Diets on a budget

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These are the steps I took to start a diet on a budget and lose weight at last!

By Shannon Brown, Contributing Writer

I stared down at the scale in disbelief. In the dim light, even with my glasses on, I wondered if my eyes might be failing me. More than two full years after my daughter was born, I was still 30, yes 30 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, and I had all the yucky, achy, tired, no-good-feeling symptoms to go along with it.

In the busy two years since her birth, I had tried to get back to a healthy weight. Three diets later, I had all but given up.

I stayed disciplined to each one of the popular diets I tried, but none of them worked for me.

One diet I never even tried once I realized it would double my grocery bill!

As arduous as it is for me to admit this struggle on such a public forum, I know I’m not alone.

“More than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese….overweight and obesity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health problems such as…nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, some types of cancer…and stroke .” –National Institutes for Health

I wasn’t going to wait around for one of these devastating diseases to pop up before making a change. I knew I had to do something different. For myself, but most of all for my family.

Well, I finally unlocked the secret. It’s a simple, frugal non-diety diet. (Because as we know all to well, most diets don’t work.)

It may seem like it costs a fortune to eat a healthy diet, but you can save money on healthy, real food. These are the ridiculously simple, frugal tweaks to my diet and lifestyle that are helping me lose my 2-year-old baby weight, even on a tight budget! I’m so excited to share them with you!


How to Start a Diet on a Budget: Weeks 1 through 3

It’s easy to get excited about the promises for weight loss and greater health of any new diet and want to jump right in. If you take the time to gradually transition your diet and lifestyle instead, you’ll set both your diet and your budget up for much greater success! Here’s how…

1. Don’t do drugs.

Sugar and caffeine that is.

Sugar has been touted as the most addictive substances known to man, even several times more addictive than cocaine.

I didn’t have to look much farther than my own experience to see how easy it is for one sweet treat to creep into our diets as a regular habit.

The first and hardest step is to cut back on caffeine and to quit sugar cold turkey.

This includes even sugar substitutes, which have been linked to greater weight gain than sugar and other yucky side effects. This is one place where moderation wasn’t an option for me.

As for caffeine, it’s been shown to make it harder for people with diabetes to regulate blood sugar, which leads to weight gain. I switched my coffee for green tea, with no small amount of daily grumbling.

2. Eat More.

You might be happy to hear one of the best hacks for losing weight is to eat more often.

You might want to try eating two or three snacks between meals at the same time every day.

I’ve been eating more than ever before while staying around the same total number of calories.

This way I’m not ravenous when it comes time for meals. This has been the most difficult part of the diet to keep.

I’ve struggled to delay meeting the constant requests of my two little ones at times to do this small act of self-care. But, we’re all reaping the rewards of a happier, healthier mommy.

Some diets recommend a solid three meals a day with no snacks, so you’ll have to feel it out for yourself to find what works best for you.

I will note, eating more frequently is one of the common habits of people who lose weight and keep it off.

3. Eat Even More.

Be sure you’re eating the recommended 25 grams of fiber a day for women. (Most Americans eat only 15 grams!)

I simply include four servings of vegetables and one or two servings of fruit each day, along with a couple servings of nuts, and one or two whole grains or legumes.

This alone helps you feel more full, so there’s no need to count calories or measure portions. When you fill up on these healthy foods first, there’s not much room to crave unhealthy foods.

4. Plan to Eat

At the same time you do these preliminary diet changes, create a one- or two-week meal plan, keeping in mind any healthy changes you plan to make to your diet after this initial phase.

This is crucial, so when it’s time to eat, you’ll have a plan and you’ll be much more inclined to grab something healthy.

A meal plan also helps you save money on healthy groceries because you’ll be much more likely to use up all of the healthy foods you bring home.

I found it super helpful to start with a pre-made, real food meal plan, include frugal real food recipes, and then tweak it for my specific needs.

5. Compare Prices.

Now is a great time to compare prices on some of the new foods you might want to add to your diet.

A few of the new foods I added included a wider variety of dark leafy greens and nuts. I also bought a bigger range of legumes and gluten-free grains for variety.

6. Stock the Pantry.

Taking a full three weeks to stock up on new healthy foods allows you to take advantage of big savings with bulk buys while spreading out the impact on your budget over time.

Just one word of warning. Be sure you don’t buy a large quantity of something you’re not sure you’ll use.

We all start out with good intentions.

Like last January when I decided I needed to eat liver once a week, and bought 20 pounds of it from Azure Standard for a “deal.”


That resolution slithered out of sight by February, and most the liver is in the bottom of my chest freezer, thickly coated with freezer burn.

How to Start a Diet on a Budget

To set yourself up for success: meal plan, do price comparisons, and stock your pantry with bulk buys over the course of a few weeks. Planning for the changes ahead will help you succeed with your weight loss and keep your grocery budget in check.

In week one, as I lay clinging to the couch, head pounding, suffering the effects of sugar withdrawal, I wondered if it was worth it.

Three weeks later, though I had only lost two pounds, I felt amazing!

Then the preparation started to pay off. In weeks four through six, I added 9 more easy, budget friendly habits to boost my weight loss even more.

As I write this in week 7, I’m at a new low, with a total of 10 pounds lost. The true measure of the success of this diet, though, is the growing feeling of health, energy and confidence. Many of my other annoying symptoms like sugar and carb cravings, constant hunger pangs, nausea, and mood swings are long gone.

I still have a long way to go, but I’m confident that by sticking to these simple (and budget friendly) methods, I won’t see those extra pounds staring back at me on the scale by the time my little girl turns 3.

