Eating Healthy on a Budget

Grocery Cart Loaded with Fruit and Vegetables

An important way to stay healthy and help lower your cancer risk is to eat a healthy diet with more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains – and less red meat, processed meat, fried foods, and desserts. For many people, the change to a healthier diet includes more meals that are cooked at home.

Making the switch from fast food and prepared meals to a healthier diet doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. By following a few simple tips to help you plan and shop, you can actually save money while eating better. Try these tips to get started on the right track:

  • Cut down on waste by planning your meals and snacks and creating a shopping list in advance. An added bonus is fewer trips to the store, which means fewer chances to buy foods on impulse that you don’t really need.
  • Look for coupons and specials. Try to plan your meals around what’s on sale. When you find a good sale on items you eat often, try to buy in bulk.
  • Plan some meals that use sources of protein other than meat, such as beans.
  • Choose fresh produce that is in season, when prices are usually lowest. Or plan your meals using vegetables and fruits that, according to the USDA, are typically the cheapest: potatoes, lettuce, eggplant, greens, summer squash, carrots, tomatillos, watermelon, bananas, apples, pears, pineapple, and peaches.
  • For some recipes, less costly frozen or canned vegetables and fruits work just as well as fresh. (Choose fruits that are canned in 100% fruit juice, and buy vegetables that are marked “no salt added” or “low sodium.”)
  • Avoid pre-cut and pre-washed vegetables, bagged salad mixes, and processed foods, all of which typically cost more than foods you prepare yourself.
  • Pay attention to the unit price when comparing grocery items, and consider store brand and generic versions of your favorite foods.
  • If you find yourself short on time during the week, try to cook ahead and freeze meals, or prepare extra and save leftovers for days when you might otherwise be tempted to get take-out or fast food.
  • To keep food from going to waste, add leftover vegetables to casseroles or soups, and use overripe fruit for smoothies (or freeze and save for later).

Old habits can be hard to break, but finding creative ways to make eating healthy convenient and affordable can make you feel good. It can help reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases – without breaking your budget – and it’s easier than you think.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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