Tips to make eating healthy cheaper

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We don't have the best eating habits as a family. We eat out a lot, which I am trying to change, and the kids eat a lot of cheap stuff like spaghetti, Mac and cheese, pizza. I always include fruit -- whatever is cheapest during the current season.

I have started to try to eat better myself, to make me healthier and to lose weight while retaining muscle. I have been buying egg whites, avocado, whole grain breads, stevia, PB2, protein powder, protein bars, Greek yogurt, almond milk, etc. I still don't have a supply of what most "healthy" people seem to have in their cupboards -- I am forever reading recipes I want to make and then I run into dates, ground flaxseed, or something else and I don't have it? But I've only been working on this for 2 months.

My problem is apparently our grocery bill went up $150 last month and my husband is upset. He blames all the "crazy" things I'm buying for the increase. The stuff I'm buying isn't mainstream and doesn't go on sale like the other stuff we get. I know people are going to say it is cheaper to cook/eat at home, but cooking/eating different things seems to be negatively impacting our budget.

I know it's all about choices, and we may have to allocate more money to food, but I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about how I can make healthy food more cheaply?

Thanks so much!
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Replies

  • knp90210
    knp90210 Posts: 34 Member
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    I hope you get a lot of responses! I am having this trouble too! I like store brand cereals and yogurts. They taste just the same, if not better and they are cheap. Greek yogurts I get are 81 cents and you can buy some for 50 cents. Also, you can get plain and make different recipes with it. That's what I am doing. I don't think that buying almond milk pb2 and flaxseeds makes you healthy. I think it's just buying healthier things instead of what you have been buying before. I am low income and can't buy that stuff regulary and try out recipes that I will actually eat without wasting food. It can be frustrating. :( I hope others can help us out :)
  • Ready2Rock206
    Ready2Rock206 Posts: 9,488 Member
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    You don't need to buy a bunch of wild ingredients. Stick to the basics. Dates are pretty high calorie and how often will you really use them? Buy the items you'll get the most use out of - bags of frozen veggies, dry beans, bulk packs of chicken (which seem to always be on sale at my store). You don't need the "crazy" things to be healthy.
  • missy7979
    missy7979 Posts: 5 Member
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    I would suggest creating the meal plan for your family and just purchase around that - it keeps from over spending, and keeps an excess of food out of the house.
  • 05jerry289
    05jerry289 Posts: 1 Member
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    Good Evening,
    I admire your fortitude and want to encourage you to stick with it, changing your diet will be so worth it, for you and your families sake. I have a few suggestions and perhaps some thoughts or perspective.

    I was successful in steps with my cupboard transformation (10 months is what it took)
    A lot depends on time available, like for Yogurt, that stuff is pretty easy to make, Protein bars as well (see note below). PB2 is good, but you can use almond butter or peanut butter with out paying the premium (think steps in the right direction) perhaps step back to peanut butter, while still getting everyone on board then back to the PB2 when you see how much you are saving on healthcare or eating out, also very expensive.

    Further thoughts...
    Is it possible to cut back purchasing sodas and drinking water instead?
    When possible buy in bulk...
    Try your hand at gardening..
    For protein powder, look to cheeper sources, ie. Body Building.com or amazon (do this to cross reference prices).
    I found great savings in using protein powder to make my own protein bars instead of buying them. (also a cool way to involve the kids)

    Those are just some of my thoughts, and this is my first post in any forum here. Its difficult for people to see the benefits of switching from a 5.00 ready to heat and eat pizza to a home cooked meal that cost a little more, but change is never easy. I am positive that I am not the only person around to say with out a doubt the change is worth it.

    Good luck and eat well!
  • lynn_glenmont
    lynn_glenmont Posts: 10,013 Member
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    I can't bring myself to suggest giving up avocados or greek yogurt, but there's really nothing else on your list that is especially beneficial to your health--I'm not saying they're bad for you, but in pretty much every case (except avocados and greek yogurt) you can get whatever health/nutrition benefits they offer (and often more benefits) from cheaper sources that (bonus) probably won't strike your husband as "crazy" (not saying he's right, but you got to work with what you got).

    You can eat whole eggs (or, if you must, try dried whites instead of liquid whites -- they're cheaper). Use less of an inexpensive regular sweetener (like sugar or honey) instead of switching to stevia. I do like my partially defatted peanut meal, but I buy a different brand from Amazon in bulk for a lot less per serving (and no added sugar) instead of those tiny $8 containers of PB2. And even that is hard to defend as being especially healthy; it's just a lower-fat, more protein-dense way to get peanutty flavor into my homemade smoothies, shakes, and hot cereal. Is there some reason you can't get your protein from food instead of protein powders and bars?

