For many, healthy eating on a budget seems almost impossible. We live in a culture where healthy eating seems synonymous with a lifestyle of wealth, social status, and an abundance of free time.
But the truth is eating healthy doesn’t need to be expensive. And it doesn’t have to take up hours of your day. It can be done quickly, without fuss, and on any budget.
In this guide, I’ll share 80 tips for eating healthy and saving money.
You’ll learn how to make the most of the resources you already have to live a healthier, more fulfilling life - without overspending or sacrificing the things you enjoy.
Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Pick the tips that best apply to your life right now and implement them first.
Bookmark the page so you can come back any time for new advice.
Print the visual guides and keep them in your kitchen. You’ll always have the tips and recommendations right at your fingertips.
Building healthier habits, you lay a foundation for a healthier lifestyle - in your diet and just about everything else.
By creating routines and developing healthy new habits (and replacing bad ones), you’ll quickly start seeing significant improvements in your health, how you cook, and how you shop.
Planning your daily meals in advance and preparing them in bulk is the best way to maintain a healthy diet on a budget.
How you plan and prep your meals impacts every other step in this guide, from your weekly grocery budget to healthy snacking, to how often you eat out. It also saves a huge amount of time, freeing up your week for other enjoyable (and healthy) activities.
Set aside time once or twice every week to plan the next 4-7 days of meals. Cook some of them in large batches.
I like doing this on Sunday evening while catching up with my favorite podcasts.
To add variety, try prepping 3 different protein-heavy dishes (like chicken, fish, or beans) with 4 veggie and side dishes. That way, you can mix and match throughout the week.
If you don’t want to spend too much time cooking, incorporate meal kits into your weekly plan.
If you work outside the home, you probably resort to eating out and last-minute snacks to keep you going throughout the day.
It’s perfectly understandable, with our lives so busy these days.
But unscheduled, spontaneous eating out and quick, unhealthy snacks are the fastest way to destroy your budget - not to mention the impact on your health.
If you want to save money and eat healthily throughout the week, incorporate packed lunches into your meal prepping.
- Build a repertoire of healthy, easy-to-prepare packed lunches you can take with you any time you leave home.
- Add these to your meal planning and prepping.
- Invest in good quality, reusable, and microwave-friendly food containers you can take anywhere.
A healthy diet isn’t just about food. You also need to stay hydrated.
Not drinking enough water will make you crave soft drinks and, possibly, alcohol. Obviously, these are not healthy solutions to quench your thirst.
Even worse, soft drinks and alcohol often actually make you MORE dehydrated. So you end up drinking more and more, progressively getting unhealthier by the day. They’re also much more expensive than water.
The best way to avoid such a negative cycle is to stay hydrated throughout the day with simple, refreshing H2O. It may not sound exciting, but you’ll quickly notice the difference in your overall health.
- Aim to drink between 1-3 liters of water daily, depending on how active you are.
- Buy a reusable water bottle and take it everywhere you go. Keep it filled up, so you’re never tempted by a soda when you get thirsty. Some water bottles have markers showing how much you should have consumed by a specific time in the day.
- Set reminders on your phone every couple of hours, so you never forget to regularly drink small amounts. There are apps dedicated to this you can download also.
- Add some natural lemon, mint, or orange extract to give the water a pleasant, light taste.
We all know that fast food is bad for us, so I won’t bore you with all the data about carbs and fats.
But there’s another reason fast food sucks that you may not know: it's not actually that filling.
Most fast food is just empty calories with zero nutritional value. As a result, it doesn’t take long for your body to process it, and you’re hungry again. So you eat more fast food. Which means more empty calories - and so on.
To break this unhealthy cycle, skip fast food altogether, and satisfy your appetite with filling, healthy snacks and meals.
- Don’t resort to fast food and junk food when you’re in a hurry. Instead, plan ahead so you always have healthy food on hand.
- If you absolutely have to indulge in some fast food, complement it with a side salad and some chicken or tuna, so it fills you up.
Snacking is the surest way to break your healthy food habits.
But it doesn’t have to be!
There’s plenty of healthy, delicious snacks you can make at home or buy in the store that will satisfy your appetite and cravings for something sweet, without damaging your health.
Instead of reaching for a packet of chips or a bag of Haribo, think about replacing them with something equally tasty but far healthier.
