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Healthy Eating on a Budget

Posted by Robert Post, Associate Executive Director, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017

Is eating healthy too expensive? It doesn’t have to be if you are willing to follow three simple reminders -- Plan, Compare and Prepare.   If you follow these, you and your family can save money and eat healthier.

USDA’s includes information to help consumers like you get started toward a healthier lifestyle that can fit just about anyone’s budget.  The tips and resources available can make it easier to control what you eat and how much you spend.

Consider these tips to get you started:

  • Plan
    Before you go shopping, take 15-20 minutes each week to plan your meals and make a grocery list of what and how much to buy.  Consider breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week.  Easy to fix recipes are available online.  Include foods and beverages from the five food groups so you can get the nutrients you need.  Read the Nutrition Facts label on the packaging, and go easy on foods with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.  Consider meals like soups, salads, stews, or even stir-fries to “stretch” expensive items into more portions.
  • Compare
    Check the local paper or search online for coupons, sales and specials.  Use store loyalty cards and always bring your grocery list. For double savings, use manufacturer coupons during a store sale.  Take time to compare unit prices listed on shelves to ensure you are getting the best price. Try to do your grocery shopping when you are not hungry and not too rushed. This will help you avoid impulse buying and convenience foods which will increase your food bill.
  • Prepare
    Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables for quick snacks.  Prepare meals that can be done in advance.  Double up your recipes and freeze the leftovers for meals later in the week. For example, last night’s roasted chicken can easily become chicken salad or a chicken quesadilla later in the week.

Eating healthier and spending less is a breeze if you follow these tips to Plan before you shop, Compare options to find the best price, and Prepare meals that stay within your budget. Check out this press release for more information about how the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to help Americans eat healthier on a budget. For more helpful tips, check out our new 10 tips sheet: Eating better on a budget: 10 tips to help you stretch your food dollars.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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Mar 29, 2013

I can use this as a complement to the Eat Smart, Live Strong Program: Session IV - Eat Smart Spend Less. My presentation is with Seniors living on a fixed income and are mostly SNAP-ED eligible.

Susan Harris
Apr 01, 2013

I am focused on developing a pilot for Title 1 after school programs serving healthy snacks. Any ideas? Thanks, Susan

Apr 06, 2013

This is a great post. Very informative and i will be implementing what i have learn here in my family's diet plan. Eating and staying healthy is the in thing now.

Sharon Doney
Apr 29, 2013

I love your slogan. I have been spending too much because I don't plan before I go even though I try to find store brands. This month, I will plan before I go.

Thank you.

Oct 21, 2013

Don't use can food instead by dry beans , cook extra in pressure cooker and freez for future use

Oct 28, 2013

Good to hear that the there recommendations but again with some of the foods they are talking about is really all not that healthy as far as eating healthy goes. A lot of the items mentioned is a lot of carbs. and with that is is sugars. Too much carbs can lead to over weight.Which is what Obamo has been expressing. So as far as trying to get healthy this does not help. Everyone knows that all your healthy foods are very expensive.And for one you can only eat just so much beans & rice.It is very easy to be a dictator verses looking at reality. Really And who on gods earth can cook and eat that meal for a week. Please FDA why don't you do what you preach.Everyone knows that the pricing of food is high and will be going even higher as we get into 2014. Yes those people are very thankful for all the extra help. But the FDA is forcing them to not have a choice to try and eat better. So again this only cost the government more in medical cost due to how it is going to effect there health.

Free world of speech and opinion just saying this is not good and stop trying to miss lead the citizens.

Mel Jacob
Oct 28, 2013

How can Snap recipients receive this information over the internet? Owning computers and internet service is expense???

Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget
Oct 29, 2013

Mel - To answer your question about access to the Internet: Numerous libraries have public access terminals so that those who do not have a computer or Internet access at home can get on the Web. In addition, some Internet providers give reduced price home service to families whose children are on the school lunch program.

Oct 29, 2013

I work for the school system as a cafeteria cook--I know all about the Choose My Plate system-- I still can not afford to do this and pay my bills and use what LITTLE food stamps I get and use cash for food , I feed 4, two of which are growing teenager boys!! We also raise a garden can and Hunt for food!! It's not what we buy, BUT the price of EVERYTHING !!!!I know I am not the only one--especially in our area! It's money (of any form) just does not go anywhere these day!!As for what Linda said above--I TOTALLY AGREE-WITH EVERYTHING- we ""feed healthy"" foods that are just not that healthy! They may be all some get--and that's great that we can provide--it helps those to maintain a healthy average nutritional state--but it just does not work for everyone!! My husband , for example,, is diabetic--he can not eat on a daily average what we serve these children--so I think Obama need to take another nutritional look at what they consider to be healthy--(maybe even try to live on it themselves for a month)!! Thanks for reading!

Bring your list!
Oct 30, 2013

It never fails that if I leave my lost at home bad I try to just, "wing it" I fail miserably., that bill has sometimes been $75 plus dollars over what I would have spent had I had my list.

Nov 01, 2013

I agree with Linda and Vanessa, and that's not counting the elderly people like us. I'm a diabetic, have high blood pressure, breast cancer surgery, etc.... How come you can go here and there when the gasoline is very expensive and what you receive from SS it's not that much, that is for everything; rent, food, bills and the rest of the expenses.

Nov 01, 2013

Healthy foods are very expensive too like Linda says.

