Ten tips for eating healthy on a budget

Most people don’t find grocery shopping fun. When you are shopping on a budget and trying to eat healthier, it can become even less enjoyable.

Add in the need to shop on a Sunday because of work and crowded aisles filled with people who seem to look right through me and my 400–pound wheelchair, the supermarket starts to feel like a battlefield.

Many people with disabilities live within a strict budget. Unlike rent and healthcare expenses, grocery store spending may be flexible. There also exists a belief that eating healthy is too expensive. This may cause people on budgets to opt for cheaper processed food over clean, minimally processed foods.

Here are some tips from the GoWoman program to help you enjoy fresh, delicious meals without worrying about your wallet.

  • Plan ahead: I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it’s worth repeating. Planning your meals for the week can save you time, hassle, food waste, and money eating out. Bring a written grocery list or keep one on your phone and check items off. Make sure you stick to your list!

    Here are some tips from the GoWoman program to help you enjoy healthy, delicious meals without worrying about your wallet.
  • Shop in season: Buying produce in season will not only save you money, but it usually tastes better, too! Here is a short, printable list of what is in season that you can take to the store. The Sustainable Table’s seasonal food guide is also a good resource to help find out what’s in season in your neck of the woods.
  • Freshness: If you are worried about the quality of fresh produce, be sure to look for samples. Most grocers will also provide samples if asked. If it looks like you brought home a dud, try preparing it differently. Sour apples may turn into great applesauce as cooking can bring out sweetness!
  • Frozen and canned: If you have the space and cooking skills, you can freeze and can in-season produce for later. If not, buying frozen or canned produce that is not in season will be cheaper. Just watch your ingredients to avoid added sugar and salt. You can also freeze leftovers for days when you don’t feel like cooking dinner.  Some of my favorite meals come from surprises I’ve found frozen for a rainy day!
  • Farmer’s markets and co-ops: These are great ways to get fresh, in-season produce for a lower cost. Ever wonder how a co-op works? Learn more.
  • Bulk items: Buying in bulk is always cheaper since you aren’t paying for the package. Bulk bins are great for items like nuts, spices, and specialty grains like quinoa and couscous. Bulk items aren’t just for big households. You can also save money buying in bulk when you need a small amount of something over a longer period of time, too!
  • Coupons and store reward cards: Many people think you can’t find coupons for produce. This isn’t true! Check out these coupon ideas. Store rewards cards will often give you discounts on certain items, like produce or dairy. Some stores will even give you discounts at the gas pump the more you spend in the store.
  • Compare prices: If you don’t have reliable transportation or are pressed for time to visit multiple stores, use their weekly ads to compare prices. Stores will typically match competitors’ prices if you bring the ad to their attention. This applies to household items as well!
  • Don’t leave the store over budget: If you plan to only spend $100 at the store, carry around a calculator and keep a running tally of what is in your cart. This may bring to your attention the cost of soda or chips in your cart that you could swap for a lot of produce!
  • Never shop hungry: It is so tempting to pick up expensive, prepared deli dinners when you haven’t eaten since lunch. Try to avoid going shopping on an empty stomach.

I hope this advice helps you in your future shopping adventures!

Additional Resources

Living in a ‘food desert’: Tips to help maintain a healthy lifestyle

Adapting MyPlate guidelines to fit your nutritional needs

 -By Rachel Markley, M.P.H., research assistant for the GoWoman study in the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities at Baylor College of Medicine and TIRR-Memorial Hermann

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