Diet on a budget: How to eat healthily on a low income

We often hear “I can’t lose weight/eat healthily because it’s too expensive” – this is simply not true. In fact,

We often hear “I can’t lose weight/eat healthily because it’s too expensive” – this is simply not true. In fact, fresh, whole foods are a lot cheaper in the long run as they will keep you full longer, and are as not as tricky to prepare as they seem.

We have had a lot of requests for dieting on a budget and how to buy healthier foods when you don’t have a lot of money, so here are the best tips to get you ditching the sugar-laden meals and eating well.

1. Plan your meals and prep ahead

You may have head of ‘meal prep’ i.e. preparation of your meals ahead of time. This concept is often used by people on a weight loss regime or exercise plan where they want protein, fibre and nutrients from a meal but are time poor.

It is also a great way to save money. All you need to work out a meal plan is at your fingertips. Simply Google search for cheap meal prep ideas and you’ll be amazed by the foods you can make that will last an entire week, for a fraction of the price you may currently be paying per meal.

2. Look for the least expensive meats/discounted meats

Eating meat doesn’t have to be a luxury – you can afford it even when you’re on a budget and a diet. Purchase cheaper cuts, i.e. thigh instead of chicken breasts and corned beef instead of a rack. Slow cookers are also a godsend and you can make many meals in a slow cooker that will last all week, just from one piece of meat.

3. Learn to love whole grains and beans

You might not be used to quinoa, brown rice or lentils, but you’re missing out on inexpensive ways to bulk up meals. Black beans can stretch your meat; quinoa can stretch your rice and lentils can bulk up a soup.

Whole grains will also keep you full longer and may help aid in your weight loss efforts.

4. Try other cuisines

Mexican and Indian cuisines rely heavily on inexpensive ingredients, like beans and rice. If you haven’t experimented with these foods, you can learn to – they are full of flavour and full of all the goodness you need in a meal.

5. Buy frozen fruit and veges, or freeze seasonal produce

It might seem like a bad idea or even lazy, but buying frozen fruit and veges could be a lot cheaper for you, especially if it isn’t in season. Broccoli and beans are often a lot cheaper frozen and contrary to popular belief, they do not lose nutrients. Berries can also be cheaper in frozen form, just check the origin of the fruit.

On the other hand, if you see a good deal on seasonal produce now, buy it and freeze it in bulk – you can enjoy it year round.

6. Buy generic

Most people on a budget do buy generic/home brands, but there might be items you subconsciously buy because it’s a trusted brand when you don’t need to. Rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cheese etc. are all the same, label or no label.

7. Drink tap water

This is an obvious one but so many people forget to drink water straight from the tap, instead purchasing water bottles or drinking something else. Don’t have wine with dinner, have an iced water. You will save a lot!

8. Grow your own food

If you really want to save money and lose weight, the best thing you can do is grow your own food! You can buy chickens which can give you eggs and meat; you can grow herbs; you can grow veges and fruit. And if you don’t have enough room for a garden, you can join a community garden and reap the benefits.

Here’s some extra tips on cutting your grocery bill in half.


Share your thoughts below.

  1. First stop on shopping day is the green grocers, lots of fruit and veggies. The last thing I buy is meat. I buy food to make meals with from scratch no pre made mixes. I use herbs and spices and natural ingredients.

  2. I want to know why living healthily is so much more expensive than living on junk food.

  3. About 6 months ago I started planning my weekly meals. The night before I grocery shop I plan my menu for the next week and only buy the ingredients I need. Breakfast is always weet bix and lunch is my main meal and that changes each day. Dinner at night is always toast an a cup of hot chocolate. Since I have been doing this I spent a lot less on groceries and I also buy frozen veggies so I have no waste because I use everything I buy. I love the recipes on this site and have used a lot of them. Yesterday I made Baked Tomato and Bacon Gnocchi and I froze the leftovers. When I need them I buy fresh herbs and again use all of them and have no waste. I wish I had started doing this years ago.

  4. Shop for fruit and veg at the local farmers markets, prices are a lot less than supermarkets, food is fresher and supporting small farmers.

    • Farmers markets where we live are not cheaper – prices of their produce are on a par with local supermarkets and sometimes more expensive.

  5. Dianne Evans  

    Hehe the people who are really doing it tough do not have a Hugh freezer do not drink two glasses of wine with dinner oh my hahah!

  6. My doctor said to me years ago eat veg with meat, not meat with veg, I have never forgotten that and that’s what l have done ever since. Planning your meals is a very good idea & having your main meal in the middle of the day is healthier & something lighter at the end of the day.

  7. There are some good ideas here but why over 60’s would need them I don’t know as that is how most of us would have been living most of our lives. Some problems I see are the availability of good vegetables and fruit at reasonable prices- never in my town- and the weight of carting fresh food around for the older readers. Freezers are an expense you have to factor in as they use large amounts of electricity. I relyheabily on frozen veg due to the quality and cost of the fresh but you do get sick of them.

  8. Spare a thought for people who do not drive and or are ill or frail they will not be going too markets and if the fresh foods were fresh from supermarkets it would help but when you cut open what looks like a beautiful pineapple too find it black inside you have not saved money!

  9. Yes a slow cooker is a must, buy cheaper cuts of meat, and its a meal for 2-3 nights, also if live alone one small fresh chicken u can roast, do extra vegies can do a second plate for next nights dinner, and some left over for chicken sandwiches for lunch.

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