When prepping your meals for a week, plan some healthy snacks too. Add them to your packed lunches, so you have something to satisfy any cravings you feel throughout your day.
Some examples of easy healthy snacks include:
Dark (unsweetened) chocolate with almonds
Apple slices with peanut butter
Various types of nuts (plain, roasted, or lightly salted)
Celery and cream cheese sticks
Hummus and crunchy vegetables
Natural yogurt, honey, and mixed berries
Olives and sundried tomatoes
Trail mix and granola
Cheese and crackers
Nutritional values on food packets can be a bit overwhelming. So you probably ignore them altogether.
But understanding what all the numbers and figures mean helps you quickly identify which processed foods you should avoid.
All packaged and processed foods sold in stores must clearly display their nutritional values, calories, etc. Learn what these mean, and you’ll save time and money avoiding unhealthy foods as you shop.
Check the nutritional information for any packaged or processed foods before purchasing them and decide if they fit into your health plan.
Intermittent fasting has become popular in recent years as a way to stay healthier by limiting the number of hours in a day that you eat.
In simple terms, you pick a daily schedule for eating - for example, 10 am until 8 pm. Outside of this time, you don’t eat anything.
There are many health benefits to intermittent fasting when you do it responsibly. It’s also a great way to improve efficiency and budgeting around food. Meanwhile, it massively cuts down on unhealthy snacking in the evenings.
You also have more free time in the early mornings and evenings, when you’re not spontaneously making food.
However, it requires a lot of planning and preparation, so you don’t negatively impact your health.
- Research intermittent fasting and find a schedule that works for your health profile and lifestyle. Consult with your doctor or GP to ensure there are no risks to your health from pursuing a fasting schedule. Make sure you understand the risks
- involved and never risk your health by pushing your fasting too far.
- Start with small steps first. Choose a time in the evening after which you stop eating any meals or snacks, like 8 pm.
- If you enjoy eating with friends in the evenings, you don’t have to sacrifice your social life due to intermittent fasting. Plan dinners with friends early in the evening, or adjust your fasting schedule so you can eat later.
- Use free tools like Zero app to monitor and adjust your fasting according to your health and lifestyle.
While it might seem cheap, meat can be deceptively expensive.
There are also many environmental and ethical concerns surrounding cheap meat, where it comes from, and how the animals are treated.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy, convenient ways to replace meat in your diet. They don’t have to be expensive or inconvenient, and they’re often much more nutritious.
Use the guide below to find cheap, healthy alternatives to your meat. Incorporate these into your favorite dishes and meal planning.
According to one study, the USA’s average millennial spends $2,000 a year eating out, almost the same they spend on groceries.
That’s a lot of money!
And it's probably not necessary. Yes, eating out is fun, sociable, and often feels more convenient than cooking at home.
But it’s not just expensive - it’s also very unhealthy. Eating at restaurants makes it more challenging to keep track of what you’re eating, count your calorie intake, and maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
You’re also more likely to give in to cravings and indulge in desserts and alcohol.
But as you’ll see throughout this guide, cutting down on eating out doesn’t mean less time with friends or bland, unexciting food.
- Track your spending habits for a couple of months and learn how much you spend on restaurants. Use this as a guide to see if you can cut down on eating out and cook at home more.
- Speak to your friends about cooking together and hosting social events at home where you cook together to reduce the number of times you eat out in a week. You’ll also often end up with tons of leftovers that you can share and eat throughout the week.
- Take a cooking class to learn your favorite cuisines so you can cook them at home. To save money, follow cooking classes on Youtube, Instagram, Tasty, etc.
- Follow our tips for eating out on a budget to save money on restaurants.
If you’re eating out for convenience or to save time, sign up for some healthy meal delivery services instead.
Food wastage is costly, but usually forgotten about. By some estimates, 30-40% of all food purchased is dumped in the bin.
That’s 30-40% of your grocery budget you’re not even eating!
The quickest way to reduce food waste is storing food correctly so it doesn’t go bad before you eat it. You’ll throw less food out, the less you’ll buy replacing the waste.
Print out the guides below and stick them up in your kitchen somewhere they’re easy to see.
