It is possible for a family of four to eat a healthy whole food plant based diet on as little at $300 a month.
It is actually not even half as hard as you might think.
It’s amazing what can happen to your food budget when you become willing to get a little creative with your spending.
Dollars get saved, health gets improved and you create a happy family.
The 17 tips below should get you quickly on your way.
17 ways to eat a healthy whole food plant based diet on a tight budget
1 Buy healthy food from cheaper sources
This is where I suggest that people start when they start looking for ways to eat healthy on a budget. Most traditional sources of healthy whole foods are expensive albeit artificially so because it is not as hard to produce healthy foods as many grocery stores will have you believe.
You shouldn’t think Whole Foods Market every time you start thinking about places to buy healthy food from. You would spend through your nose if you do.
Consider the four cheaper healthy food outlets below instead.
A Brick and mortar discount grocery stores
Discount grocery stores like ALDI and Safeway now carry extensive inventories of their own in house healthy and whole foods. And they are almost always way cheaper than what you get from mainstream grocers like Wholefoods market. These grocery stores also often stock high quality generic brands of popular name brand healthy groceries that they sell often at up to 30%-50% off.
So if you have an ALDI in your area please pay them a visit next time you need healthy groceries. You will save at least 15%-20% on the foods you buy.
B Shop at online discount grocery stores
Online grocery stores like Thrive market, Vitacost and Amazon\Amazon Prime sell and deliver healthy groceries at rates that are cheaper than anything you can get offline.
If you are really serious about making healthy eating more affordable for you and your family and avoid paying over the top for whole\healthy foods these three online shops must be in your grocery shopping arsenal.
The cheapest of them is thrive market that sells healthy foods at rates 25%-50% cheaper than retail. They are possibly the cheapest way to by healthy whole foods in America.
They should probably be your go to store for healthy groceries. You should them supplement with Vitacost and Amazon for products that you can’t find at Thrive market.
Thrive Market and Amazon Prime (the cheapest and most lucrative cash saving Amazon service) both charge a membership fee of $59 and $99 respectively per year but they are totally worth it.
Combined with Vitacost they can save you literally thousand of dollars every year on healthy groceries. Amazon prime is on the Average 30% cheaper than wholefoods market, and Thrive market is 25%-50% cheaper than Amazon prime 75% of the time and the same price the remaining 25% of the time. If you buy the same ten products from both Thrive market and Amazon at the same time, the products at Thrive Market are likely to be cheaper 7 times out of 10 by at least $3-$4 according to independent estimates.
But Thrive Market may not carry all the products you need so you may still need to supplement with Amazon and/or Vitacost.
C Buy food from Mexican and Asian markets
If you have any indigenous markets near you make sure to pay them a visit. They usually have the best and freshest produce at eye poppingly cheap prices. Shopping regularly at these markets will save a lot of money.
D Buy from your local farmer when he is harvesting his crops then store the food for as long as possible.
This is a great way to get fresh vegetables, fruits and other produce…potatoes, tomatoes etc. If there is a farmer in your area who grows food you regularly use keep an eye out for when he is harvesting his crops or tell him before hand or even sign a contract with him to have food delivered to you in bulk. This usually cuts the price on food you buy by up 50%.
2 Buy generic\store brand versions of name brand products you regularly use
Store brands are on the average 30% cheaper than name brand products and although you may not know this the difference in quality is usually not much because the majority of store brand products are actually manufactured by the same companies that produce the name brands.
In fact one of the dirtiest secrets of the food industry is that most so called store brand products are actually excess\surplus name brand products that have been repackaged and sold more cheaply deliberately and falsely as a lower quality alternative to try and increase profits while still maintaining the power and appeal of the name brand product itself.
Many times they deliberately give you the impression that these store brand products are of an inferior quality when they know that that’s actually not the case. They do that so they can keep selling the name brand product at a higher markup to customers who seek a higher quality product and therefore continue raking in the profits.
So as much as possible buy generic. You won’t lose much in terms of quality and you would save a lot of money…on the average 30% on every product you buy.
3 Stock up on healthy food you regularly use when it’s on sale
This is a powerful strategy for knocking a lot of dollars off your healthy food bill. Most grocery stores hold a sale every 6 weeks…even online grocery stores. Plan for and keep an eye on those and take advantage of them when they come around.
The trick is to stock up on healthy food you regularly use until is is on sale again. This strategy saves 30%-50% on every food item you buy and can plug a huge hole in your healthy food budget.
4 Cook, stock up on and eat mostly food that is in season.
This is another powerful strategy for saving a lot of money on real food…especially produce. Food is generally 30%-60% cheaper when in season.
The trick is to cook mostly meals and recipes that use mostly foods that are in season and to buy these foods in bulk and store them for as long as possible. Doing this will literally crash your healthy food bill and significantly lower the amount of money you routinely spend on healthy food. Foods like vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions etc can be bought in bulk and stored to be used for months over the course of the year.
