How to Eat Well on $12 Per Day

How to Eat Well on $12 Per Day

“Healthy food is so expensive.” “I can’t afford a diet program.” The foundation of health is a well-balanced diet, and healthy eating on a budget is easier than it sounds!

The foundation of health is a well-balanced diet. But how do you eat well when your budget is tight?

How Do We Know What to Eat?

Weight Watchers says you should eat a low-fat, plant-based diet with their points system.

Vinnie Tortorich says anything goes, but stay away from sweeteners and grains (NSNG).

The Paleo diet says stay away from grains and dairy, but go extra-heavy on the protein and use honey and stevia to sweeten things up.

And of course, all kinds of companies are out there saying they’ll sell you the foods they’ve had specially made up in a factory somewhere with science-y formulas that make the fat just melt right off of your body.

I’ve tried a lot of different methods over the years. Originally, I went with the “I’m just going to eat healthy foods” plan. That consisted of me wandering through the grocery store buying foods that said something about being healthy, bringing it all home, spending hours trying to find a recipe I could pull together with the random stuff I bought and winding up just going out.

At one point, I tried Weight Watchers, too.

But, I finally lost weight the first time with the tried and true calorie counting method.

What I’m Doing Now

These days, I’m mostly on Vinnie’s NSNG train.

What he says makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve always believed that real, whole foods are what is best for my body. Avoiding added sugars and other sweeteners essentially has me avoiding all processed foods.

Plus, I could see where grains have been my downfall in the past. I used to basically live off of pasta and bread, and it didn’t seem to do me any favors.

Is Healthy Eating on a Budget Really Possible?

The whole point of this story is that eating healthy foods doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Real, whole foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, meats, yogurts & cheeses) are easy to come by at a reasonable price if you shop around the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid the center aisles.

Even better than that, stick to local farmer’s markets and produce stands!

Lately, a typical day’s healthy eating on a budget looks like this for me:

Breakfast

1 egg, scrambled with cheddar cheese, 2 cups of coffee with heavy whipping cream

  • Total cost: About $2.75 (cheaper than a tall latte at Starbucks)

Lunch

1/5-pound ground beef patty, a slice of cheese, a small handful of mixed nuts, a vegetable (i.e. some cut up carrots)

  • Total cost: About $3.80 (cheaper than a meal at McDonalds)

Dinner

A small steak and half a bag of frozen veggies

  • Total cost: About $5.50 (Cheaper than pizza night)

Daily cost to feed me: $12.05

Buying in Bulk Helps with Healthy Eating on a Budget

I am lucky enough to have pasture-raised, grass-fed, homegrown beef available to me at a highly reasonable cost, and my meat calculations are estimations.

My parents raise beef, and Hubs and I buy a half and help to cut & wrap, which saves on cost. This is something that we set money aside for all year so we are prepared when it comes up.

While it’s a huge cost up-front, buying in bulk (assuming you have the freezer space for it), or raising your own meat winds up a being a major savings in the long run! Not to mention, the peace of mind that comes with knowing where your food came from.

The bag of frozen veggies is a winter-time specialty in the Stray household. We participate in a local CSA during the summer, which also saves us a lot of money on local, organic produce & eggs.

But, during the winter we slum it with the frozen veggies, which I only buy when they are sale, 10 for $10 to help cut costs a little.

Another Great Cost-Cutting Option

If the budget is especially tight, a great swap-out for my lunch plan is to replace the beef patty with a three-bean salad. This is simply mixing up your three favorite varieties of beans (I like pinto beans, kidney beans & black beans in mine) with a little salad dressing (I like avocado ranch).

3-Bean Salad is filling and packed full of nutritious fibers and proteins, for a total savings of $9.24 per week, per person. It may not seem like a lot, but on a tight budget every penny matters.

Healthy Living is Possible on a Budget

There is no need to buy into a special diet program or buy special “weight loss” foods or supplements. 

Buy simple foods, know where your food came from, and get back to enjoying the real food that was put on this planet to sustain us.

It can be done on a budget, I promise.

There is nothing that makes me sadder than to hear that the only thing holding someone back from living the healthy life they’ve always dreamed is a tight budget. The tips outlined here only skim the surface, there is so much to be learned, and I’m here to help!


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The foundation of health is a well-balanced diet. But how do you eat well when your budget is tight?

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