Any time you put something in the fridge or freezer, label it to know precisely when it expires. Always check your food purchases for individual storage guidelines.
If you feel like getting your hands a little dirty, there are a few foods you can re-grow instead of dumping the leftovers.
Celery, basil, and spring onions are just some examples of vegetables and herbs that can all be regrown from their roots very easily.
See the guide below for more information.
Don’t dump the roots of vegetables. Set up a mini-garden in your home to replant some of them and grow some veggies and herbs yourself.
Decluttering isn’t just for your wardrobe!
If you don’t regularly take stock of what you already have in your pantry and fridge, groceries can quickly start piling up. As well as taking up space, old food stored incorrectly quickly goes bad and can spoil other food in the process.
Set aside time once a week to clear out your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Do it before your meal prepping and grocery shopping to guide your cooking and grocery decisions for the upcoming week.
Few things are more critical to maintaining a healthy diet than your grocery shopping. The food you buy will dictate what you cook and eat every day.
And what you eat dictates how you feel (both physically and emotionally), how productive you are, and how much energy you have throughout the week.
Groceries are also one of our biggest expenses, whether they’re healthy or not, and it's easy to lose control of how much you’re spending every week.
Follow these steps to maximize your groceries for a healthy diet without breaking your budget.
Plenty of studies show that creating a monthly budget has a positive impact on your spending.
This includes your groceries. Creating a budget for how much you can spend every month reduces the risk of overspending and helps you prioritize your purchases.
Create a grocery budget at the start of each month and use this to plan all your grocery purchases and meal planning. Review your budget regularly and adjust when necessary.
Different products cost different prices in various stores.
If you’re buying everything in one place, you could be spending way more than necessary. Comparing the prices for different products at your favorite supermarkets can save you a lot of money.
Choose a list of the products you buy most often and make a table with a price comparison for each. Fill in the prices from every store you shop at.
You'll know where to buy your veggies, your non-perishables, and other purchases for the lowest price.
There are many benefits to grocery shopping online:
It’s quicker and more convenient (you don’t even need to leave home).
Products are often cheaper online.
You save money on fuel.
You’re less likely to buy more than you need.
Sweets and junk food won’t tempt you as you shop.
You can buy in bulk without worrying about carrying large stocks of groceries.
You get faster access to promotions.
It's easier to find alternatives if what you were looking for is out of stock.
Check which online retailers deliver in your area. Compare the prices online to those in physical stores and adjust your purchasing accordingly.
If possible, switch to using online retailers as your primary source for groceries. Set time aside every week to buy your groceries and have them delivered at a convenient time.
Bonus Tip: Save your most regularly purchased items so they’re automatically added to your shopping cart to speed up your online grocery shopping.
The following is a breakdown of the most common expiration dates on food.
Always do a smell test and check the surface and inside of the food before using it. Some foods, like yogurt, can be used up to a week after its best before date.
“Sell by” - Tells the stores how long to display a product. Sell-by dates are used for internal stock control purposes. Most foods can be consumed for a short period after their sell-by date.
“Best before” - Best before dates are used for quality, not safety. Most foods can be eaten after Best Before dates, but they may lose texture and flavor.
“Use by” - This is the most important date. If a food product has a use-by date, this means it spoils quickly after that date and is no longer safe to eat.
“Closed or coded date” - A packing number used by the food’s manufacturer. You can ignore this unless products are recalled for safety reasons.
Regardless of a food’s expiration dates, always inspect it before use in case it has spoiled.
Note: Sell By and Use By dates on meat, poultry, and fish should be strictly followed. These foods spoil very quickly and if eaten once they do, will make you severely ill. You can freeze meat, poultry, and fish to extend its expiration. Use our guide to learn how long they can each be safely frozen.
Note 2: Once food is opened, expiration dates don't apply anymore. You need to check on your own (smell & look) to make sure the food hasn’t spoiled.
Learn what the different expiration dates mean on various foods and use these to 1) find bargains when shopping 2) cut down on your food wastage.
Now that you know how expiration dates work, you can use them to find plenty of bargains.
Supermarkets often sell foods at heavy discounts the evening before their expiration dates. This way, their shelves are always stocked with fresh produce - and they cut down on food wastage.
The same is true for bakeries and butchers.