5 Source your food locally
Locally produced food is usually 10%-50% cheaper because they don’t require the huge transportation and storage costs of imported or trucked in food. Buying, cooking and eating mostly locally produced food will save you a significant amount of money.
6 Use the 2 : 1.5 : 1.5 formula for shopping for healthy food.
This is one of the easiest tricks for eating a healthy, whole food plant based diet that I’ve ever found. It magically cuts your grocery bill by at least 30% and makes eating healthy a breeze.
Here is how it works
Split the designated grocery bill for your family into five parts
A Spend the first two parts on produce.
Prioritize dark leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach, and high fiber fruits like apples and pears, also avocado because high fiber and fruits that contain a good amount of healthy fat are highly filling and are great for controlling hunger and cravings. That’s going to be important if you will stay within budget.
B Spend 1-1 ½ parts of the remainder of the budget on whole grains, beans and a small amount of nuts. Buy raw oats, quinoa, brown rice…whatever whole grain you need from the bulk section of the grocery store. Buy black beans that are a fiber powerhouse or any other kind of beans you might fancy( think chickpeas or lentils) and some almonds or flaxseeds. Buy these foods according to your family’s needs.
C Spend the remaining 1-1 ½ of your budget on healthy beverage like Almond or Soy milk or non dairy yogurt.
When you follow this formula it just becomes very easy to afford a healthy whole food plant based budget. Try it you will see that it works. It virtually guarantees healthy eating on a budget.
Feel free though to modify the plan to suit the personal needs of your family. To shrink or increase different aspects of the plan as necessary according to your own particular family’s needs.
7 Use the broke shopper’s healthy eating grocery list.
This is a grocery list consisting of possibly the 31 cheapest healthy foods. Foods you can buy for less than $2 a pound or less than $2 a can.
Shop heavily from this list and you will make it a lot easier to eat a healthy plant based diet
31 Healthy Foods You Can Buy For Less Than $2
A grocery list to help you cut your food bill and boost nutrition.
Price: $1.50 per pound (dry, in bulk), $1.29 for a 16 ounce bag
2 Black Beans
Price: $1.50 per can
3 Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans
Price: ($1.19 per 15.5-ounce can
4 Frozen Edamame (soybeans)
Price : $1.79 for a 16-ounce bag of edamame in pods.
5 Canned refried beans
Price: $1.19 for one 15 ounce can of store brand vegetarian refried beans.
6 Brown rice
Price: $1.75 per pound
Price: Price: $1 per pound (in bulk)
8 100% whole wheat bread
Price: $1.99 for a 22 ounce loaf of store brand whole wheat bread (sale price)
9 Whole Wheat \multigrain pasta
Price: $1.69 for one 13-16 ounce box or bag of store brand whole wheat pasta
10 Whole wheat pita bread
Price: $1.79 for a 12 ounce package of 6 pita breads.
11 Sweet Potatoes
Price: $1 per pound
Price: $0.50 per cup (raw, chopped), $2 per bunch
Price: $0.35 each, $1 per pound
Price: $0.50 per 1/2 cup, $2 per bunch
Price: $0.50 per cup, $2 per bunch
16 Frozen veggies
Price: $1.75 for one 12 ounce bag
17 Winter Squash
Price: $0.50 per 1/2 cup, $1.50 per pound
18 Frozen chopped spinach
Price: $1.19 per 10 ounce bag
19 Fresh bagged spinach
Price: $1.99 per 9 ounce bag of fresh washed spinach. 33 cents per 2 cup serving, 66 cents per 4 cup serving.
Price: $0.18 each, $0.59 per pound
Price: $0.50 each, $2 per pound
22 Canned Tomatoes
Price: $1.80 per 14.8-ounce can
23 Baby Carrots
Price: $1.45 per pound
24 Frozen peas
Price: $1.79 per bag,
25 Petite peas
Price $1.19 per bag of petite peas
Price: $0.75 per cup, $1.50 per pound
Price: $0.50 per banana, $2 per bunch
Price: $0.85 each, $1.75 per pound
Price: $0.50 each, $1 per pound
8 Cook your own meals
Eating out has been estimated to be anywhere from 50%-100% more costly than cooking your own meals. If you habitually eat at restaurants, switching to cooking your own meals will save you a lot of money. And restaurants that cook healthy meals tend to be even more costly than their junk food cousins.
So unless you are very rich and have a very deep pocket you are always a lot better off financially just cooking your own meals.
9 Cook simpler meals
Simple meals that require few ingredients to cook are almost always cheaper than elaborate many sided meals that require many ingredients to cook. Simpler is always cheaper and saves you a good amount of money when it comes to cooking and eating.
10 Plan before you go to the grocery store and stick to the plan while there.
The Natural Resources Defence Council ( NRDC ) estimates that grocery planning can save the average American family up to 20%. It attributes most of the $1,600 worth of food that the average American household wastes every year…as in throws away in the trash to over purchasing of food on account of impulse buying as families succumb to smart marketing and psychological tactics employed by grocery stores to try and boost sales. So, planning before you head to the grocery store and exercising some discipline while there could save your family more than $1,000 every year.