8 Cheap Foods That Can Help You Lose Weight

You might know the basics of eating on a budget: Cook at home as much as possible, buy foods when they’re in season and purchase certain items in bulk.

But there seems to be this underlying assumption that in order to eat healthy, you have to buy expensive food or that eating cheap involves eating Ramen noodles.

Well, it isn’t true! You just have to know what to buy in order to save and shed some pounds at the same time.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 discovered the foods linked with weight loss included fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and yogurt.

Meanwhile, weight gain was related to consuming potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats and processed meats.

While it is true that certain healthy items are more expensive, some unhealthy items can be just as expensive, if not more so. The good news is, for the most part, you can eat a healthy diet and stick to your budget at the same time!

Here are eight cheap foods — all under $1 per serving — that are healthy for you and can help you lose weight, too. (Note: 7 of these 8 foods are also gluten-free!)

8 Cheap And Healthy Foods

1. Brown Rice

Rice is a staple in many countries because it is so cheap. Brown rice, although it’s a carbohydrate, is healthy and can actually help you lose weight! A serving of brown rice contains 21% of the daily recommended amount of magnesium, 15% of vitamin B6, 4% of the daily recommended amount of iron and 3.5 grams of fiber. Brown rice is higher in nutrition and absorbed more slowly by the bloodstream than white rice. It is a great food to eat for those wanting to reduce inflammation too.

One study from researchers at Harvard found that Americans who eat two or more servings of brown rice per week can cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by about 10%, while this study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that women who consumed more high-fiber whole grains consistently weighed less than those who did not. Conversely, refined grains added to weight gain.

According to Health Magazine, a half-cup serving of rice contains 1.7 grams of Resistant Starch, which is a healthy carb that increases metabolism and helps to burn fat. But, a note of caution: Since brown rice isn’t necessarily low in calories, it’s best to only consume the recommended serving size and eat an overall low-calorie diet for weight loss. You can find brown rice at Walmart for about $0.07 per serving!


2. Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has been called a “superfood,” or a food packed with nutritional value, and it does have many health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked!

A study on the healthiest foods found that each extra daily serving of yogurt prevented .82 pounds of weight gain. At 23 grams of protein per serving, it rivals meat-based sources of protein to help you feel fuller longer. As long as you choose the low-fat, low-sugar versions, you’ll definitely be on the side of healthy.

You can find Greek yogurt at Aldi for about $0.87 per serving!

3. Old-Fashioned Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of those foods you either love or hate, but it has many benefits if you want to eat healthy on the cheap. It’s rich in fiber, filling, and also heart healthy. But take caution here: you’ll want to avoid instant oatmeal or oatmeal with added sugar. Instead of adding sugar to your oatmeal, consider adding stevia, honey, or spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg to give it flavor. Oatmeal also has s 4.6 grams of Resistant Starch according to Health Magazine.

Plus, oatmeal only costs about $0.08 to $0.16 per serving!

4. Beans

Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans: Beans not only have protein, but they have fiber too! Beans are cheap, low in calories, and you can add almost any kind of herb or spice to create different flavor combinations.

Research from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that bean eaters have a 23% lower risk of an expanded waistline and a 22% reduced risk of being obese. Also, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight and a smaller waistline.

Beans are also good sources of iron. You might want to rinse any canned beans though to reduce your sodium intake. Canned beans start at $0.59 at Aldi, which is about $0.17 per serving.

5. Canned Tuna

At about $0.41 per serving, chunk light canned tuna is a cheap food that is high in protein and a great way to get Omega-3’s — the healthy fats that can help brain function and repair our cells. However, pregnant women and kids are advised to beware — the mercury levels in canned tuna can make this food potentially unsafe. Your best bet? Eat in moderation. You can find 4-packs of canned tuna at Walmart for around $3.57.

6. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have many great health benefits. They contain about 377% of our daily recommended intake of vitamin A, 15% of vitamin B6 and are high in potassium and fiber. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.


How can sweet potatoes help you lose weight? Because sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense, they can help you feel fuller longer. As long as you don’t load them down with butter and sugar and instead opt for some olive oil and/or cinnamon, sweet potatoes are a great part of a trim diet. Plus, the price of a small sweet potato is only about $0.50!

7. Apples And Other Low-Cost Fruits

It’s a good idea to eat fruit for health, but it’s also important for weight loss too. Fruit is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and it can help aid in weight loss by helping you feel fuller with less calories. It can also increase your water intake! Though some fruits are more expensive than others, apples are a budget-friendly option at about $0.50 per apple, when purchased in a three-pound bag.

If you want to save even more on fruit, opt for the canned option, which can save you money and will last much longer than the fresh varieties. Just be sure to choose the kind packed in fruit juice — not heavy syrup. Canned mixed fruit packed in 100% juice at Aldi will run you about $0.89, which is about $0.25 per serving.

8. Broccoli, Cauliflower And Other Low-Cost Veggies

Broccoli, carrots and cauliflower all cost under $0.50 per serving — and they aid in weight loss too! Filling up on veggies, which are low in calories, help you feel full and are packed with vitamins and minerals.

According to Health Magazine, cooked or raw, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are known for their cancer-preventing powers, fiber and ability to prevent weight gain. They also have tons of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron and potassium.

Bonus: Green Tea

Though green tea isn’t a food, it’s a great low-cost beverage to consume loaded with nutritional benefits, according to researchers. “It’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink,” Christopher Ochner, PhD., said to Web MD.

