Wondering how to save money on food and eat healthy? McDonald’s charges $1 for a burger, while grass-fed beef at the store will run you $8 per pound or more. Seafood can feel woefully expensive, while the box of white pasta calls your wallet’s name. Does eating healthier mean that you have to make sacrifices with your grocery bill? Will choosing a Mediterranean Diet cost you money?
Happily, the answer can be no to both questions. With an overall focus on produce, beans, and healthy grains, the Mediterranean Diet can be substantially cheaper than other meat-heavy lifestyles (such a paleo, keto, or a standard American diet). A Mediterranean Diet does emphasize seafood and fresh produce, though, so it’s a good idea to be mindful while shopping. Whether your food bill increases or decreases depends a lot on what you have been eating, where you buy your fresh food, and so much more. Read on for some expert tips to decreasing your food bill.
If you normally grill beef burgers most evenings and start preparing homemade veggie burgers, your wallet will benefit. (Meat, beef especially, is expensive!) Do you normally order take-out 5 nights a week? Then switching to cooking at home will save you a significant amount of money. If you are used to buying inexpensive convenience foods like chips and granola bars, switching to nuts and fresh fruit may increase your grocery bill. (Your health, however, will thank you!)
Here are some tried-and-true ways that you can achieve nutrition nirvana: a lower grocery bill and a better overall bill of health.
Beans and rice are a fraction of the cost of chicken, beef, or seafood. So, start to embrace vegetarian meals! (Check our site for tons of great options) Happily, the Mediterranean Diet (named the Best Overall Diet for FOUR years in a row) agrees. Plant-based meals several times per week are ideal for optimal health.
Many of your favorite dishes can be made vegetarian without too much fuss. Stews can easily be made with legumes instead of beef. Pastas are delicious with a hearty tomato sauce (no meat required). Tacos can be stuffed with beans and rice instead of ground meat. Making this one change will really help you save money on food and eat healthy!
Think of meat as a side dish, rather than the main course. If you are having chicken for dinner, have a smaller portion and pair it with a few different sides. Ideally, your plate would be half-covered with veggies, one-fourth meat, and one-fourth grains or legumes. This is optimal not just for saving money but also for your health.
One trick many of our clients use when starting on a Mediterranean Diet is to swap out some of the meat in a recipe with veggies, grains, or beans. For example, you can use half a pound of ground chicken in your chili (instead of a full pound). Make up the difference with an extra can of beans. Meals made with ground meat, like meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf can usually be mixed with a substantial quantity of minced veggies without affecting the taste too much. Veggies that work well for this purpose are diced, sautéed onions, mushrooms, and cabbage. The added bonus? With this tip, you still enjoy the flavor of meat so it may be easier to transition into a new lifestyle.
Convenience foods, like bagged salads and prechopped vegetables, sure do save us time. What they cost us, of course, is extra cash. A box of “minute rice” which has already been precooked and takes just a few minutes once home costs more than a bag of rice that needs to be soaked and then cooked for 45 minutes. You are paying for the convenience.
It may be worth it to buy these items if it makes your life easier and your nutrition better. We would argue that if buying prepared vegetables increases your consumption of them, then it’s worth the cost. But, meal prepping vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains in large batches for the week will help you save money in the long run.
Research has shown that frozen fruits and vegetables retain similar nutrient content as their fresh counterparts. Frozen fruits and vegetables are typically picked and frozen at peak ripeness, locking in all the goodness!
The advice to buy frozen goes for seafood and fish, too. In many grocery stores (although not all), the “fresh” fish has already been frozen for shipment and then thawed for presentation. You will save money with virtually no nutritional differences. The Mediterranean Diet recommends eating seafood two times per week or more.
Another benefit of buying frozen is that you can stock up on frozen items when they are on sale. Save the money and then keep them in your freezer until you are ready to use them.
It is important to read the food labels to make sure that there are no additives in your frozen food. Things like sauces, salt, or sugar are sometimes added by manufacturers to make food last longer or taste better. Always buy the frozen items without the additives.
Check out some of our delicious and nutrition recipes using frozen fruits and vegetables here.
This tip is critical to ensure that you aren’t wasting food. Some studies have shown that American families throw away up to 40% of the groceries that they buy. This number is mind-boggling to me!
Planning your meals will also help you reach your health goals. If you know what you will be making and eating for dinner each night, you won’t have any “emergency” take out or boxes of Mac and Cheese. You can ensure that you are getting balanced, excellent nutrition.
If you need a little help with meal planning, check out our Mediterranean Diet Meal Plans. You can get a week for free to try it out. They come with organized grocery lists to save you time in and out of the store.
There you have it, our tips for how to save money on food and eat healthy. What else would you add to this list? Share your budget-friendly meal hacks with us in the comments below!
Hi, I’m Ashley! I’m a Mediterranean Diet expert, a family health champion, and a Mom of 3 little people. Any day of the week, you will find me in the kitchen cooking up festive new recipes using Mediterranean Diet principles. I love breakfast for dinner, long days at the beach, the perfect glass of wine, and spontaneous adventures. Originally from Atlanta, I now fondly call Virginia my home.