11 As much as possible always buy whole grains and non perishable foods in bulk
(even when these foods are not on sale). This tactic is estimated to save at least 10% on all foods bought…and can go as high as 20% in savings that it accrues to your bank account.
12 Buy blemished, imperfect, almost expired food or even expired food.
Yes you read that right. A lot of people get squeamish when you say this but it is because they are not adequately informed. A Harvard study recently showed that most expired food is still actually safe to eat and that the dating system for foods is actually seriously broken and arbitrary leading to a serious wastage of perfectly good food every year most of the time as people throw away perfectly good food just because the number on it says it is close to it’s “best by” date.
In the words of the co-author of the study which was carried out by the Harvard food law and policy clinic Emily Lieb:
“The labeling system is aimed at helping consumers understand freshness, but it fails – they think it’s about safety. And (consumers) are wasting money and wasting food because of this misunderstanding,”
The NRDC scientist that coauthored the study Dana Gunders said “while labels appear to be a rational system they are essentially meaningless to consumers. Manufacturers often decide on their own how to calculate shelf life and what the dates mean.
As a result, huge amounts of food, not to mention considerable natural resources and labor, go to waste in landfill and taxes, and harm the environment.
A lack of binding federal standards on labeling means the dates are governed by a patchwork of state and local laws.
“It’s like the Wild West,” Gunders said.
Ultimately the best test for healthy food are your senses…eyes, nose, tongue. If they say that a food item is good, then it is very very likely good.
And do you know that the US throws away half of it’s healthy produce every year just because it is does not look sexy enough to put on the grocery store and satisfy the cravings of the food porn culture that is now prevalent in the western world.
Yes half of it’s produce!, billions of dollars worth of perfectly healthy nourishing food chocked away into landfills with all the environmental, health and economic implications in a world where billions of people starve every day just because the food is not seen as pleasing enough to the eyes.
The appearance of food is now apparently more important than it’s nutritional value.
That’s just a travesty and a shame.
Please don’t join the crowd of people who refuse or make a big fuss over food just because it doesn’t look sexy enough in their eyes. It is immoral and hurts every one including the planet.
So, please next time you visit your grocery store please stop by the clearance section and stock up. You’d not only save up to 90%, you’d be doing every one of us a favor including the planet. And thanks in advance.
13 Eat leftovers or use them in new meals
This is an important way to reduce waste and increase savings. It saves you from buying new foods and ingredients every time you need to eat or cook.
14 Buy a freezer and a food saver
These two appliances though pricey initially save you a lot of money in the long run…for over months and years. They are two investments in food saving every family should make. So, have it in your plan to get them. Your food bill will reduce significantly in the future because of them. Freezers and food savers store food significantly longer and keep food significantly fresher than a fridge.
15 Treat food waste like a chef
Chefs are notorious for hating wasting food. They routinely use pretty much all parts of a food item to cook their meals and have a zero tolerance for waste. Even parts of food items that you and I won’t use in our homes are used by chefs to cook food. They are master food recyclers too.
You and I should learn a thing or two from them and learn to hate wasting food as much too. If we do we will save a lot of money and help our planet too.
Estimates show that the average US household wastes 18%-25% of it’s groceries every year, that’s one in every four grocery bags thrown away into the trash blowing a large $1,500-$2,000 hole in the grocery budget of the average American family.
Will you willfully throw away $1,500 – $2,000 every year into the trash?. Well, that’s pretty much what you do when you refuse to learn how to store food, when you refuse to learn how to preserve food. You throw away money every time you throw away food. Every time you throw away food you throw away money as well. It is one and the same thing and equally stupid.
And I don’t care if you think you can afford it. It is still a stupid thing to do.
If you see someone throwing away shiny dollar bills into the trash bin what would you think?,
What would you say to them?
You should think the same of your self every time you throw away food.
That you are completely nuts and probably have a few screws lose. Because you are throwing away money.
Let the infographic below help you stop the madness.
16 Grow a garden
Yes!, this is not everyone’s cup of tea but when done right it cuts up to 20% off the total food budget. The trick is to start with foods that are used a lot and easy to grow. No use starting with specialty items. You are not an exporter (although there’s nothing wrong with becoming one later).
Tomatoes, potatoes, veggies, herbs. Also use mulch to prevent weeds from growing and choking the crop and compost or other organic manure to ensure yield. Use seeds that…Start small maybe in a small portion of your back or front yard then expand as you grow.
Getting your hands dirty puts money in your pocket and food on the table. And gardening aka small scale farming is a traditional, accessible grocery budget saving way to do that.
17 Use a grocery friendly credit card
A credit card like the chase freedom card gives you 5% cash back for an entire quarter of a year on groceries plus a $150 intro bonus…$500 cashback if you spend $500 within the first 3 months of procuring the card. The bank of America cash back Visa offers 2% cashback on both grocery and gas throughout the year. You can also take advantage of the 1.5% cash back on every purchase offered by the Barclaycard Cashfoward World MasterCard.