Tips and Tricks for Eating on a Budget

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If I had a dime for every time a person told me that eating healthy is “too expensive”, I’d be a rich woman. Healthy food need not be expensive but food marketers spend a lot of money to get consumers to believe that cost is associated with health.

While there’s no doubt that the cost of groceries and dining out has gone up with a reduced workforce, inflation, and increased cost of gas, there are still several ways to save money at the table.

Is an organic orange any more nutritious (and worth the cost) than a conventionally grown orange? Studies show that the nutrient content in organic produce is only slightly higher than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. 1 Organic produce may cost up between 25 to 50% more than conventional produce. 2

Organic produce may have lower levels of pesticide residuals compared to conventionally grown produce, though you’d need to consume a very high amount of standard fruits and vegetables to reach the maximum amounts of pesticides to cause harm. Check out and use their pesticide calculator.

Since 9 out of 10 people don’t meet the suggested intake of fruits and vegetables, eating more of ANY fruit or vegetable is more important than choosing organic. This includes fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Purchase canned without added salt and frozen without added sugar or sauces.

When organic matters:
Organic meat and dairy products may be worth the extra cost due to the use of antibiotics in beef, poultry and dairy cows. Use of growth hormones is not allowed in pork or poultry, but antibiotics used to treat infections are allowed. 3

Exposure to antibiotic-treated animals may increase the risk of antibiotic resistance in humans. To reduce this exposure as well as cost, organic meat and dairy products may be purchased on a rotating basis, or consumption can be decreased.

Organic meat and dairy have also been found to be higher in omega-3-fatty acids than conventional animal products. However, the amount provided is not significant. Consuming salmon or other fatty fish, flaxseeds or walnuts would result in higher intake of omega-3-fats. 1

So how can you eat healthy and still follow a budget? Here are a few tips:

1. Get things on sale. You don’t have to be physically in the store to see the store flyer. Check for bargains online before you head out the door.
2. Buy seasonal produce. Strawberries are available in your grocery all year round, but they’re least expensive (and taste the best) during strawberry season.
3. Make a list and purchase only what you need. Ignore the temptation to use coupons for processed food.
4. Make more meatless meals. Rather than buying organic meat often, buy less meat in general. Stock your pantry with canned or bagged beans and lentils to use for soup, stew or pasta.
5. DIY- Chop your own salads instead of buying them bagged. Purchase fruit in its whole form and prep it yourself.
6. Look for “woohoo” bargains at large grocers like Kroger. These are foods nearing their expiration date but are still high quality.
7. Purchase store brand items over big brands. Unless there is a specific brand you must have, it’s unlikely that the store brand of ketchup, mustard, rolled oats or bread is inferior.
8. Store apples and citrus fruit in a Ziplock bag in the fridge. This extends their shelf life so less is tossed out.
9. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables for variety and to extend shelf life. These are just as nutritious and can be used in several different dishes.
10. Eat less overall food! An easy way to spend less is to reduce excess snacking and large portions. Most people require less food as they age and every day, we get a little bit older.

1. Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, Kahl J, Kesse-Guyot E, Rembia?kowska E, Quaglio G, Grandjean P. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environ Health. 2017 Oct 27;16(1):111.
2. How Much Does Organic Produce Really Cost? - Consumer Reports
3. Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals | FDA

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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