So you want to eat healthy, but you’re concerned that it will break your budget.
Before you go cramming another sleeve of Oreos down your throat because you “can’t afford to eat healthy”, read this.
If I start to sound a bit condescending in this article, I deeply apologize. I am just so tired of hearing people blame their poor diet on their budget.
I assure you: if you are buying the right food from the right place, you can eat SUPER healthy for less money than you would have spent buying junk.
Let’s get on to it, shall we?
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Comment below what your grocery budget/plan is!
Many people think that junk food is cheaper because it is low quality. While this is the case sometimes, and makes sense somewhat, it’s a huge misconception.
The reality is: pre-packed food and food products cost money to produce, and therefore are usually more expensive. While you may have seen comparisons like this one:
…This is a misrepresentation. Sure, your local drive-thru will sell these 2 items for these prices, ready made. BUT, what we are focusing on is buying these items in the grocery store. Let’s look at how shopping for ingredients, instead of buying them through a window, flips the scale.
All of the items on the bottom are far less processed, have way more vitamins/minerals, and have a general better macronutrient count. Sure, they’re not ready-to-eat-pop-in-the-nuke-oven-for-a-minute, but that doesn’t matter when you meal prep. More on that later.
You’ll also notice that the items on the bottom are vegan, containing no meat or animal products. This means that their production doesn’t hurt the environment nearly as much. Same price, more food, better nutrition, AND saving the world? Have I sold you yet?
So, why are we deceived? Why do most people believe that eating healthy costs an arm and a leg?
The short answer is: studies using cost per calorie. These conclude that healthy food is more expensive per unit calorie. Of course, this methodology doesn’t consider the difference between energy-dense & nutrient-dense foods, and fried crap.
See how misleading that is?
There is so much junk food that is misconstrued to appear “healthy”. Products that are “low fat” are not good for you! “Gluten free” doesn’t mean anything if you’re not a Celiac! “Low calorie” doesn’t matter when there’s 0 nutrition in the food product!
What’s more is the junk food industry thrives based on this lie. They want you to be fooled. They want you to keep buying their junk. They are creating “feel-good food” that is manufactured to include just the right combination of the sugar, fat and salt our limbic brains love. You become addicted, and price is suddenly less important.
If you’re ready to break through the chains of these awful corporate food companies, you’re going to need to learn how to “eat clean”.
What does “clean eating” actually mean? What does it entail?
Some parameters of clean eating:
- Macronutrients must be in a favorable ratio.
- Harsh chemical free.
- Minimally processed.
- Quality Raised/Harvested.
You should be mindful of the pathway your food has taken to your plate. How was it raised or grown? Were their hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or herbicides used? You want to eat food that is in its most natural, original state. The fewer items on a food’s ingredient list the better.
And what does “processed” food mean? Simply put:
- Additions of any kind. Everything from salt, sugar, and fat for aiding flavor, to preservatives that keep food from spoiling too quickly, to the vitamins enriching beverages and breakfast cereal.
- Changing the form of the natural food. For instance, removing the bran and germ from whole grains to create refined bread.
- Foods with components manufactured in a lab. If the ingredient list has words you can’t recognize or pronounce, that’s a solid indication that it’s not natural.
Processing, however, is not always bad. “Often processing removes toxins or bacteria, or allows for us to eat certain types of foods in off-season due to freezing or canning,” says Jessica Fanzo, assistant professor of nutrition at Columbia University.
But this is the exception, not the rule, in the land of junk food.
The easiest way to stay on the straight and narrow of clean eating is to meal prep. Your cravings and willpower to cook can finally be removed from the equation.
By preparing your meal ahead of time, you eliminate the daily chore of cooking, save money by buying in bulk, have food ready to eat, and can measure out your calories/macros ahead of time. This ensures excellent nutrition, time saved during the week, and money savings.
This is not as accurate for someone living outside of the US. I’m super sorry about that. I am unable to predict the prices of groceries in other countries.
Also, I’m assuming you do not have any debt like high payment student loans, children to care for, or live in a city where rent is ridiculous.
I’m assuming that you’re a female, you’re not obese, and you workout 3 times a week. Your BMR is approximately 1600 calories per day.
For this example, I’ll be basing this budget on the national minimum wage: which is $8.10. I’m assuming the 12% income tax, and that you’re working 40 hours a week. If you’re in a state with state income tax, you would have to factor that in as well.
8.10 * 40 * 0.88 = $285
Bringing home $285 a week (assuming you only work 40 hrs), you’re going to probably spend around $40 for food for yourself, per week. That’s $1.90 per meal.
For sake of simplicity, all lunches and dinner are the same (meal 1), and all breakfasts are the same (meal 2). I enjoy variety in my meal prep, but this is just a simple example to prove a point. A lot of fitness friends that I have will prepare the same meal, but season each differently, which is quite genius if you ask me!
Here’s a tentative grocery list (from shopping at Thrifty, Walmart, Save-A-Lot, or Aldi):
- Broccoli $1.69 per 16 oz. Need 3.5 lbs.
- Chicken breast $1.49 per 16 oz. Need 3.5 lbs.
- Sweet potato $0.99 per 16 oz. Need 3.5 lbs.
- Eggs (large) $4.99 for 5 dozen.
- Whole grain bread $3.99 per loaf.
- Almonds (healthy fat and great hunger-killing snack) $3.99 per 16 oz.
Remember: 16 oz = 1 pound.
You need 14 portions of broccoli, chicken, and sweet potato; you need 7 portions of egg, bread, and almonds.
Total: 27.58*1.07 (tax) = 29.51. That is more than $10 under budget. I recommend using that extra money to buy organic where you can.
Meal 1 :
- 4 oz chicken – 270 calories
- 4 oz sweet potato – 100 calories
- 4 oz broccoli – 40 calories
Total: 410 calories
- 5 Eggs – 390 calories
- 1 slice whole grain bread -70 calories
- 2 oz Almonds – 320 calories
Meal 1 + Meal 1 + Meal 2 = 1600 calories. BMR is 1600, so we are right on track.
Go forth, dear reader, with your new knowledge! Now you know it IS most definitely possible to eat clean on a budget.