    And almond milk -- well, you're paying a pretty high price for something that's mostly flavored water -- about the only nutrition in it is calcium. Since you're buying greek yogurt, I'm assuming there's no reason you can't drink regular milk and get some protein?

    If you want whole wheat bread, you can make your own a lot cheaper than buying it; or buy the store brand of whole wheat bread. Buy multiple loaves on sale and freeze it. When you want it, let it thaw at room temperature, or toast it.

    Focus on lean proteins (chicken, turkey, lean cuts of pork and beef, fish) and veggies for nutrient-dense foods that don't "cost" a lot either in money or calories. You can still have spaghetti -- just control your portions (especially the pasta) and load up on marinara sauce; add more veggies to the marinara sauce. Be judicious about using fatty meat in your sauce--maybe switch to a leaner ground beef, or even turkey (are the kids really going to taste the difference after it's covered in sauce?). Mac and cheese is tougher -- maybe take a small portion for yourself as a side, and fill out your plate with a lean protein and veggies.

    Dried beans are cheap, easy (although time consuming) to cook, and are a nice, filling combination of fiber (including soluble fiber), protein, complex carbs, and important minerals. Lentils are cheap and easy (and quick) to cook.
  • thunder1982
    thunder1982 Posts: 280 Member
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    I found it expensive to start with. I didnt have basics like flour, breadcrumbs etc but as time went on I found that I only needed to get a couple of ingredients to make a meal as I had all the rest after a while. I did find it more expensive when I was trying out lots of different recipes but once I got my standard range of meals it was better.

    Also cooking in bulk and freezing, that way you use more of that sour cream or whatever you have bought esp for a meal and then you can freeze portions. Again in a thrifty week I've been able to skimp on the shopping and eat from my supply of frozen stuff.
  • tomteboda
    tomteboda Posts: 2,171 Member
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    smnovosad1 wrote: »
    I have started to try to eat better myself, to make me healthier and to lose weight while retaining muscle. I have been buying egg whites, avocado, whole grain breads, stevia, PB2, protein powder, protein bars, Greek yogurt, almond milk, etc. I still don't have a supply of what most "healthy" people seem to have in their cupboards -- I am forever reading recipes I want to make and then I run into dates, ground flaxseed, or something else and I don't have it? But I've only been working on this for 2 months.

    I don't have the money for fancy recipes either, and I personally think I eat pretty healthy. I'm not so into the protein-bulking, I don't believe it is necessary for health, though. There's no reason whole eggs (which are a good deal cheaper than egg whites go figure) are bad, for example.

    But stevia? PB2? Protein powder? Protein bars? Almond Milk? Flax seed? I'd call these all luxuries not necessities for health.

    As the others have said, try buying in bulk. I just picked up 10 lbs of chicken thighs/legs for $6. I cooked them up in the oven and deboned, now have a good large container of chicken meat for use in recipes. I get the fruits at Aldi's (so much cheaper) now. I buy rice and flour and the like in bulk, and I bake my own bread but I won't turn my nose up at whole-grain bread from Aldi's either. It's not fancy but it does the job. Actually I get my Greek yogurt there too because its half the price that it is at the other grocery stores. Health to me means eating a balanced variety of foods, not adhering to whatever fad hipsters and yuppies can afford.
  • ElizabethOakes2
    ElizabethOakes2 Posts: 1,038 Member
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    Woot! Congrats on making big changes! Eating healthily, though, doesn't have to be expensive or drain the bank account.
    I'm big on freezing. I buy boneless skinless chicken breast, lean pork chops, etc, in bulk, and freeze in individual cooking portions. I also freeze leftovers from our meals into individual containers for easy lunches or for nights when I don't feel like cooking. Like thunder1982, I can go a week without grocery shopping with the stock that I have in the freezer + canned goods in the cupboard.

    As others mentioned, lentils, beans and brown rice are cheap and can be purchased in bulk.
    I find the biggest portion of our grocery bill goes towards fresh fruit and veg, and whole nuts like almonds, but I've discovered that the boxed fresh spinach lasts longer than the bagged spinach. Broccoli and cauliflower can usually be found on sale. Also, our local health food store and Whole Foods have great bulk departments where i can buy just enough of something for a special recipe (like dates or flaxseed) that I can spend 1.20 on it instead of $8 for a pound of something I probably won't use all of.

