Eating Well on a Shoestring Budget

We all know that quinoa, coconut oil, organic berries, and wild Alaskan salmon are healthy, right? That may be true, but the average American family of four has only $146 to $289 to spend on groceries each week.1 The cost of acai berry juice alone is enough to make the average middle-class mom run for the hills! Fortunately, I’m here to give you hope. Eating a healthy diet does not mean breaking the bank. Check out these simple swaps to make eating well both satisfying and economical.

Simple Swaps

Wild Alaskan Salmon –> Tuna (water-packed tuna is full of protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids).2

Almonds/Walnuts –> Peanuts/Cashews (Almonds and walnuts are certainly an excellent source of vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, and magnesium. However, peanuts and cashews get a bad rap. Peanuts are rich in folate, a key nutrient in the prevention of neural tube birth defects. Cashews are also a rich source of oleic acid, a heart-healthy unsaturated fat). P.S. Buying unsalted nuts in bulk can save you a nice chunk of change.

Juice/Sports Drinks/Sodas –> Water (add sliced fruit for flavor)

Almond/Cashew Butter –> Peanut Butter (Many well-known brands, like Jif, now make peanut butter without hydrogenated oils (trans fats))

Quinoa –> Beans/Rice (Dried beans and rice are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates)

Grass-fed Beef/Bison –> Poultry/Eggs (Poultry and eggs can be a less expensive way to meet your family’s protein needs. Many families also save money by purchasing meats in bulk, freezing, or buying a share of a grass-fed cow).

Fresh Fruits/Veggies –> Frozen Fruits/Veggies (Studies demonstrate that frozen fruits and vegetables are often more nutritious than fresh, as they are frozen shortly after harvest. The nutrients in fresh produce often dissipates as it sits on the shelf).3

Kale –> Other Leafy Greens (such as Boston or Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, mustard, collard, or turnip greens)

Olive/Flax/Coconut Oils –> Canola Oil (This oil is much less expensive and contains high amounts of poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, a.k.a. the “good fats”)2

Bottled Spices –> Spices in Bulk (Some stores allow you to purchase small amounts of a spice, saving you money while you experiment with different flavors).2

Sugary Cereals –> Oatmeal

In addition to these simple swaps, check out my recommendations for saving more money on your grocery bill:

  • Buy Seasonal (When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, stick with ones that are in-season in your area. This will reduce costs. Farmers’ markets are a great place to find nutritious seasonal fruits and vegetables)!
  • Get Slow-Cooker Savvy (Slow cookers are inexpensive and a great way to save time. Slow cooking can also make less-expensive cuts of meat more palatable and a host of easy, inexpensive recipes are available online).2
  • Get Planting (Try planting a garden! Even a small, $3 tomato plant in a container can yield 20 pounds of tomatoes)!
  • Participate in a Community Garden (Many neighborhoods and urban areas are now creating community gardens. Not only are community gardens a great source of inexpensive produce, but they can also be a great social outlet).
  • Ditch the Boxed Meals (Whole wheat peanut butter toast with bananas is about the same cost as a sugary cereal)!
  • Buy the Cheap Blender (Yes, expensive blenders are all the rage. However, my individual smoothie blender cost $17 and it works like a charm).
  • Do Your Homework (If possible, scope out the local grocery options and be willing to shop at a couple of different locations. For example, I save lots of money by purchasing some groceries at Trader Joe’s and others at my local Target and Food Lion).

Don’t let your shoestring budget stop you from making positive changes in your life. Eating healthy is possible with a few simple swaps and a little extra planning. Enjoy!

Simple Swaps


  1. Hellmich N. Cost of feeding a family of four: $146 to $289 a week. USA Today. May 1, 2013. Accessed June 9, 2015.
  2. Senger M. Supercheap superfoods: Optimal nutrition on a shoestring budget. June 2015. IDEA Fitness Journal.
  3. Black R. Frozen vegetables more nutritious than fresh, study says. New York Daily News. March 5, 2010. Accessed June 9, 2015.

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