Eat Well, Spend Less

You don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating to protect your pocketbook.

quick roast chicken

Quick Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables is an inexpensive source of lean protein, potassium and fiber.

Photo By Povy Kendal Atchison

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Trimming your grocery bills doesn’t have to mean giving up healthful eating. “It’s a myth that healthy food cannot be cooked on a budget,” says Ross Dobson, author of Casual Entertaining (Ryland Peters and Small, 2009). “Try your local farmer’s market. Locally grown organic produce will not be as expensive as you think.”

3 Healthy Inexpensive Recipes

Quick Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables 

At less than $2.50 a serving, Quick Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables is an inexpensive source of lean protein, potassium and fiber.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Walnut Dip 

Loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats, Roasted Bell Pepper and Walnut Dip is a healthy start to your meal—and at only $1.25 per serving, it's also inexpensive!

Moroccan Apple Pie 

Tart apples sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar are nestled between layers of flaky phyllo pastry in this inexpensive dessert recipe.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Casual Entertaining by Ross Dobson (Ryland Peters and Small, 2009). 

How to Eat Well on a Budget

The hardest part of eating well on a budget is planning, says American Dietetic Association  spokesperson Marisa Moore. She suggests several key strategies: Shop for produce in season when it’s cheapest; buy less expensive, organic grocery-store brand staples such as cereals and rice; and make extra of freezable meals such as soup or casseroles so you use them later.

Stock nutritious, economical standbys including rice and pasta, frozen vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and dried herbs and spices, says Anne Sheasby, author of Mediterranean: The Low-Fat No-Fat Cookbook (Southwater, 2009).

Canned or dried beans are a nutritious, low-cost staple. Beans cost only about 50 cents (or less) per half-cup serving, and they’re loaded with fiber and potassium, says Jessie Price, deputy food editor for Eating Well magazine. Eggs are another highly nutritious option. “A large egg costs 23 cents,” Price says, “and they have lots of protein as well as lutein for eye health.” Other low-cost items that pack a strong nutritional punch include bananas, potatoes, yogurt and even lean ground beef. Adding a whole grain such as bulgur reduces calories, fat and expense while increasing fiber.

“When it comes to fresh food like meat, dairy and vegetables, buy in relatively small quantities on a weekly basis and bolster your meals with cheaper staples,” Dobson says. Stick to easy-to-prepare, budget-friendly basics such as pasta and rice and enhance them by adding flavorful, health-enhancing ingredients such as in-season produce, herbs and roasted root vegetables.

The biggest way to save money is to make sure you use all the food you buy. Prepare as much as possible in advance so you don’t waste food that spoils before you turn it into meals. Cut up fruits and vegetables the day you purchase them so they’re ready to eat or cook with. Most importantly, Moore says, stick to your grocery list. Don’t engage in impulse buys, especially if they’re not good for you.

Deborah Huso lives on a small farm in Blue Grass, Virginia, where she and her husband grow and preserve their own produce. Visit her online at