    I don't waste a lot of money on things like dried peanut butter, overprocessed protein powders, etc. I keep almond milk and rice milk in the emergency earthquake foodstuffs because it keeps a long time, but we don't drink it as a daily thing. Frankly, I find it pretty nasty. I buy regular organic milk and we make it last. Buy the whole egg and, if you think it's necessary (is your cholesterol count high?) separate out the egg whites and freeze the yolks to use for baking.
  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 48,683 Member
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    Stick to the basics. While there really isn't such a thing as "healthier" foods (they are either nutrient dense or not), whole foods give you lots of options for prep.
    Personally I eat 80% whole foods and then 20% whatever I can fit it and not go over my calorie allotment. I don't eat organic (savings) and by generic when I can.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png
  • concordancia
    concordancia Posts: 5,320 Member
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    Step away from the fads and focus on the food. Use the veggies that are in season, buy your protein sources when they are on sale.

    Roasted veggies (toss with salt and olive oil) are crazy simple and tend to be family favorites.

    It really sounds like you have decided that healthy means complicated, but barring any specific health problem, just eating balanced should dobthe trick.
  • melonaulait
    melonaulait Posts: 769 Member
    edited March 2016
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    Starches are literally the cheapest food AND health food out there, like white (or brown) rice, potato, sweet potato, pasta, corn. You could buy more of those! As for lean protein, I recommend buying dry beans in bulk. You could also buy more nuts and seeds to sneak into your cooking, they bring a lot of protein and healthy fats. I like to use my 100% peanut butter in cooking a lot!

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    It came out to be a cheap and macro hitting meal.
  • kyrannosaurus
    kyrannosaurus Posts: 350 Member
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    Healthy eating doesn't have to be expensive, you just need to be smart with your cash. Most grocers sells bags of produce that are a little less fresh. They will bag up a huge amount of produce and sell it for $1 or $2. You just need to cut of a few soggy bits and freeze them if you're not cooking them straight away.

    By unbranded anything. When your on a budget you don't need branded products. Generic is so much cheaper.

    Rice, beans, lentils, cous cous, oats for breakfast, tins of tomatoes, dry pasta, tofu, frozen veg, potatoes: all super cheap pantry staples that can be turned into a meal in a hurry.

    Buy whole eggs. So much cheaper. Just make the whole egg fit your money. The premium price you pay for the egg whites is probably not worth them being slightly more macro friendly.

    Don't buy any premade recipe bases or spice mixtures. By the individual components and mix your own stirfry sauces.

    I am on a budget so I can sympathize. My electricity bill was just due and I had $75 to last 4 weeks. You just have to buy what you can afford, be creative and make it fit.
  • StealthHealth
    StealthHealth Posts: 2,417 Member
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    I'll pitch in with some ideas that could add to what the previous posters have said:

    Frozen vegetables can be useful - especially spinach, which is good to toss into stews, curries, or smoothies in small quantities (where buying a big bag of fresh may mean that you have a lot left over). Also, cauliflower is much cheaper frozen (in the UK at least).

    Similar - Frozen berries are way cheaper than fresh and you only need a few to add flavour to your shakes/smoothies/yoghurt/oatmeal. Oh, and by the way, oatmeal is very, very cheap.

    Root vegetables are cheap and filling and can make the cornerstone of a healthy meal. I love them boiled/steamed and mashed or roast in a little olive oil. Carrot fries (cut thin and roasted in olive oil) are way cheaper than the similar tasting sweet potato version. Swede/turnip fries are IMHO better than the white potato wedges I used to make (although probably not much cheaper to be honest).

    We buy 90% of our meat in bulk and then portion up and freeze it - this is cheaper and helps with the food budgeting a little.

    Don't be frightened of cheaper cuts of meat. Chicken thighs are a lot cheaper than breast and although they contain more fat (and so you need to be careful not to overeat) they can still be part of an otherwise low fat plate of food. Stewing beef makes excellent meals which you can bulk up with whatever cheap veggies are available and thicken with lentils.

    Fresh fish can be expensive so many of our fish meals are based on frozen salmon, tuna steaks or white fish. There is a difference in texture but certainly in a fish pie (loads of fish, a bit of sauce and topped with masses of mashed potato or sweet potato) you'd find it difficult to tell the difference between frozen and fresh.

    Mexican style food seems to be a family favorite that I can tailor to be cheaper and still work for my calories allowance.