Green tea has polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants. Not only that, it contains the amino acid L-theanine, which can reduce anxiety and improve brain function. But besides all its health benefits, in some studies, green tea has been shown to boost metabolism and help people burn fat. You can find green tea at Walmart for about $0.05 per serving!

Eating cheaply might take some planning, but it can be done! If you enjoy cheap and healthy meals, share your tips in the comments below!

Top 10 Budget-Friendly Foods (Healthy Ones!)

With the economy suffering and food prices rising, your family’s grocery bill might be in need of a few budget cuts. Unfortunately, because of the misperception that healthy foods always cost more, nutritious foods like fresh produce are often the first to get bumped from grocery carts. But there are plenty of ways to save money without sacrificing the quality of your diet. Here are 10 of my top picks for healthy foods that won’t break the bank.

1. Oats

Oats are one of the cheapest healthy breakfast options around, and, as a member of the whole-grain family, they’re loaded with healthful nutrients. One serving of oatmeal (made from a half-cup dry oats) doles out five grams of protein and four grams of fiber, while setting you back only about 30 cents (and 150 calories).

Buy plain, dry oats in the big canisters rather than the (often presweetened) individual packets, which are way more costly. This way, you’re also in control of the added ingredients, sugars, and total calories in your breakfast. Great mix-ins include fresh or dried fruit (such as diced apple, sliced banana, berries, or raisins), peanut butter, chopped nuts, or a few teaspoons of preserves.

2. Healthy Frozen Mixed-Vegetable Blends

Bagged frozen vegetables are one of the greatest values in the grocery store (generic versions are typically cheaper than the popular name brands, unless there’s a sale). And because mixed-vegetable blends (such as stir-fry or California-style varieties) contain up to seven different vegetables in one bag, they are an incredibly easy and cost-effective way to incorporate a colorful variety of healthy produce into your diet. You’d spend significantly more if you bought all those veggies individually in their fresh form and would be much more likely to have the extras go to waste.

Frozen vegetables really are just as nutritious as fresh. They’re picked at their peak and flash-frozen, locking in all their healthful nutrients. Use frozen veggies just as you would fresh — in soups, chilies, casseroles, pasta sauces, omelets, stir-fries, and side dishes. Just make sure you don’t select blends that contain sauces, salt, sugar, or other unhealthy additives.

3. Fresh Fruit: Bananas, Apples, and Oranges

Refilling your fruit bowl every week can cost an arm and a leg… but it doesn’t have to! Make affordable fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges your weekly staples, and save more costly options like pineapple, pomegranates, melons, and papayas for special treats.

Bananas in particular are a bargain hunter’s dream. Select green, relatively unripe bananas at the store so they last all week. Don’t worry about them going to waste either; if they start to turn black and squishy, toss them into a plastic storage bag and freeze for later. Use frozen bananas in healthy fruit smoothies, or mash them up and mix into oatmeal, low-fat muffins, or pancakes.

Don’t forget about those oranges and apples — they’re kid-friendly, easy to tote, and stay fresh longer than most fruits.

4. Lentils

Lentils really are the king of legumes. They’ve got it all: fiber, protein, folate, iron, potassium, and a host of other trace minerals. Plus, they’re super-affordable and surprisingly easy to prepare. Unlike dried beans, they don’t require presoaking and they cook up quickly. Simmer lentils with diced tomatoes and seasonings for a hearty side dish, or add dry lentils to soups or stews to increase protein without relying on expensive meats.

5. Beans (Canned or Dried)

You can’t go wrong with these little guys. Like lentils, beans are packed with protein, making them an economical alternative to meat, poultry, and seafood. Plus, they’re healthy — loaded with fiber, which, among other things, maintains digestive health, reduces cholesterol levels, and keeps blood sugars under control.

Stockpile these pantry staples when they go on sale; dried beans will keep for up to a year, and canned beans last twice as long. If you choose canned beans, buy low-sodium whenever possible and be sure to thoroughly rinse before using to remove excess salt from the canning liquids.

Substitute beans for ground meat in chilies, tacos, soups, or burgers, or add them to cold salads. Pureed beans can even be used as a healthy, low-fat alternative to butter or oil in baked goods.

6. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a concentrated source of protein, as well as heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and B vitamins. Of course, it’s also a concentrated source of calories, so make sure you limit yourself to no more than two tablespoons per serving (two level tablespoons are 195 calories).

Your money will be better spent if you choose natural peanut butters without added sugars or other additives. For a thrifty, wholesome breakfast, enjoy peanut butter spread on whole-wheat toast. Or squirrel away the cash you’d normally shell out for an expensive deli sandwich and have a “grown-up PB&J” for lunch — a real comfort food — by substituting sliced fresh fruit (apples or bananas work best with the bonus of being among the cheapest fruits) for jelly on your sandwich.

7. Canned Salmon

The healthy benefits of eating omega-3-rich fish like wild salmon are clear, but the price of fresh fish can be hard to swallow, especially if you’re feeding an entire family. Canned wild (Alaskan) salmon is a much more economical way to get your weekly fish quota. If you’re willing to spend just a few extra minutes removing the bones and skin yourself (rather than buying the boneless, skinless variety), you can save yourself even more money.

Canned salmon is perfect for cold salmon salad and warm salmon melts, and it makes great salmon cakes when mixed with egg, milk, and whole oats. Kids will love its mild flavor, too. Of course, canned salmon provides a hefty dose of sodium, so you’ll want to take that into consideration if you’re watching your salt intake.

