make our mouths water just thinking of them. Who doesn't love pizza, peanut butter cookies, or that chocolate milk shake? The daily stresses of life can be warded off by gratifying our taste buds.

By knowing what foods are healthy, one will find that eating on a budget is actually not that difficult. Nor do those foods have to be dull or bland. Eating well can actually be quite gratifying on your senses as well as your pocketbook. See below for some healthier options that won't break your wallet.

Stick to Natural Foods

Natural foods provide your body with tons of vitamins, minerals, and phyotonutrients. All these goodies satiate your body and brain much quicker than pre-prackaged and processed foods. Therefore, you eat less which means you don't need as much in comparison. Even if a particular "healthy" food is a few cents more than its counter, it is well worth it in the long run. You wouldn't eat the obvious poisonous berry or mushroom as it would kill you in a matter of hours. So, don't feed yourself with harmful substances just because they are cheaper for your pocketbook. Your health is really all you have in this world to be a productive human being that can contribute to your family, society, and the world. Make the most of it by providing it with what it needs --> NUTRITION.

"Food can be used as a poison or a prescription. Why not use it as a prescription for good health?" ~Abby Campbell

Healthy Food Options

Before knowing what your healthy food options are, you must know what healthy foods are. Many have their own perspectives of what is good for them. Some believe a food product is healthy if it contains the words "nutritious" or "good for you" on the packaging. Others say "low calorie" or "low carb" is healthy. Then there are those who think that "low fat" is the way to go.

Real healthy foods actually provide your body with nutritients (i.e., vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients) that help you perform and focus better. In fact, real foods provide you with optimal health. And who wouldn't want to feel their best over mediocre?

When you provide your body with the right amount of nutrients, it runs like a smooth sporty Mustang that can get up and go when it wants to. Feed it the wrong oil or gas, and it won't take long for that sporty thing needing some service and maybe even a new engine. It is the same for your body. Feed it the wrong foods, and it will be sluggish and looking for help from your doctor. But, who wants a new heart?

Average Protein Serving Size

Women = 20 to 40 grams per meal and snack

Men = 40 to 60 grams per meal and snack

Foods That Contain Protein on a Budget

Protein sources such as beef, chicken, fish, and seafood can really wreck the wallet if you're not careful. Staying within budget when buying protein foods takes a bit of creativity, but it can certainly be done. Though they are probably the most expensive foods you will ever purchase, protein is also one of the most important nutrients for your body. [To learn more about protein and its effect on the body, please read my other hub on Lean Protein.] Make sure you are eating protein with every meal and snack for optimal health. To save on protein, especially animal sources, try to buy in bulk when on sale. The table below will show you how economical protein can be if you buy and serve the correct amounts with your meals. In comparison to an empty calorie snack or convenience meal, healthy protein sources are actually much less or equivalent in price per serving. Remember, that men usually need about twice the amount of protein than women in serving sizes.

You can buy protein on a budget by looking for sales or buying in bulk.
You can buy protein on a budget by looking for sales or buying in bulk. | Source

Cheap Protein Foods

Protein Source
Average Servings
Flank steaks, 3 lbs.
$8.67 / 72 cents per serving
= / < 12
Chicken breast, 5 lbs.
$8.45 / 42 cents per serving
= / < 20
Whole turkey breast, 8 lbs.
$12.50 / 39 cents per serving
= / < 32
Pork tenderloin, 3 lbs.
$11.97 / 99 cents per serving
= / < 12
Fish (tilapia), 32 oz.
$5.49 / 67 cents per serving
= / < 8
Fish (canned tuna), 3-4 oz.
= / < 1
Shrimp, 12 oz.
$5.00 / $1.67 per serving
= / < 3
Crab, 16 oz.
$12.48 / $3.12 per serving
= / < 4
Eggs, 18-count (Omega-3)
$3.66 / 40 cents per serving
= / < 9
Egg Whites, 32 oz.
$3.88 / 60 cents per serving
= / < 6.5
Low-fat cottage cheese, 84 g.
$2.64 / 66 cents per serving
= / < 4
Greek yogurt, 17.6 oz.
$3.37 / $1.69 cents per serving
= / < 2

Local Farmers Markets

Try your local farmers markets for seasonal vegetables and fruits. Not only are they more nutritious and tastier! They are also much more economical.

