Eating Clean on a Budget (Plus a Full-Week Meal Plan for Less Than $50!)
First, we have to get this off our chest: we love the store Whole Foods. Like, really love it… but there’s a reason why it’s jokingly called “Whole Paycheck.” Whole Foods' dedication to quality food is GREAT, but you get what you pay for. And in this case, that means not so wallet-friendly prices.
But here’s the thing, you don’t have to spend your whole paycheck to eat good, clean food. The myth that eating clean means paying exorbitant prices is just not true.
Eating clean for cheap may take some extra planning, but it’s possible (and worth it!)
To prove it, we're sharing listed 6 budget-friendly clean eating tips. Plus, we included a full-weeks shopping list for two for for under $50.
#1. Stick to Whole Foods (the Foods – Not the Grocery Store)
Whole foods are foods that haven’t been processed like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, beans, dairy and whole grains.
These types of foods are the staple of any clean diet, but did you know that whole foods are often more affordable? Since whole foods haven’t been processed or refined with sugars, preservatives, dyes or other generally unhealthy additives, it often translates to lower prices.
A good rule to follow is to stick to the outside aisles. Usually that’s where grocery stores keep their produce, meat and dairy. That way you avoid tempting yourself with all the enticing foods in between.
#2. Have a Plan
This sounds like a “duh” tip, but so many people go shopping without a well-prepared shopping list and meal plan. Not only does this leave you vulnerable to cravings and extra purchases, it makes it really easy to waste food.
Plan your shopping list around a weekly schedule. Make sure food that expires quickly is eaten at the beginning of the week, and don’t be afraid to freeze food if you have extra. Remember, it’s better to go out and buy things here or there than throw away food that has gone bad.
Once you’ve got your list, stick to it. And no matter what you do – absolutely do NOT go shopping hungry! If you’re like us and are always tempted to buy more than you need, shop online and pick up to make sure you stick to your budget!
#3. Buy In-Season
In-season produce is usually cheaper AND better for the environment! Out-of-season produce generally has to be shipped in from far away (and might even be genetically modified to grow in less than ideal temperatures!). Not only does your wallet take a hit, but so does freshness and taste. Not to mention, it uses a lot of resources.
Do yourself a favor and find in-season substitutions for your recipes. Here's a handy printable list of produce by season!
#4. Be Adventurous
We get it, you’ve been going to your supermarket for forever and you know exactly what to expect there. But sometimes a better deal is just around the corner. Try looking up deals, bargain shopping and asking your friends about their favorite shopping spots.
Local farmers markets often have great deals on in-season produce. As an added bonus, you support local farmers and get great quality and ethically-sourced goodies.
#5. Buy in Bulk
Have you considered joining a local farm co-op (also known as a CSA)? That way you can get fresh produce (that's in season and grown local!). Consider going in on one with a friend a split the goodies so you don't have too much that goes bad. Find a local farm here!
You could also consider getting a membership to a big-box store like Sam's or Costco - also a good idea to split the membership with a pal - and get bulk quantities of healthy food items to share.
#6. The Freezer is your Friend.
If you find great produce that's on sale, consider stocking up and freezing what you can't use for a later time. OR, simply buy frozen food instead of fresh - it's often cheaper, doesn't go bad nearly as fast, and is generally just as nutritious as fresh.
Your budget-friendly shopping list:
Dozen free-range eggs – $2.55
Lean ground turkey (or tofu) - $4.11
Pack of 8 chicken thighs (freeze extras) - $6.18
Hummus - $2.55
16 oz dried black beans - $1.30
16 oz dried lentils - $1.10
32 oz plain yogurt - $2.55
Almond Milk - $2.00
3 lb. bag apples – $3.07
Bunch of bananas - $1.01
4 sweet potatoes - $3.58
4 roma tomatoes - $0.60
16 oz mini carrots - $0.91
9 oz bag of spinach - $1.38
Onion - $0.60
2 large avocados - $2.58
Peas - $0.98
Oats - $1.80
Brown rice - $0.70
Whole wheat spaghetti - $1.00
Whole grain bread - $2.86
10 corn tortillas - $0.54
8 oz pure local honey - $3.35
Oats with almond milk, honey and banana or apple
Hard boiled eggs with fruit
Yogurt with fruit and (optional) honey
Whole grain toast with eggs and spinach
Dinner ideas (make extra for lunch!):
Spinach salad with roasted sweet potato and spiced lentils
Sweet potato chili
Vegetable “fried” rice with eggs or tofu
Braised chicken thigh, vegetables and brown rice
Whole wheat spaghetti with ground turkey (optional) and fresh-made tomato sauce
Chicken (or black bean) tacos with avocado and onion
Turkey (or black bean) burger topped with onion and tomato
Leftovers from the night before
Sandwich with whole wheat bread, hummus, spinach, onion, avocado and chicken (optional)
Carrots and hummus