8. Fat-Free Yogurt

An easy protein- and calcium-rich snack or breakfast option is fat-free yogurt. If your family members are big fans of this dairy favorite, consider buying the large 32-ounce tubs instead of the pricier individual cartons. Purchasing yogurt in portable six-ounce containers is convenient, but your wallet will be rewarded (you’ll save at least 20 percent) by taking a few extra seconds to scoop out an individual serving into a plastic container or bowl. Since the 32-ounce containers come in only a limited number of flavors, keep plenty of fun add-ins such as fresh fruit, raisins, and flavored extracts on hand to add some variety.

9. Eggs

Eggs are another low-cost, high-quality protein source. When stored properly in the fridge, raw eggs last about three weeks in the shell, so stock up when they’re on sale. Also consider buying one of the trays of 18 or two dozen that are available in some grocery and club stores to save a few more pennies. Use eggs to whip up cost-effective, meatless dinner entrées like omelets, frittatas, low-fat quiches, and egg sandwiches. Replace some of the whole eggs in these recipes with egg whites to lower the calories, fat, and cholesterol.

10. Sweet Potatoes

Our list of cheap eats would not be complete without the humble potato. For an added boost of nutrition, try replacing your regular old white potatoes with sweet potatoes. Like white potatoes, they are one of the richest sources of potassium, but ounce for ounce, sweet potatoes deliver more fiber, vitamin C, and beta-carotene than their pale cousins. These nutritional powerhouses don’t have to be limited to Thanksgiving dinner, either. Turn sweet potatoes into everyday favorites: Use them to prepare oven fries, mashed potatoes, and stews. Or, for a super-easy side, pierce a whole sweet potato with a fork, wrap in a damp paper towel, and microwave for four to five minutes. Top with nonfat Greek yogurt… or salsa for a little kick! One medium-sized sweet potato provides about 200 calories.

Read more tips and Q&As from Joy Bauer.

For more diet and nutrition advice, visit

44 Healthy Foods Under $1

30. Garlic

Price: $0.30 per bulb Add minced garlic to any pan of sautéed vegetables or roast whole in the oven for a sweeter flavor, and then blend into salad dressings and dips. In addition to its vitamins and minerals, garlic may help enhance memory (at least in rats) and reduce the chance of heart attack.Repeated administration of fresh garlic increases memory retention in rats. Haider S, Naz N, Khaliq S. Journal of medicinal food, 2009, Feb.;11(4):1557-7600. Allium vegetable intake and risk of acute myocardial infarction in Italy. Galeone C, Tavani A, Pelucchi C. European journal of nutrition, 2009, Jan.;48(2):1436-6215.” data-widget=”linkref

31. Canned Pumpkin

Price: $0.75 per 1/2 cup, about $2.50 per 15-ounce can Pumpkin’s orange color comes from carotenoids, a plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties.Carotenoid composition and vitamin A value of a squash and a pumpkin from northeastern Brazil. Arima HK, Rodríguez-Amaya DB. Archivos latinoamericanos de nutrición, 1992, Mar.;40(2):0004-0622.” data-widget=”linkref Add canned pumpkin to sweet or savory recipes—smoothies, muffins, veggie burgers, curries, and more!

32. Canned Tomatoes

Price: $0.50 per 1/2 cup, $1.80 per 14.8-ounce can Tomatoes retain exceptional amounts of the antioxidant lycopene even after cooking and canning.Lycopene, tomatoes, and the prevention of coronary heart disease. Rao AV. Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.), 2002, Dec.;227(10):1535-3702.” data-widget=”linkref Canned tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces and stews, but be on the lookout for cans with no added sodium or sugar (and that are preferably BPA-free).

33. Onions

Price: $0.18 each, $0.59 per pound Use along with garlic as an aromatic base for stir-fries, stews, and sauces; or sauté until golden and sweet, then add to salads, pastas, or sandwiches. Not only will your food be more flavorful, but you’ll also be doing your body a favor—onions pack a surprisingly nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants.Onions–a global benefit to health. Griffiths G, Trueman L, Crowther T. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 2003, Mar.;16(7):0951-418X.” data-widget=”linkref

34. Carrots

Price: $0.50 each, $2 per pound Raw carrot sticks are perfect for dipping into hummus or nut butters (don’t knock it ’til you try it!) and taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil. That nutritious crunch comes with tons of vitamin A.Spinach or carrots can supply significant amounts of vitamin A as assessed by feeding with intrinsically deuterated vegetables. Tang G, Qin J, Dolnikowski GG. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2005, Nov.;82(4):0002-9165.” data-widget=”linkref

35. Winter Squash

Price: $0.50 per 1/2 cup, $1.50 per pound Squash is a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Roast a squash and fill with whole grains, like brown rice or quinoa and veggies. Top with Greek yogurt or part-skim ricotta for a hearty vegetarian dinner—no bowls needed.

36. Kale

37. Beets

Price: $0.35 each, $1 per pound These magenta gems are filled with betalains, an antioxidant that may help prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases.Chemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Kapadia GJ, Azuine MA, Sridhar R. Pharmacological research, 2003, Sep.;47(2):1043-6618. Betalains–a new class of dietary cationized antioxidants. Kanner J, Harel S, Granit R. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 2002, Jan.;49(11):0021-8561.” data-widget=”linkref They are also packed with folate, fiber, and vitamins galore—making them one of the best health bargains around.Nutritional and functional potential of Beta vulgaris cicla and rubra. Ninfali P, Angelino D. Fitoterapia, 2013, Jun.;89():1873-6971.” data-widget=”linkref Roast with olive oil for salads or as a side dish, or add to a smoothie.

