Food & Fitness

The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Budgeting, Part Four: Eating Healthy

Be sure to check out our previous discussions in this Budgeting mini-series:

Part One: Understanding Your Expenses

Part Two: Making Sacrifices

Part Three: Debts and Loans

Part Four: Eating Healthy on a Budget

We touched on this topic previously during our Grocery Shopping mini-series, so there’s a bit of overlap here. However, we can always use a refresher!

A major reason people give for why they simply “cannot” eat healthy is that it’s “too expensive”. I say, no excuses! There are plenty of ways to eat healthy without spending vast amounts of money, and ways that you can save on money by making use of everything in your fridge before it spoils:

To save on the food you’ve already bought…

1) Freeze it. Almost everything can be frozen. A couple weeks ago I made a casserole but I cooked too much rice for it. I saved the rice in the fridge, but after a couple days I realized that I wouldn’t be eating it in the near future. So I stuck it in the freezer. Now, it might not taste quite as good if I re-heated it and mixed it with beans, but if I incorporate it into another casserole or if I turn it into veggie burgers, it will taste just as good.

The same goes for fruits and vegetables. If they start to wilt, they can be transferred to the freezer and they will keep for a long time. Other things I’ve put in the freezer include pumpkin, cottage cheese, tofu, bread, pizza, soup, and onions.

Some of the above items need a little bit of extra knowledge to ensure that they still taste good when you re-use them. Bread is still edible if you just de-frost it and use it for sandwiches, but it’s never quite as good as when it was fresh; I generally toast my bread after it’s been in the freezer (because it still tastes fantastic when it is toasted). Onions get a little soggy after you take them out of the freezer, but if you’re using them in a one-dish meal such as casserole or soup, they work perfectly well.

2) Pay attention. Know how to package food so that it stays fresh for the longest time possible. Many perishable items will last longer if you refrigerate them rather than if you leave them on the counter (bread is an excellent example of this). If your food is starting to go bad, put it in the freezer or cook with it right away. There really isn’t any reason why anything in your fridge should be tossed into the garbage; you just need to keep an eye on the expiry dates and transfer it to the freezer if you can find no immediate use for it.

To save on food at the store…

3) Buy day-old food. One of my favourite bakeries, Tall Grass Prairie, sells day-old bread at half price. In my opinion, it tastes just as good as if it were baked that day, so it’s a real bargain. Last week I bought a loaf of spelt bread and a loaf of whole wheat bread for $5.50 total; normally the loaf of spelt bread would cost about $6 alone! Some people might think that spending $3 for a loaf of bread is still pricey, but to me it’s worth it if it’s made with local, real ingredients.

If you’re going to buy day-old bread, the best time to go the store is first thing in the morning. In the late morning and especially by the afternoon, all of the day-old food tends to be sold. Get there right when the store opens and you’ll get first pick.

4) Take advantage of coupons. If you don’t get fliers, look up grocery stores on the Internet. Shops like Safeway regularly post their deals on their website. You can save a lot of money by using coupons or having special “memberships” to stores, particularly if the membership is free.

5) Eat portion sizes. Late last week I went out for curry and ate about a third of what was on my plate. When I got home, I divided the remainder of the curry in two, steamed a pile of frozen veggies, and added the veggies to the leftover curry. These were all very sizable portions and made good-sized meals. Restaurants always serve meals several times bigger than we actually need, so always make sure that you only eat half of your portion and take the rest home.

Make it a rule that every restaurant portion should equal at the very least two meals. Most of the time, you can probably easily turn it into three or four meals- especially if you “embellish” it by adding extra vegetables and that kind of thing. If you buy pasta and it is coated in sauce, then you can even come home and cook up some extra pasta in addition to your extra vegetables to use up some of that sauce. You’ll get great restaurant taste on the cheap!

How do you eat healthy on a budget?

Next up is Part Five: Fitting in Exercise

Don’t forget to answer this month’s poll!


  1. Sagan Morrow

    Tracey- My problem is that I hoard coupons. I keep coupons for things I don’t normally buy, just on the off-chance that I might feel differently before the expiration date. But then I tend to forget about them, and come across them a year later when I’m packing up my stuff to move from an apartment to a condo 😉

  2. charlotte

    Have you ever tried “gleaning”? Here, people made a co-op to collect the expired food (most of which is completely fine) from grocery stores which are just throwing it out. They then take it to a central location and divide it all up. It’s a really cool way to get some free food (only price is you have to do your part of the pick ups) and to cut down on waste!

  3. Meg

    Heh, actually this touches on one of my pet peeves. Eating healthy shouldn’t be more expensive. It shouldn’t be cheaper to go to a fast food place and get a grease burger than to buy veggies.

    But I digress. My problem is mostly a lack of availability of quality fresh produce (my grocery store sucks) and an almost criminal level of forgetfulness when it comes to what is actually *in* my fridge.

    But I’m working on it! I swear! ^_^

  4. Sagan Morrow

    Charlotte- I LOVE that idea, I’d never heard of it! Hmm, I’m going to have to look into that and see if people do that here in Winnipeg. That’s a fantastic way to cut down on waste; I shudder to think how much food just gets thrown out because it’s slightly bruised or it’s not as fresh as people would like.

    Meg- AGREED. Eating healthy can be WAY cheaper. I’ve been doing pretty good at spending between $200 and $225 on groceries the last couple months, and that INCLUDES going out for breakfast once a week. I’m sure that I could spend even less without much difficulty if it was necessary.

    Love2eatinpa- The freezer is my best friend 😀

  5. fd

    good tips.

    I’d add that being sick when you might have been able to avoid it by eating better is also too expensive! And with that remark I am by no means suggesting that we could eat our way to preventing all illnesses.

    In most parts of Europe asking for your food to be packed up to take home with you just is not done in restaurants. Most places would refuse. That said, the portion sizes are a little smaller I think.

    I would add batch cooking for healthy eating on a budget. We only have a very tiny freezer(built into the fridge) and it is full and in constant use with turnover. we definitely couldn’t put any additional, about-to-go-bad food in there, its all taken up with meals that we cook in batches. i’m not willing to buy a full sized freezer to fit into our already cluttered apartment and use up more electricity. i hope what i lose throwing stuff out (not much usually) is recouped in what i save on not having a big freezer or the costs of running one.

  6. The Candid RD

    GREAT post!! These are some good tips. I especially like the one about paying attention to perishable items and making sure you are getting the most time out of them as possible. That’s such a good point. My bananas last at least 3 days longer in the fridge, same with bread (actually I put bread in the freezer, even better!).

  7. Sagan Morrow

    fd- Great point! I agree. It’s not worth it to get sickly from eating poor quality food. Food isn’t going to fix EVERYTHING, but it can definitely be a step in the right direction to preventing illness. And YES to the batch cooking. I like making a BIG meal so that I can eat it throughout the week. Cooking steel-cut oats is handy for that one. Interesting about European restaurants; I think I’ve only asked for things to be packaged up a couple times in Europe and they consented, but I’m pretty sure that was just in a touristy area in Rome.

    Gina- So glad that you like it 🙂 There’s all kinds of sneaky ways that we can keep our food fresher for longer.

    FatFighterTV- I’m a fan of stocking up when things are on sale, too.

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