Visit supermarkets, bakeries, and butchers in the evenings to find the best deals on fresh produce nearing their expiration dates. Just make sure you consume or freeze the food quickly, so it doesn’t spoil.
Bonus Tip: Shop for fresh produce on Wednesdays. Many supermarkets rotate their stocks mid-week. That means Wednesdays are the biggest days for discounts, as they clear out the previous week’s expiring foods.
If you live in a medium-sized city, you probably have a few Asian and other ethnic food stores in your area.
Often serving lower-income and immigrant communities, these shops are a goldmine for cheap, delicious food from all over the world.
If you enjoy experimenting with international cuisines, make sure you’re getting your ingredients from ethnic stores before going to bigger supermarkets.
You’ll also be supporting small, independent businesses.
Look for ethnic stores to buy all your spices, sauces, and specialty ingredients. You can often buy produce in bulk, and many ethnic stores support online shopping.
Conventional wisdom tells us that everything is cheaper at big stores, due to economies of scale and market share.
But that’s not always the case. Before buying your fresh produce at a supermarket, check in with any local farmers’ markets in your area. They can actually be cheaper than supermarkets, and the quality of the produce is almost always much higher.
You’ll also be supporting local business owners, helping protect the environment, and enjoying healthier food - it won’t be full of preservatives to keep it fresh as it travels.
- Learn what vendors are your local farmers’ markets stock and decide if they provide better value than supermarkets.
- Include a weekly trip to the markets in your grocery shopping plans.
- Check online. When I lived in Rwanda, Kigali’s largest farmers market had an online store where you could order produce from different vendors delivered to your door.
Buying and cooking with fresh produce is a great way to eat healthy on a budget.
However, buying fruit or vegetables that aren’t in season in your region - or have to be imported - is expensive.
For example, when I lived in Eastern Europe, I stopped buying bananas because they were expensive. Also, whatever process the bananas went through when imported from South America gave me severe digestive issues.
- Don’t buy fresh produce when it's not in season for your region. Learn about seasonal produce in your area and plan your grocery shopping and cooking accordingly. Local markets are the best place to learn what’s in season at any time of the year.
Farmers’ markets and ethnic stores are great places to pick up delicious fruit and veg rejected by bigger supermarkets and retailers. Such produce is considered too ‘ugly’ for retailers and sold off at a discount. Or it's dumped in the trash.
If you don’t care what your fruit or veg looks like before you cook it, ugly produce is a bargain!
There are also online grocery stores specializing in ugly produce. If you’re in the US, check out Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, which deliver ugly produce to your door on subscription plans. Other countries have similar companies and offers, such as Intermarche in France, Loblaws in Canada, and Oddbox in the UK.
- Look for retailers and farmers’ markets selling ‘ugly’ fresh produce and purchase these before going to supermarkets. Check online for ugly produce retailers in your region also.
When I was in college, my housemate Kevin and I both loved to cook - and we were both broke.
To get around this predicament, we joined forces to coordinate our groceries and cooking, so there was a lot of overlap in the ingredients we bought.
If you don’t have roommates, ask another single friend or colleague if they want to share grocery trips - it's also a great excuse to hang out regularly.
- If you live with housemates, talk to them about splitting the cost of buying groceries and ingredients you all regularly use in bulk.
- Bonus Tip: Bulk order your meals and keep them in the fridge for extra convenience. Sign up for meal prep subscription plans to save even more.
Always buy any food with a long shelf life in bulk. It saves you time, money, and convenience by drastically cutting down your shopping trips.
Also, non-perishable and frozen produce are almost always cheaper when bought in bulk.
This rule doesn’t just apply to food groceries. You can also buy toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet food, diapers, school and home office supplies, and much more in bulk (usually heavily discounted).
Just make sure you have enough space to store it all!
- Anything that lasts a long time - and you often use - buy it in bulk and store it somewhere warm and dry. If you have enough space, stock up your freezer too.
- If something is TOO BIG (maybe you don’t need 20kg of pasta), split the purchase with friends or family.
The best places for bulk shopping are big wholesale supermarkets. These warehouse-style retailers are often looked down on for being ‘cheap.’
And they are!
But just because they sell brands you’ve never heard of in huge quantities doesn’t mean it's not good quality food.