38. Broccoli

Price: $0.50 per 1/2 cup, $2 per bunchBroccoli has remarkably high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. Yuan GF, Sun B, Yuan J. Journal of Zhejiang University. Science. B, 2009, Oct.;10(8):1862-1783. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Verhoeven DT, Goldbohm RA, van Poppel G. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology, 1997, Jan.;5(9):1055-9965.” data-widget=”linkref This veggie tastes amazing blended in soup, stuffed in potatoes, tossed in frittatas, or simply cooked with a bit of garlic and olive oil.

39. Spinach

Price: $0.50 per cup, $2 per bunch Replace lettuce with spinach in salads for added benefits or add a few handfuls into your morning smoothie. These unassuming greens are nutrient-dense with vitamins A, K, and calcium.

40. Sweet Potatoes

Price: $0.50 each, $1 per pound Try this healthy alternative in place of a bread slice the next time you’re whipping up an avocado-on-toast recipe. Sweet potatoes have high levels of vitamin A and calcium, plus they’re lower in carbohydrates than their white counterparts (just in case you’re counting). Studies also show the root veggie has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic activities.Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas Lam)–a valuable medicinal food: a review. Mohanraj R, Sivasankar S. Journal of medicinal food, 2014, Jun.;17(7):1557-7600.” data-widget=”linkref

41. Edamame

Price: $0.50 per 1/2 cup, $3 per 10-ounce frozen packageSkip the chips and enjoy edamame steamed with a touch of salt. These bite-size legumes are filled with fiber and protein, which make for a great afternoon snack.

We all love our garden and I am sure to have canned enough to last through most of the winter. What do we do about the other items we need to purchase?

A couple of years ago, my husband and I got resourceful and began shopping on the notebook system. We wrote down the items we bought frequently and compared the prices at several stores. On Wednesdays when the sales ads come out, we watched for rock bottom prices on things such as peanut butter and other foods we did not make ourselves or purchase from farmers we know.

Here’s a list of food items we have found are good to purchase in order to keep your grocery bill down.

Affordable Foods to Keep Your Grocery Costs Down

1. Beans

I feel like beans get a bad rap. I didn’t eat them much as a child unless we were at the Mexican restaurant but when I got married my mother-in-law would serve us black beans and rice in a tortilla shell. Although I tend to skip on the tortilla shell (too many carbohydrates in one meal that way, in my opinion) I do occasionally make black beans and rice for my family.

The rice comes from a local farmer and the beans come dried from the store for about a dollar for a bag. I just soak them the night before I want to prepare the meal and we are good to go.

Another great idea for beans if you like white beans is ham and beans. Ham comes from my father-in-law’s pigs and the beans, again, dried for about a dollar.

If you have a store nearby that sells food in bulk, you can probably get your beans for even cheaper than a dollar for the meal.

2. Rice

What you may or may not know is that rice and beans are a complete protein, so if you are cutting down on meat (for budget reasons or personal belief about the meat industry or whatever), rice and beans together will provide you with a protein that is comparable to meat.

Rice is also good mixed with milk to make a rice pudding. As a child, my grandmother made rice pudding and fed it to me for breakfast. I thought it was the best thing ever. I will still make rice pudding and I do still eat it for breakfast!

When I moved to Texas I learned of another great use for rice, and that is horchata. I highly recommend you find the recipe sometime and give it a try. You won’t regret it!

3. Bananas

Bananas are an amazing resource, especially for baking. If you have chickens, a wonderful breakfast is blending or mashing an egg and a banana, then pouring it into a warmed pan that has been buttered. It is like having a pancake. It tastes just as good and prevents a carbohydrate burn out early in the morning (please note, I am not against carbohydrates, I just feel we eat too much of them on average).

I also like banana bread and the occasional banana pudding. Another yummy way to eat them in the winter is to use tin foil to wrap them, cut them length wise first and add a few chocolate chips or peanut butter. Warm up at two hundred degrees for five or ten minutes. Delicious!

I’ll be honest, potatoes are not really my thing. As a kid, I only liked them mashed and you better believe I knew the difference between boxed mashed potatoes and the real deal. As an adult, if I do eat a potato, it is in baked form with a dollop of sour cream, some butter, chives, and if I’m lucky, bacon.

One of the reasons that potatoes are so great is that they keep for a while as well. So if you have extra and know how to properly store potatoes, I recommend stocking up. They are very versatile.

5. Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are another versatile item to have in the cabinet. My husband and I picked up about eight cans one time at Aldi’s because they were in their discount section and still had a sell by date that was three years from the day we purchased it. Added benefit? They were organic.

I have since used them to make spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and a bruschetta topping. My husband also used three cans in addition to garden vegetables to make salsa that lasted us a year.

You could also make ketchup for cheaper than you can purchase it at the store because (as we all know) it cost more to have less in our foods. Or maybe you are like my husband and like the spicy ketchup similar to what they have at Whataburger.

6. Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables have more nutrients and less sodium than canned and are cheaper than out of season “fresh” vegetables. The great thing about frozen vegetables is that they are normally picked at the peak of freshness and then flash frozen before they go to the store. This means that much of the freshness is preserved.

Frozen vegetables are great for soups and stews. I also like using the mixed vegetables for homemade chicken pot pies.

7. Oatmeal

Despite the fact that I have lived most of my adult life in the south, I grew up in what is typically thought of as “Yankee” grounds. This meant that I was not a big fan of grits but I loved oatmeal. And purchasing oatmeal is cheaper than many other breakfast items.

