8 Tips to Eating Healthily on a Budget

by Kristen McElveen, ND

Photo credit: Kristen McElveen, ND

Photo credit: Kristen McElveen, ND

As a naturopathic physician, one of the biggest complaints I would get when guiding people to a better diet was that they couldn't afford a good diet

Believing this is a HUGE mistake. 

Convenience has taken over our lives - we do it with having the internet in the palm of our hands, clicking buttons instead of having conversations, swiping right rather than flirting...

Yes, taking good care of yourself does take time and planning, but...isn't your life worth it? 

I was always clear with new patients and would tell them on their first visit:

"If you're looking for a magic pill, there isn't one and I'm not the person who's going to tell you that there is - because that's not treating the cause and preventing illness, that's covering up your symptoms with a bandaid. If you're willing to work with me to change your diet and lifestyle, so that you become healthier and happier by reducing the CAUSE of your symptoms, then I'm the doc for you." 

Every so often, I would have someone not come back.

It wasn't worth it for them. Yet. But I always wait. And when they are ready, they usually come back.

People are very passionate about their food!

Food is the start to health...and to illness. 

Food can either make you healthier or contribute to your sickness. 

The best part is...we can CHOOSE which we prefer! Each day! Heck, each hour!

Do I have the most perfect diet in the world? Absolutely not. 

Moderation is key. 

But 95% of the time, even with my occasional foods, I still am conscious about what I am putting in my body and how it affects me (notice how I call them "occasional foods" and not "naughty foods, or junk foods" - we HAVE to step away from the guilt and shame that comes with certain foods). 

Often times, with energy issues, stomach problems, skin issues and even behavioral issues, just changing someone's diet made all or most of their initial symptoms go away. 

Why? Because with diet, you are setting the stage for wellness. 

The root of most illness is inflammation and there are many things that cause inflammation that we may not be able to control like pollutants in the air/environment. 

Food, however, is something we can control, and it can significantly reduce the amount of inflammation happening in your body whether you have a cold or cancer. 


Here comes a good tweet (click to tweet): "A good diet reduces inflammation, allowing your body to detox naturally and heal itself ~ @WholeHlthToday"


Once you change your life by changing your diet, you will never go back to treating your body poorly, because you will see (and feel) the benefits.

Just by eating well, you can:

  • have more energy and focus
  • sleep better
  • have better sex and a stronger libido
  • regulate your bowel movements (no more alternating between constipation and diarrhea)
  • have clearer skin
  • meet a unicorn

OK, so maybe I can't guarantee that last one, but SO many people say to me that changing their diet seemed too simple to really do anything, but with the right guidance, it has completely changed their lives for the better. 

So, stop believing the myth that it's too expensive to eat well, because it's not. 

The average fast food sandwich/burger costs about $4-$5, depending on where you go. And that's just for the sandwich, with fries and a drink it's more like $6-$8. 

You can go to the grocery store and spend about $12 on some amazingly healthy ingredients to make a balanced, homemade meal that costs $2-$3 per serving. 

WHY do people think the first option is cheaper?

I'll tell you why - convenience. 

It's super convenient to do a drive-thru, not even get out of your car and get food thrown at you that you can snarf down before you even get home to watch a housewife do something inappropriate. 

But tell me...

How convenient is diabetes? Or fatty liver? Or PCOS? Or insulin resistance? Or debilitating arthritis, psoriasis, infertility, chronic pain, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel...I could go on...(and I should add, I've seen every single one of these conditions improve with diet and lifestyle changes).

The fact is, any one of those conditions is what you could be dealing with down the road if this is considered your normal way of eating. 

And these chronic issue can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare costs over time, regardless of insurance. 

I have never heard someone say, "I sure wish I hadn't changed my diet."

So, which option is cheaper AND better for you?

All you need is a little inspiration and some help with prep and you are off to a great start! 

Here are some tips:

  1. buy locally and seasonally as those prices will be the lowest
  2. check out your local farmers markets, not only for the above reason, but also because you can also meet other with the same intentions who want to go in on bulk orders, not only for fruits and veggies, but for meats too like a whole cow or pig, which again, is much cheaper and likely healthier if the farm practices humane farming methods - plus, it's always good to meet the folks who are actually growing your food
  3. check your grocer's weekly flier - almost every single grocery store has a weekly sale flyer, including co-ops and Whole Foods and Trader Joe's - this will show you the latest deals and can really save you a lot if you work it right
  4. keep an eye out for coupons - it can be hard to find coupons for real food (produce and meat), but it can be done - I've recently been playing around with the Ibotta app and after 2 months, have already earned about $10 in rebates (plus, if you sign-up using that link, we'll each get an extra dollar!)
  5. consider a membership store like Costco or Thrive Market - Costco is known for being king of the bulk stores when it comes to organic and Paleo foods and Thrive Market has a ton of healthy foods at 25 - 50% off retail, PLUS, I am a proud affiliate of Thrive Market because they are a carbon-neutral facility and for every paid subscription, they give a free subscription to a low income family
  6. try not to meal plan too much before you shop because you aren't going to know what is on sale or what is in season until you're there - think more broadly when planning meals - for example, if I have some chicken that I need to eat, I just need a couple of different veggies to go with it, like some summer squash and green beans - it may be difficult at first, especially if you are trying to go by specific recipes, but you'll get the hang of it and get better about putting menus together while you're shopping
  7. stock up on staples when they do go on sale - this is a must - if there's a sale on ghee or meat (that's freezable) or olives or...coconut butter (you'll thank me when you try it)...or other things that you use regularly, don't hesitate to take advantage of a deal
  8. remember, you will need to shop more often when you eat fresh foods - don't do your usual once a month big grocery shop when that salad mix is going to go bad in a few days - one of the most common frustrations I hear when people switch to a whole foods diet is how much food they waste in the beginning because they are used to stocking up on foods with a preservative-providing shelf-life

I hope these help to empower you and help you to realize that eating healthily IS ABSOLUTELY DOABLE with the right preparation!

What other tips and ideas do you have about living well on a budget? 

Let us know in the comments below or tell us on Twitter or Facebook!

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