Costco and Woodman’s Markets are two famous examples in the US; Lidl, Aldi, and Metro are just some of many examples operating in Europe.
- Before visiting big name brand supermarket chains, check out any cheap wholesale warehouse retailers in your area to bulk buy non-perishable food and household goods.
- As always, check if they offer online shopping and home delivery.
Just like anything you buy, food produced by well-known brands is often more expensive for no reason, only due to their reputation and marketing.
However, there’s often no real difference in quality. In fact, less known brands can actually be tastier. And healthier. And cheaper.
- Don’t automatically buy a product because a big brand produces it. Generic, non-brand products are often just as good (sometimes even better).
- The same is true for the stores where you shop. There’s nothing wrong with shopping at retailers known for being ‘cheap.’ They usually offer the best value.
Speaking of buying in bulk, sales are the best time to stock up on your non-perishable groceries.
Every food retailer uses sales to offload overstocked items in bulk, making them a bargain for savvy shoppers like you.
While less effective, store coupons are also handy for shaving a few dollars off your grocery bill. It may not seem like much at checkout, but over time coupon discounts can save you a lot of money.
- Look out for regular sales at your favorite grocery retailers and use these to stock up on non-perishable foods. Sign up for newsletters and alerts, so you’re notified of sales in advance.
- Don’t ignore coupon offers. They’re an overlooked way to save money.
If you want to eat fresh, healthy dinners and lunches but don’t have time to cook them yourself, meal delivery services are a lifesaver.
The best meal delivery services offer a wide range of healthy dishes prepped for you to cook at home with minimal effort. Or you can go a step further and have cooked meals delivered, ready to eat.
- See what meal delivery services operate in your area and integrate these into your grocery shopping plans.
Bigger, fancier cuts of meat are usually the most expensive (think about a big steak). But if you plan on chopping them up into small pieces, why waste money buying fancy cuts?
If you’re only using meat as a filling ingredient for burritos, casseroles, soups, stews, stir-fries, pasta dishes, etc., go for cheaper cuts instead.
They might not look as impressive and require a bit more work, but you’ll save a ton of money.
- If you’re buying large portions of meat to use small amounts, don’t buy expensive cuts.
- The cheapest meat per kilo is usually chicken, followed by fish, pork, and beef. Use this information to guide your shopping.
No, I’m not talking about the Whole Foods store.
“Whole foods” in this case means food that comes in their original, unprocessed form. Think of a block of cheddar cheese. It’s cheaper, tastier, and healthier than buying packaged shredded cheese. And all you have to do is grate it at home.
The same is true for meats, cereals, beans and legumes, and many fruits and vegetables. Breakfast oats are far cheaper per kilo than processed cereal brands - and significantly healthier.
- Don’t go for overly processed, packaged foods just because they’re convenient. Buy whole foods like vegetables, cheese, and cereals and prepare them for cooking at home.
If you wait until you’re hungry to grocery shop, you’re more likely to stray from your shopping list and budget.
Your hunger will make you crave foods that might be momentarily satisfying but ultimately unhealthy and unfilling. You might be tempted to pick up processed fast food rather than healthier food that takes longer to cook.
- Plan your grocery trips ahead of time and schedule them in advance. Keep your kitchen well stocked with ready-made meals and healthy snacks. Don’t wait until you're hungry to go grocery shopping.
- If you’re about to go grocery shopping and you feel hungry, have a quick, healthy snack before going to the store.
You might think that healthy dishes have to be boring (like raw veggies) or complicated and expensive (like all the healthy food you see on cooking channels).
That’s simply not true.
Without much skill, you can quickly master plenty of delicious dishes that only require a few minutes and simple tools to prepare. From there, it's up to you how much you experiment and develop your cooking abilities.
The tips below will help you cook healthier, keep costs to an absolute minimum, and have plenty of fun.
Every good kitchen is well stocked with a repertoire of non-perishable ingredients you can use in a wide range of recipes. You can usually buy them in bulk and safely store in them the pantry, fridge, or freezer for long periods.
Keeping stocked up with herbs, spices, tinned beans, grains, seeds, sauces, oils, and much more means your food will never get bland. Such ingredients are usually cheap (especially when bought in bulk), so you can also save a ton of money by reusing them over and over again in different dishes.