Plus, this grain has a lot of uses. My mother made it with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. When it was too hot for me to eat it and it needed to be cooled off just a little, she would add about one-fourth of a cup of milk to the bowl. Nowadays many people are eating overnight oats, that soak in a liquid substance such as yogurt.

They are also good for making granola as a snack or adding to the banana and egg mixture I talked about above.

8. Lentils

Most people do not realize how amazing the legume really is. For the last two years, I have been involved with a company that helps lentil farmers get people to recognize the tastefulness of this crop by talking with bloggers and others who are influential through social media.

Two years ago, in July of 2015, I went to a private dinner with Chef Marus Samuelsson who is best known as a judge on Chopped. We went to his restaurant, the Red Rooster, in Harlem and every dish that was cooked by him that night was made with lentils, including the donuts that were served with ice cream for dessert.

All of us were shocked and I don’t turn my nose now if I decide to serve lentil soup to my children for lunch one day.

9. Powdered Milk

I am not a big fan of drinking this stuff, my grandmother only had powdered milk available one morning and, after trying it, I opted for water. Yet, milk that is worth drinking (that is the milk that comes from a farm where the animals are treated properly) is more expensive than the milk from cows that live in less desirable situations.

In order to combat the price difference, dried milk is a good way to go. Use dried milk in your baking products and no one will know the difference. For everything else – stick with the real deal!

10. Lettuce

In the state of Texas, there is a good chance you can get some form of lettuce at any time during the year, yet I recognize that for many of you this is not the case. The cheapest form of lettuce, iceberg, is normally about a dollar a head. But it contains the least amount of nutrition and is made up of mostly water.

So in order to get the best bang for your buck, I recommend using romaine or another more tasty variety. You will be more likely to eat it; therefore, not throwing away your money. And with a more flavorful lettuce, a little bit goes a long way. Add this vegetable to salads, sandwiches, and much more.

11. Canned Tuna

I actually have a favorite moment with canned tuna. Back before either of my tween girls had even started school, my husband and I went on a “diet” together. It was not a named diet, we just decided to eat healthier together and spent a lot of time running and playing soccer at the park.

One day I came home from work and he had made me a sandwich that consisted of one slice of whole wheat bread, a tomato, and half a can of tuna. It was good. Afterwards, I met him at the gym for a workout.

I grew up eating tuna sandwiches on occasion – mayonnaise, tuna, smashed pickles, and hard boiled eggs were the main ingredients. It really tasted delicious in my opinion.

Finding a protein that is not meat, cheap and still has quality is rare. Although, last I checked they only recommended you eat canned tuna three times a week at most – so don’t forget the beans and rice!

12. Popcorn

You can already bet I am not talking about the pre-packaged, warm up in the microwave kind. Nope, I most assuredly am not.

Yet people do not realize that buying the bag of unpopped popcorn kernels can be just as easy as purchasing the pre-packaged stuff. Here’s what you do: grab a brown paper bag (you know, the ones they used to take lunches in) and fill one-third of the way full with popcorn kernels. Fold the bag down, secure it if you feel you need to (I normally skip this step), and pop on the popcorn setting, making sure to listen to it just as you would the other bag.

During the last thirty seconds, add as much butter as you think you will need to top your popcorn with and let it melt.

Wa-la! Easy to make popcorn for half the cost of the pre-packaged stuff!

13. Tea Bags

I grew up using name brand tea bags. After I got married though, my husband and I found this off brand at Walmart that we really like. We purchase two or three boxes when we run out. The boxes only cost us a dollar and eighteen cents.

What seems even crazier though is that the other tea bags just do not taste right anymore.

Southerners are going to disown me for what I am about to say next but hear me out – if you are looking for ways to cut down on your grocery bill, when it comes to tea – go unsweetened. We did that January 2016 and went from buying a container of sugar every other week to once a month and I still make cookies and what not.

14. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is another staple you can get for fairly cheap. If you are a family that wants peanut butter just as it should be – no added sugar or palm oils, then I recommend finding a grocery store that sells the peanut butter in bulk; however, make sure to taste just a little of it before you purchase it. A couple of months ago, we purchased peanut butter from a bulk grocery store and it had gone rancid. Very disappointing.

I must say though, when it’s good it is very good. Especially over warm, home-made, almost right out of the oven bread.

In Conclusion

No matter if you are looking to substitute what you have stored up for the long winter months or are just looking for ways to lower your grocery bill – these are some of the items I recommend purchasing.

Get creative with your menu. If you are a big meat eater, opt for something that is just as filling and has a little less meat in it. Do not be afraid to try new things that are considered healthy but cost efficient. Make a tuna salad with lettuce and skip the four dollars a loaf bread.

Have fun with it and share with me how you did it!

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These Are The 10 Best Foods To Buy When You’re On A Budget

When money is low and your budget is tight, one of the easiest places to cut back is often at the grocery store. Skip the takeout and,when cooking at home stay away from the expensive Whole Foods ingredients. Doing this, you will quickly find yourself saving money each week. There are plenty of foods you can add to your shopping list that are healthy, versatile and won’t break the bank—just be sure to swap out the pricier items when you add these!

Need some ideas? Here are the 10 best foods to buy when you’re watching your budget.

1. Oats

A pound of oats costs about $3, and they’re not just for breakfast. You can make savory oats for lunch and dinner, and since they’re filled with fiber, they’ll keep you full until your next meal.