Vegetables and fruits are more economical and fresher at your local farmers markets.
Vegetables and fruits are more economical and fresher at your local farmers markets. | Source

Vegetables and Fruits Can Be Economical

Equally important to protein are vegetables and fruits for the body as they contain a plethora of nutrients. Yet, they are the least eaten by society for reasons ranging from expense to taste. There are literally hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits. Therefore, a few can possibly be found for every person trying to eat well. Sometimes, it only takes the right preparation to make them more pleasing to the taste buds. A little seasoning or marinade can make any vegetable entree delicious. Fruits can be incorporated with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt and some nuts for a well balanced meal or snack. A serving is not as big as one may imagine. In fact, one cup of raw or a half cup cooked is considered a vegetable serving. Fruit servings are only one half of a small fruit or 1/4 to 1/2 cup. This is much less than a pack of cookies or pretzels from a vending machine, but it is much more filling and will curb cravings. Be careful not to over-purchase as you don't want your produce go to waste; this only takes up more of your budget. Below is a short list to give you an idea of some costs for vegetables and fruits:

Cheap Produce Foods

Bananas, 5 large
$1.12 / 12 cents per serving
Bell pepper, 3 large
$2.04 / 34 cents per serving
Blueberries (frozen), 48 oz.
$10.65 / 36 cents per serving
Brussels sprouts, 1 pint
$2.98 / 50 cents per serving
Cabbage, 1 large
$1.96 / 20 cents per serving
Carrots, 1 lb.
$0.78 / 6 cents per serving
Apples, 6 medium
$2.76 / 23 cents per serving
Grapefruit, 5 medium
$3.88 / 39 cents per serving
Green beans, 1.25 lbs.
$2.29 / 38 cents per serving
Strawberries, 1 pint
$1.98 / 33 cents per serving
Tomatoes, 4 medium
$2.59 / 65 cents per serving
Be careful with starchy foods as they are calorie and carbohydrate dense.
Be careful with starchy foods as they are calorie and carbohydrate dense. | Source

Whole Grains and Legumes on a Budget

Society loves whole grains! Most whole grains and legumes (beans) are actually quite inexpensive if eaten in their proper amounts. However, most of us tend to overeat them which is not good as they are heavily ladened with calories as well as carbohydrates. These foods give us a boost of energy. If they aren't burned off through exercise or activity, they will pack on the pounds in all the wrong places. Servings for most whole grains and legumes are 1/5 to 1/4 of a cup, and they are best eaten around exercise. Unfortunately, most eat 8 to 10 times this amount. To help curb hunger, try adding vegetables to your starches. As far as budget, most whole grains and legumes are extremely economical. Most servings are only a few cents on the dollar.

Healthy Fats on a Budget

Dietary fats are important to the body, so include them in every meal and snack. Because all dietary fat is calorie dense, you don't need much. In fact, only one to three teaspoons of oil, butter, or nut butter is a serving size. Walnuts, pecans, and almonds can make any snack or vegetable entree delicious, but they are also easy to over-consume. Try to keep your servings at one tablespoon to a quarter cup per day. A slice of cheese (approximately 1 oz.) is a serving. If eaten in the right serving sizes, healthy dietary fats can easily be budgeted in with the rest of your groceries. Below are a few examples:

Cheap Dietary Fat Foods

Dietary Fat
Coconut oil, 54 oz.
$26.99 / 8 cents per serving
= / < 327
Extra virgin olive oil, 1 liter
$7.99 / 4 cents per serving
= / < 204
Flax seed, 27 g.
$2.83 / 8 cents per serving
= / < 34
Chia seeds, 12 oz.
$7.69 / 26 cents per serving
= / < 30
Walnuts, 8 oz.
$4.10 / 13 cents per serving
= / < 32
Almonds, 6 oz.
$3.82 / 11 cents per serving
= / < 36
Avocados, 1 medium
$1.25 / 31 cents per serving
= / < 4
Olives, 1.1 oz.
= / < 1
Cheese, 10 slices
$2.89 / 29 cents per serving
= / < 10

Be Frugal but Be Reasonable When It Comes to Health

With the many examples above, you can see that eating well and on a budget can be done. Planning your menus and learning to eat reasonable serving sizes will help you see that eating cheap doesn't mean that you have to eat cheap foods.

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Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.


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