Nov 10, 2013

I'm disabled and a diabetic with serious health issues and my son is mentally challenged and also has some health issues. We only receive 15. a month now and by the time we pay our bills and buy gas to get to all of our appointments... we really don't have much left over to spend on food and hygiene , clothing and etc. I barely eat as it is so that my son can have more! My health is suffering terribly and I find myself having to eat glucose only more and more just trying to keep my sugar from going all the way down! Due to my diabetic neuropathy I'm in a walking boot and in physical therapy with lesions on my left foot that broke 3 yrs ago! I could lose my foot and I'm terrified! I'd like to know why it seems that the poorest of the poor have to suffer the most? I simply can't afford to eat healthy and my son and I do go to mother hubbards food pantry once a week if we can get there and to be honest, we are grateful but at the same time the food pantry rarely has meat of any kind and most of the fruits and veggies are often rotting.... The people who are there are so wonderful but they simply don't have enough food to feed the hungry people in our area and the hungry number of people is growing! I've already seen people standing holding signs that say they will work for food and the crime rate has risen in part due to hunger as well as homeless! Why is it that we send money to other countries to feed and house them but yet our people have to do with little or nothing? I'm scared every month to the point of tears wondering how we are going to make it through yet another month! I wish the powers that be would try to live for a month or two like we do and see how healthy they can eat, pay bills, go to doctors, pay rent, car insurance, personal hygiene and so on. The cost of living has gone up so its no surprise to me that crime has also gone up! I wish the government would get it together because in this great nation, no one should have to go hungry or be homeless! Last week GE let go 131 workers and another small bussiness closed! So now we know that more people will be going to the pantries because they too have families to feed! Whatever happened to the commodities the government used to give out like the blocks of cheese, peanut butter, rice and canned meat? I heard once that our government decided to send it overseas to feed other countries? I know that we sure could use those lost commodities to feed our families and would be grateful to have them back! I'm sorry if I've offended anyone but I'm scared about how my son and I are going to make it...

Dec 16, 2013

since they are cutting food stamps for the low income family and the disabled.I think this adult abuse and children abuse.because we can not eat health foodsome people cann,t eat the some food.why is the whole world starving and the government eating steak and live off the tax payers money.I think you should get a real job and live off minium wage for life like the rest of the world does.I think that the senior are left out.The spends downs that they put people on take the cost of living away from them.I find that linda is right about the free world spreech no government can take that away from us.

Sep 22, 2014

@Linda. I think the US is finally experiencing the use of food as a form of warfare i.e. denying food to a group of people due to political reasons. This is what our African brothers and sisters have had to experience with their famines (many of which were artificial and created for political reasons). Access to affordable, wholesome food should be a human right.

Mar 04, 2015

My husband and I are currently following the 2 week eating healthy on a budget meal plan from wanted to look at the reality of eating healthy on a food stamp budget and so far we've had some very interesting conclusions. You can follow our project at Please feel free to comment and tell us if we are actually seeing reality or not! I would love to hear your thoughts! The information on the choosemyplate website is very interesting and has some great resources!

May 31, 2016

I dont see how this will work for my family of four. I have two boys ages 14 - 18 the are both very thin and a daughter age ten. My stamps a month is 284 a month plus I have rent and bills to pay and soon college for my son. What do I do. When my stamps was 398 the food only last for two weeks. Now that they was lowered what will I do. Can someone really help. The prices of food ia high.

May 29, 2017

I lived alone for 3-4 years and I got food stamps for 3 months. Living alone and on food stamps. I found out that food ... don't laugh at me ... really does not cost as much as people think if they know what to get. I learn how to eat and eat great. Most people don't like certain food or just won't eat them. That is 90% of the problem! Yes make a list! But also my list. I cut down on a lot of starch. I did eat rice but I started buying brown rice instead. What has more vitamins and protent I found out! I was shocked. It take longer to cook but it was worth it. BENS BEAN AND MORE BEANS BUY THEM!! Carrots is a vegetable most kid don't like but make them eat it's not expensive at all and you get lot. Cut the cereal and eat oatmeal much better for you and more vitamins. For example my breakfast was. Oatmeal 2 boil eggs. I got those turkey link sausages I cut a size large then an inch, and boiled them with the eggs. Raisin for the oatmeal and brown sugar! I stop buying the cheap orange just with all the d... sugar and I started buying the name brand frozen kind you mix with water! I didn't cost much I buy like 3 of them! buy milk and mix with power milk. Look for coupons for other stuff on sale. You can have a lot of food that last!!
crackers and peanut butter... great snack.. apples and they last a long time in the refrigerator no like other fruits and they are good for you. It's not that hard just try it!! You can come up with all kinds of things :) I hope this helps :))

Charles White
Mar 12, 2018

Trying to eat Healthy

Charles White
Mar 12, 2018

Eating healthier.

Marcia Hinson
Dec 02, 2018

I bought a instant pot to help e prepare more meals at home. I can get cheaper cuts of meat and save money by not eating out. I have lost 51/2 pounds

Clarissa L Caudron
Jan 05, 2019

Are any budget meals for seniors on a very small income. I am a pescatarian and only eat seafood, no meats.

Ben Weaver
Jan 31, 2019

@Clarissa L Caudron - thank you for your question. Please visit the What’s Cooking recipe website to search for healthy seafood recipes. You can use the Nutrition Focus recipe filter and select “Eat more seafood” to refine your search results.

May 21, 2022

Planning is good so to only buy what you need.