Flickr | Katie Taylor

2. Lentils

One pound of lentils costs just under $2, making this protein-filled food a great option when you’re on a budget. Use them in salads and soups or prepare them with curry spices for extra flavor. In addition to their hefty protein content, lentils are packed with iron and fiber, among other nutrients.

Flickr | Luciano Belviso

3. Brown Rice

Brown rice is only $1.99 a pound, and it provides much more nutritional bang for your buck than the white variety. Use it to bulk up meals, mix with veggies, or even combine with a bean chili. This whole grain is filled with fiber and can even help lower cholesterol.

Flickr | Rob & Dani

4. Potatoes

Potatoes cost about $1 a pound, and they can be used in a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although they get a bad rap, if they’re not drenched in cheese and butter, potatoes can actually be quite nutritious. They contain a number of vitamins and other nutrients, including antioxidants.

Flickr | Mike Mozart

5. Frozen Vegetables

Just because you can’t spend a lot of money doesn’t mean your meals can’t include vegetables. Buying frozen veggies is your best bet, as they’re usually only a couple bucks, and since they’re frozen at peak ripeness, they are often more nutritious than their fresh counterparts. Plus, you don’t have to deal with pressure to finish everything before it goes bad the way you do with fresh produce.

Flickr | Steven Depolo

6. Chicken Thighs

If you’re not looking to spend a lot, switch from chicken breasts to chicken thighs. Coming in at only $2.50 a pound, chicken thighs are easier to cook and still contain the same nutrients as the chicken breast. They are a bit higher in fat, but the flip side is you get more iron.

Flickr | NatalieMaynor

7. Canned Tuna

A can of tuna can cost as little as $1, and you can use it in meals such as sandwiches and salads. This particular fish is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein and is low in calories.

Flickr | jules

8. Beans

You can buy dried, uncooked beans, which usually go for about $1.99 a pound, or you can opt for canned beans, which are perfect for throwing meals together last-minute and only cost about $1 a can. Whether you choose black beans, white beans, kidney beans or any other kind of bean, you’re getting a food high in fiber and protein that can be made into chili, tossed in salads, or even cooked with pasta.

Flickr | Kenneth Leung

9. Peanut Butter

This tasty source of protein is also rich in healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You can make a classic PB&J sandwich, eat it with celery or even add it to a smoothie. Just make sure you look for peanut butter that is made with just peanuts and doesn’t contain other additives or chemicals.

Flickr | rusvaplauke

10. Eggs

Eggs are a breakfast staple for many people, and for good reason: Not only are they tasty, but they’re a good source of inexpensive, high-quality protein. They’re also low in calories and have a ton of nutrients. Plus, the average cost of a dozen large eggs is $1.68—a bargain!

Flickr | Nicolas Nova

How to eat healthy on a budget: 5 ways to prioritize nutrition while reducing cost. [Infographic]

Organic produce, artisanal sourdough, strictly grass-fed meat: Yes, they’re ‘good’ for you… but they’re also too expensive for most people. The great news? There are foods that are both nutrient-rich and budget-friendly. In this infographic, we’ll show you five ways to eat healthy on a budget — while making your taste buds happy too.


People who struggle to consistently eat healthier often face one or more of the following common (and very legitimate) challenges:

  • Zero time to cook or do meal prep.
  • Deeply ingrained food habits that provide a sense of comfort and routine.
  • A strong preference for french fries over steamed broccoli.

In Precision Nutrition Coaching, we have a host of time-saving, prioritizing, and palate-developing strategies to help clients overcome these obstacles.

But there’s another everyday barrier to good nutrition that can be a bit trickier to negotiate: Money.

Considering all the pressures and expenses folks are dealing with, it’s understandable that eating healthy can feel financially daunting.

Unfortunately, it’s true that fresh fruits and vegetables, lean animal proteins, whole grains, and nuts and seeds will cost you more than a diet of mostly processed and fast foods.

But it is possible to eat a very healthy diet, even when money is tight.

For this infographic, we collaborated with Community Food Centres Canada to offer five effective, real-life strategies to help you put nutritious, delicious food on the table regularly, sometimes for just a few extra cents per meal.

The coolest part: Some of the changes to your routine may be surprisingly small — yet lead to really big benefits.

Download this infographic for your printer or tablet, and keep use it next time you’re planning meals or making a grocery list. (And coaches: Feel free to hand this out to clients who could benefit.)

Don’t forget to version of this infographic. Post it on your fridge or in your pantry for easy access. (And coaches: Share these strategies with your patients/clients to show them how healthy eating can be within their reach.)

Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?

Most people know that eating plenty of fresh, whole foods is key to getting the health and body they want. But they need help figuring out how to eat that way consistently, in the context of all the other priorities and demands in their lives.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve used the Precision Nutrition Coaching method to help over 100,000 clients lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… for the long-term… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

It’s also why we work with health, fitness, and wellness professionals (through our Level 1 and Level 2 Certification programs) to teach them how to coach their own clients through the same challenges.

Interested in Precision Nutrition Coaching? Join the presale list; you’ll save up to 54% and secure a spot 24 hours early.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Coaching on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020.

If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, I’d encourage you to join our presale list below. Being on the list gives you two special advantages.

  • You’ll pay less than everyone else. At Precision Nutrition we like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. Join the presale list and you’ll save up to 54% off the general public price, which is the lowest price we’ve ever offered.
  • You’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we only open up the program twice a year. Last time we opened registration, we sold out within minutes. By joining the presale list you’ll get the opportunity to register 24 hours before everyone else, increasing your chances of getting in.