- Make space in your kitchen for a wide range of staple ingredients you can use in various dishes.
- Make sure you store them properly, so they never spoil or lose their flavor.
- Learn how each one can effortlessly add flavor or texture to any recipe.
Rather than choosing meals to cook and basing your grocery shopping purchases on these, take the opposite approach.
When planning your meals for a week, take stock of what ingredients you already have at home. Use these to guide what dishes you’ll cook without needing to buy a ton of new groceries.
You’ll save time and money while learning new and exciting combinations of ingredients.
- Use the food you already have to guide the dishes you’ll cook each week. Plan your grocery purchases around topping up your pantry or fridge as necessary to finish off any recipes and restock essentials.
- You can download cooking apps that use what you have left in your fridge/pantry to suggest recipes you could cook.
You’ll be amazed at how many healthy dishes you can cook in a single, large pot.
Risottos, pasta, soups, pork chops, curries, shakshuka, couscous… The list goes on.
One-pot dishes give you a chance to experiment with creating healthy, delicious meals that are relatively easy, filling, and require minimal cleanup or space.
Look online for healthy ‘one-pot’ recipes and bookmark them.
You can go for traditional stovetop meals, or use modern appliances like slow cookers for the best (and easiest) results.
Cooking at home usually means lots of leftover food lying around in your fridge and pantry. Usually, this food gets thrown out, discarded, or left to spoil.
But you can probably reuse much of this food in various ways to create even more healthy, delicious dishes.
Before dumping leftover food, think about how you could use it in something else you like to cook. Burritos, stews, soups, broth, homemade pizza, salad, stir-fries, and sandwiches can all be made from leftovers.
If you enjoy the social aspect of eating out but don’t want to spend a lot on restaurants, there is a solution.
Studies have shown that people who cook with friends or family have increased happiness, higher satisfaction with life, and stronger relationships.
Find some friends that enjoy cooking (at a similar ability to you) and plan special evenings where you cook together at home.
It’s true what you’ve been told: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
And few breakfasts are healthier (and cheaper) than a bowl of oatmeal.
Simply put, oats are one of the healthiest grains on the planet. They’re packed with nutrients and have a wide range of proven health benefits. They’re also filling and provide slow-release energy that keeps you going well into the afternoon.
There are few better alternatives to starting your morning.
Overnight oats are a quick and fun way to prepare tasty, healthy breakfasts in advance. The ingredients usually stay fresh for up to 5 days, so make them in bulk for a weekly supply of breakfast.
You can also use a couple of spoonfuls of oats to bulk up some smoothie recipes.
Breakfast oats aren’t the only grains that keep you energized, healthy, and satisfied throughout the day. They’re just one of many whole grains you can easily incorporate into your diet in a wide range of sweet and savory meals.
Brown rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds are all nutritious, tasty, and versatile whole grains that add flavor and texture to any dish.
Learn which grains are healthy whole grains (warning: plain white rice is not one of them) and add these to a wide range of dishes.
They’re a quick, cheap, and easy way to add flavor and texture to your food, along with plenty of nutrients.
Maybe you run on a busy schedule. Or perhaps you don’t enjoy cooking (that’s me!).
Either way, you probably want a quick, tasty, and varied solution to stay healthy without spending too much time in the kitchen. Well, you’ve got two!
Soups and smoothies can be made in very little time, with minimal appliances (a pot, a mixing bowl, and a blender) and deliver delicious snacks and quick meals you can enjoy anywhere.
Buy a blender and learn how to make a wide range of healthy, tasty smoothies and soups for breakfast, lunch, and healthy snacks.
Invest in flasks and Tupperware containers to take your smoothies and soups to work (or anywhere else).
Growing herbs, vegetables, and fruits is not just a fun hobby.
You’ll save a lot of money in the long run; it gives you greater control over the food you consume (you don’t have to worry about GMOs, etc.); and it’s better for the environment.
Not everyone has the space to grow food at home, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to maximize the space you have.
- Set space aside in your garden home* to grow some basic produce yourself. Focus on plants that are easy to maintain and grow produce you can use in various dishes.
- Use Google to find solutions that best fit your living space.
- *preferably close to a window in case of insects or strong fragrances.
Eggs are cheap, versatile, and healthy.
They’re packed full of nutrients and protein, without many fats and calories.