    I've found eggs, cottage cheese and protein powder to be a cheaper source of protein than meats.

    Best wishes with it.

  • Maxematics
    Maxematics Posts: 2,287 Member
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    Before I shop, I always check the sales for my local supermarkets. I live in NYC, so shopping here is very expensive. I love Greek yogurt and there are usually 10 for $10 sales which is when I stock up. There are often sales on avocados for $1 each. I agree that things like PB2 are luxury items and not necessary to be healthy. I try to limit myself to one "luxury" item per shopping trip since I can afford it. Buying in bulk is your friend.

    As for meat, I do splurge a little bit on that when it comes to certain cuts, but there are usually sales that are worth hunting for. Sometimes my supermarket does a "Manager's Special" when meats are about to expire within a day and they need to sell the product. I buy it, portion it out, and freeze it. The last time that happened, I got four pounds of turkey breakfast sausage for $5 and it lasted me over a month.
  • Lozibeth
    Lozibeth Posts: 47 Member
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    Take a look at the website Budget Bytes, lots of cheap family friendly recipies that are simple to make. I made the Southwest Chicken Skillet last night using chicken thighs, turned out great and only around 400 cals per portion. Another good receipe site is skinny taste...cooking from scratch doesn't need to be complicated or expensive just stick to basics.
  • ghimm
    ghimm Posts: 38 Member
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    I tend to stock up on chicken breast and ground turkey when they're on sale. Buy lots of frozen veggies, since they'll keep longer and are cheaper when they're not in season. There are studies that even show they're fresher, since they're frozen fresh, then shipped, as opposed to the fresh fruit that has been traveling for a month before it gets to you.

    If you buy grains like rice in the very large bags, they tend to work out to be cheaper in the long run.

    Instead of stocking up on bars and pre-made snacks, try light cheese sticks. A pack of 12 is usually the price of 1 1/2 snack bars.

    The cheapest spices tend to be in the Hispanic section of the grocery store. They are usually $1 or $2 while the ones in the spice aisle are $6. They also frequently sell small packets of spices that are very cheap, if you're not sure if you want to spend the money on a whole bottle.

    I use stevia, and while it is expensive, it is so sweet that it last a really long time. Stevia and sugar are not a 1:1 substitute. You need much less stevia to make your coffee or tea sweet.

  • akamran1
    akamran1 Posts: 78 Member
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    Everybody's suggestion are good, so I'm just going to add a link to this cookbook that you can download: Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day, by Leanne Brown.
    https://41aac1a9acbe9b97bcebc10e0dd7cb61ef11502c.googledrive.com/host/0B9c5aT4eSlRfMzVpbC0xemtkSlE/good-and-cheap.pdf

    To give an example: oatmeal (buy it in bulk in the canister, works out to pennies per serving) 6 different ways: with coconut, berries, pumpkin, apple, orange zest & almonds, or cheese & scallions (the last is my favorite). I'd add peanut butter & jelly, and chocolate & peanut butter chips, for a total of 8 ways to dress up oatmeal!
  • enterdanger
    enterdanger Posts: 2,447 Member
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    I agree with everyone saying to stick to the basics. Unless you have a milk allergy almond milk is unnecessary and expensive (and I'm allergic to almonds, lol).

    Anyway, if you want you can make your own yogurt very easily for a 1/3 of the cost. Just bring 1/2 gallon of whatever milk you like (I use whole lactose milk since hubs is lactose intolerant) up to just pre-boil (about 175 degrees if you really want to measure it) Skim off the fat (cause it will make your yogurt have a funky texture) and let it cool to luke warm (about 110 degrees, I swear I don't really take it's temp) skim it again and mix in 1/2 cup plain yogurt. Cover your pot with a tight fitting lid and stick that sucker in your oven overnight with the oven light on. The next morning...yogurt...lots of yogurt. I eat mine plain but you could sweeten it with whatever you like (my kids like honey) and add fruit. The next batch you make, just add 1/2 cup of the yogurt from this batch so you don't have to buy a yogurt. Cheap. Put it in a towel lined strainer and let it drain into a bigger bowl in the fridge if you want it thicker.

    Stock up on good dry ingredients. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, rice, bulger, grits, oats...All these things are cheap. Beans especially if you buy the dried. If that's too much effort to soak them (and sometimes it is between kids and work) get canned. Just rinse before use.

    Don't buy that fancy bread. I make my own since we eat so little and I like it to be extra yummy, but really, most bread is bread.