If you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best coaches, this is your chance.

Healthy Eating on a Budget

You don’t need to break your budget to eat healthy. It doesn’t take any extra time to shop wisely or change your staple foods but these very easy strategies can reduce your shopping budget. And with a few minutes of extra planning, you can further reduce your grocery bill.

The following budgeting tips and strategies are divided into categories by the amount of time that each will entail, from no time at all to up to 10 minutes a week. That way, you focus on the changes your schedule will allow.

Minimal time and effort:

    Shop satisfied: In other words, shop after a meal and avoid impulse buying due to hunger. Shopping when satisfied allows you to buy only what you need, which will limit your total grocery bill each and every time.

    Shop by season: Buying fruit and vegetables that are in season can lead to considerable savings. Check out for a summer season list. If you want to make a dish with off season fruits or vegetables, canned fruit or frozen vegetables likely would be more budget friendly.

Change your staples:

    Protein: Shift the focus of your plate from meat to other low-cost proteins such as beans and lentils, eggs or whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and bulgur. Use these alternatives in place of meat or add these to meat dishes to allow you to decrease the amount of meat in each meal. Either method can significantly reduce your budget without any coupon clipping or bargain hunting.

    Breakfast: Switch from box cereal to oatmeal. Name-brand oatmeal can cost almost half of the amount of an equivalent size of boxed cereal. You can save even more buying the store brand or generic versions. Not only will you save money, but you will likely decrease the salt and sugar content of your breakfast.

10 minutes or less per week (each)::

    Make a plan: Take time to plan a menu for the week. This will allow you to go to the store with a list to limit your impulse buying. It will also limit additional trips to the store that will save you time, gas and limit additional impulse buys.

    Read up: Plan your meals based on what is on sale in your local grocery store weekly ad. This can also help you to save by stocking up on items you use regularly when they are on sale. Make sure to only buy as much as you can use before the expiration date or are able to freeze for later use.

    Join the club: If your grocery store has a loyalty card or rewards program, take the few minutes to sign up and remember to swipe your card or type in your member number at each visit to start earning rewards.

    Make double: When you are cooking freezer friendly foods such as soups and casseroles, make a double batch and freeze the second. This will limit spending extra money on take out on the nights you don’t have the time, or energy, to cook.

    Avoid convenience: Single serving packages, shredded cheese and pre-cut fruit or vegetables cost considerably more. Instead buy boxes of snacks and measure out single servings into plastic storage bags or containers. Buy leaf lettuce or whole carrots and wash and cut them yourself. Buy block cheese and shred it when you get home.

Armed with these tips, you can eat right even when money is tight.

Continue reading about healthy eating:

  • Pleasures of the Farm
  • Organic Curiosity: Is it worth the extra cost to buy organic?
  • Weigh No More

    Fads Fade Fast, but Healthy Eating Sticks

back to top

Eating healthy – lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein, whole grains – doesn’t have to be more expensive. If you shop smart and plan ahead, you’ll be surprised at how much goodness you can haul without breaking the bank.

The reality is, many of those ready-made, super-fast, prepackaged foods actually cost MORE than homemade foods. And they tend to have more calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars.

So drop the excuses because scoring those nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods your body needs is easier – and cheaper – than you think.

Planning ahead is key to success.

Preparing menus and grocery lists ahead of time can keep you from making impulse food choices, which often aren’t healthy. With a little planning, you can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

  • Plan out one or two weeks of healthy meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take a few minutes over the weekend to go through your favorite healthy recipes and map out your meal plan. Update your go-to list as you come across new recipes, and don’t be afraid to try new things!
  • Use a grocery list or meal-planning app with a grocery list feature. This will help you quickly grab the ingredients you need for your healthy meal plan.
  • If your work week is crazy, cook over the weekend and store pre-portioned meals in the fridge or freezer. Now this is a real time and money saver! Just thaw and reheat for hassle-free lunches and dinners.
  • Cut up fruits and vegetables and keep them handy in the fridge, or pre-pack individual servings for when you’re on the go. You’ll have ready-made healthy snacks and meal ingredients at your fingertips.

Shop smart to save big.

  • Knowing how to navigate the grocery store can save time and money.
  • Keep an eye out for specials. Stock up on frozen and canned produce when it’s on sale.
  • Use coupons and join store rewards programs. You’ll be more aware of what’s on sale and able to work it into your meal planning.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. For example, blueberries cost less in spring and summer, when they’re in season. You’ll pay more in the fall and winter when they’re shipped from warmer climates.
  • Skip the ready-made foods and individually-packaged snacks. The convenience may be tempting but it’s usually healthier and cheaper to prepare these same foods at home. So aim your cart in another direction.
  • Buy local at a farmer’s market. The produce may be fresher because it wasn’t picked before ripening to travel on a truck long-distance to get to you. You’ll know where your food is coming from and help your local economy. You can save money by buying in bulk and splitting the cost with friends or family.

Practices makes perfect.

  • Don’t give up! Putting a new healthy routine in place doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t give up!
  • Make healthy changes one step at a time. You and your family won’t feel blindsided or deprived of all of your favorites if the changes are gradual.
  • Involve the whole family. Kids can help with meal planning, grocery shopping and even cooking. Let each family member be chef for a day and take charge of a particular meal. Encourage older kids to make a game of reading food labels at the grocery store. Let younger kids pick out new types of fruits and vegetables to try. Get more budget-friendly tips online. The AHA has got your back in the grocery store and the kitchen. Learn how to eat healthy and check out this list of healthy foods under $1.

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