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How to: Eat Healthy for Cheap

One of your main excuses for not eating healthy is probably that you can’t afford it. Well, it is time to dispel that myth once and for all. You can maintain a wholesome diet, whether it be at home or on the run. From growing your own food to knowing what to order in the drive-thru, your waistline and your wallet will thank you. Below, we will give you some helpful tips on how to eat healthy for cheap.

Healthy, Low-Cost Groceries

Learning to be a frugal grocery shopper is a feat unto itself, but you should really be more discriminating in what you buy at the store, regardless of price. Yes, a “Buy One, Get One Free” sale on Cheetos can be very exciting, but you must learn to resist such deals. Instead, focus on wholesome, unprocessed foods or, at the very least, something with a little more nutritional value than those uber-cheap ramen noodles. Here are some tips for becoming both a frugal and health-conscious grocery shopper:

  • Clip coupons, but only for low-fat, healthy foods, no matter what kind of price-cut the coupon is offering.
  • Plan your healthy meals with a list before you go shopping and stick to it.
  • Buy plenty of vegetables and fruits, but only those that are in season.
  • Avoid overpriced health food stores, as you should be able to find what you need at a normal grocery store for much less.
  • Learn to read the nutritional facts label properly. Only then can you make informed decisions about what you are purchasing.
  • Avoid sodas and juice. They are unnecessary in cost and your diet.
  • Learn to cook from scratch. The ingredients can be bought in bulk to save you money and you will cut out a lot of unhealthy additives.
  • Use grains or tofu to make your meat stretch further.
  • Remember these staples: rice and beans. They are both healthy and inexpensive.
  • Purchase oatmeal in bulk. It is a filling, heart-healthy food.
  • Avoid junk food, such as potato chips and snack cakes. Carrots, popcorn and yogurt are better alternatives for snack time. They are also much cheaper.

Eating Healthy in the Drive-Thru

Most of us opt for the drive-thru because we are limited on time or absolutely starving and need something in our stomachs ASAP. Let’s face it,
when it comes to eating out on a budget, that dollar menu is too hard to resist. However, you are hard-pressed to find anything on the dollar menu that isn’t deep-fried. A good rule of thumb is to request a nutritional guide from all your regular haunts (they often have them handy in the store or ready to print on their Web site) and store them in your car. That will help you pick out the most low-fat items off the menu when you are in a hurry. Here are some healthy options from the most reasonably priced fast food chains:

Taco Bell

  • Regular Beef Taco, minus cheese (8 fat grams)
  • Regular Beef Soft Taco, minus cheese (7 fat grams)
  • Regular Style Bean Burrito, minus cheese (7 fat grams)


Arby’s

  • Ham & Swiss Melt Sandwich (6 fat grams)


McDonald’s

  • Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich (10 fat grams)
  • Southwest Salad (4.5 fat grams)
  • Southwest Salad With Grilled Chicken (9 fat grams)
  • Asian Salad (7 fat grams)
  • Asian Salad With Grilled Chicken (10 fat grams)
  • Caesar Salad (4 fat grams)
  • Caesar Salad With Grilled Chicken (6 fat grams)

Keep in mind that eating fast food is never a great choice if you are looking to save money, but it is sometimes a necessary evil. As for eating out without blowing your diet, you obviously do have some more practical choices than a cheeseburger and fries. Keep in mind that condiments, although free, can boost your meal’s total fat grams and calories. While mustard and ketchup are negligible, mayonnaise, horsey sauce and certain salad dressings are especially fattening. Always keep those nutritional guides handy, as they include details about condiments, as well.

Growing Your Own Food

There is a frugal, DIY alternative for everything in your life, including what you eat. If money and health are a concern to you, then growing your own food is a great solution. Don’t worry if you aren’t a green thumb, as there are plenty of online resources that will instruct you in the art of gardening. Here are our picks for the top five sites on frugal gardening:

  1. Overcoming Consumerism – This site has a great section on organic vegetable and fruit gardening. Not only does it offer step-by-step instructions, it points you to many other online resources. The information found here is geared toward healthy living, as well as frugal living.
  2. Growing Vegetables in the Home Garden – Contains helpful information for any level of gardening expertise. It was originally featured in a newsletter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  3. Growing Small Farms – Become self-sufficient through growing your own food with this well-maintained site.
  4. GardenWeb – If you have any questions for other gardeners, check out this site’s forums.
  5. Bean Sprouts – This blog is regularly updated and is solely devoted to personal food growth. It also contains some information on maintaining a small amount of livestock, in case you become especially ambitious.

Don’t let society convince you that a wholesome diet is difficult to maintain. A frugal lifestyle has plenty of room for adjustment when it comes to eating well. Whether you are in a hurry on your lunch break or ready to start a small garden or farm, eating healthy can be conducive to saving money. After all, what good is saving for an early retirement if you aren’t going to be fit enough to enjoy it?

Posted:August 21st, 2007 in Food Gardening 2 Comments

2 Responses to “How to: Eat Healthy for Cheap”

  1. Mel Rimmer Says:

    Thanks for the link. I enjoyed reading your article and agree with everything you say. Eating healthily doesn’t mean buying expensive “health foods”, and living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean joining an expensive gym.

    By the way, Bean-Sprouts isn’t just about growing food, although that’s certainly a big part of it. It’s also about environmental issues, crafts, frugality, anti-consumerism, and enjoying life. I’ve recently posted articles about woodturning, bicycling, and “green taxes”.

  2. Nick Irons Says:

    Congratulations on being included in the NutritionFrenzy.com’s Health and Fitness Forum. I have a similar post called “Top 10 Reasons to Exercise” that can be found at http://marylandpersonaltrainer.com/wordpress/weight-loss/top-10-reasons-to-exercise.

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