    Meat - ground turkey is cheap, chicken, pork shoulder. The leaner the cut the more expensive it probably is. I will splurge on really good meat if it's on special. We only eat 4 oz portions anyway.

    Produce- here is where I spend the bulk of the grocery money. All i can say is FARMERS MARKET. We are lucky enough to have a couple year round here and they are so inexpensive. If you can't do that you can get frozen fruit like berries and frozen veggies. Pick which ones you really want to spend extra money on. I like avocados. I was buying them in a bag of 5 to save money. Issue was that 2 were inedible. I'd rather just pay the $1 per avocado so I can pick them out.

    Try to have some go to, game plan type *kitten*. When you get home without a game plan you probably will eat out. That's what happens to us.
  • Queenmunchy
    Queenmunchy Posts: 3,380 Member
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    I pretty much eat eggs for breakfast. Frittata/egg muffins/egg bake, hard boiled eggs, or leftover roasted veggies with an egg on top. My kid likes sausages too, so I make them out of ground turkey (I can get 3lbs for $5) and can make 8-10 patties out of 1lb to freeze for her during the week.

    We do A LOT of soups, stews, chilis, curries, and so on. Things that are filling, cheap, and easy to freeze so they don't go to waste, and in them we add a lot of vegetables instead of a lot of meat. 1lb of meat can easily stretch into 8 portions. If we do have a meal that is comprised of meat and sides, it's usually chicken thighs, quarters, wings, or a whole chicken. We don't buy red meat often.

    Almost everything is frozen if we're not going to eat it in time. I can make anything into freezer burritos, lol. We re-purpose leftovers a lot. Leftover veggies easily top a pizza. Leftover chicken makes a quesadilla, etc.

    Finally, we do the majority of our shopping at Aldi. 90% of what I need I can buy there. The rest (fresh herbs, certain produce) I get from Trader Joe's, PriceRite, or any of the three Asian markets close to me.

    I've been batch cooking for 8 years now, so I really maximize my time and savings (and plan a lot!).
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,868 Member
    edited March 2016
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    smnovosad1 wrote: »
    We don't have the best eating habits as a family. We eat out a lot, which I am trying to change, and the kids eat a lot of cheap stuff like spaghetti, Mac and cheese, pizza. I always include fruit -- whatever is cheapest during the current season.

    I have started to try to eat better myself, to make me healthier and to lose weight while retaining muscle. I have been buying egg whites, avocado, whole grain breads, stevia, PB2, protein powder, protein bars, Greek yogurt, almond milk, etc. I still don't have a supply of what most "healthy" people seem to have in their cupboards -- I am forever reading recipes I want to make and then I run into dates, ground flaxseed, or something else and I don't have it? But I've only been working on this for 2 months.

    My problem is apparently our grocery bill went up $150 last month and my husband is upset. He blames all the "crazy" things I'm buying for the increase. The stuff I'm buying isn't mainstream and doesn't go on sale like the other stuff we get. I know people are going to say it is cheaper to cook/eat at home, but cooking/eating different things seems to be negatively impacting our budget.

    I know it's all about choices, and we may have to allocate more money to food, but I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about how I can make healthy food more cheaply?

    Thanks so much!

    There's nothing wrong with or unhealthy about whole eggs...they are a whole food...they are packed with nutrition and generally are going to be cheaper than buying egg whites. I use egg whites when I want to bulk up my breakfast with a lot of protein for very few calories...but I generally prefer whole eggs.

    Avocados are very nutritious, but they are also an "exotic" so are going to be rather expensive. They are good to include in your diet but they don't have to be a main stay.

    Save your money on things like stevia, PB2, protein powder and bars...buy real peanut butter...it's healthy and good for you. protein powders and bars are just supplements...if you don't need to supplement your protein, you don't need these things...buy more chicken, fish, and meat with your savings. You're buying a lot of stuff that is marketed as "healthy"

    Staples for me include brown rice in bulk, quinoa in bulk, lots of chicken (very easy to find on sale...and no, it doesn't have to be chicken breast to be "healthy"...pork tenderloins and pork sirloin roasts and pork chops...lean cuts of beef like hanger steaks and tri tip (relatively cheap and can feed an army)...legumes in bulk, oats, potatoes, eggs, lots of veggies (frozen, fresh, whatever deal we can get)...in season fruits...

    Basically don't buy into marketing hype for what is healthy...look around your store...see all of those whole foods...veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, etc...those are pretty good for you and pretty mainstream.