You can cook them alone (like an omelet) or use them to add texture and protein to a healthy dish (like breakfast burritos).
They may not seem the most exciting staple for your diet, but with very little time and effort, you can easily make eggs surprisingly tasty - and filling.
- Learn a few different ways to quickly cook a simple egg and incorporate these into your diet for healthy on the go meals when you’re busy.
- Add eggs into other dishes like breakfast burritos for a staple source of healthy protein.
- But don’t go overboard. Eggs are high in cholesterol and can become quite unhealthy if you eat too many.
What’s the best way to ensure the ingredients going into your food is healthy?
Making everything yourself.
This isn’t always possible when cooking on a budget. However, there are some products you probably buy at the store that you could be making yourself.
Sauces and juices are two great examples. They’re both easy and cheap to make at home, but most people buy them ready-made in supermarkets - where you have no real idea what’s going into them.
Before stocking up on ‘cheap’ processed foods like sauces and juices, learn how you can make them at home first.
Tasty sauces and healthy juices often need little more than a few cheap ingredients and a blender.
If you don’t plan on using them immediately, freeze them for later.
I’m not going to tell you to stop eating out at restaurants. Because you don’t have to!
If you’re following this guide, you’re already saving $100s on groceries without sacrificing much. Now, I’ll show you how to keep eating out without stressing about money or overspending.
After you’ve budgeted for all essential expenses and groceries, allocate a percentage of your income for fun things like eating out.
Determine how much of your budget you’re comfortable spending on restaurants in a month and use this to guide your choices each week. It will stop you from overspending without sacrificing eating out entirely.
- The portion of your budget dedicated to restaurants is entirely up to you. Some people like eating out more than cooking, so they allocate a smaller amount of money to weekly grocery shopping to make up for this.
- The right balance should accommodate your tastes, preferences, and financial circumstances.
When choosing a restaurant, check their menu first to see how much dishes cost and if they’re within your budget.
Doing some basic research saves you any awkwardness when you arrive at the restaurant - or regret if you end up overspending.
You can also decide if it's worth splashing out on an expensive meal, but waiting until you have a little more disposable money to do so.
- Check a restaurant’s website to read an online version of their menu before booking a table or turning up without a reservation.
- If they don’t have a menu online, see if it's listed on any food delivery apps instead. The prices should be the same as in the restaurant.
Some restaurants offer half portions of main courses, catering to solo diners, people on a budget, and those who like to share dishes with the whole table.
Indian restaurants are great for this, as it's a cuisine that’s meant for sharing.
If you don’t want to spend money eating out because you feel the portions are too big and too expensive, half portions are a great compromise. In my experience, they’re often filling enough by themselves, and you don’t feel like you’re getting the scraps.
- Use Google to find restaurants in your area that serve half portions of their main courses. Check reviews to make sure people who ordered half portions were satisfied with the dishes’ size and quality.
If you’re eating out with friends, or just to get out of the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money, have a small snack at home before leaving.
You get the enjoyment of meeting your friends (or a simple change of scenery), but without a full appetite, you’ll be satisfied with a smaller, simpler meal. You might only end up ordering a starter.
It’s a great way to pre-empt cravings, peer pressure, or hunger without spoiling the experience by coming home hungry.
- If you’re planning an evening out at a restaurant, eat a healthy, filling snack at home first. You’ll still have enough appetite to eat something small and have an enjoyable time without overspending.
Eating out with friends and family is one of the most fulfilling ways to socialize and share with people.
One way to make it even more enriching - and fun - is by sharing all your food. This usually already happens when you eat together at home, and it always feels more intimate.
To replicate this feeling eating out, go for cuisines that encourage communally sharing dishes between everyone at the table. You can all then split the bill evenly and save a little money at the end of the night.
- Indian, Chinese, Korean, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, BBQ. These are just some foods best enjoyed when shared with others.
- Instead of everyone eating from a single plate, next time you’re eating out with friends, go somewhere you’ll all be sharing. Then, split the bill evenly (excluding drinks, of course).
Even if a restaurant doesn’t explicitly encourage sharing, you can still often split meals between numerous people.
Think about pizza. It’s quite common to order one pizza between two people. Now, just apply that to everything else!
This works well on date nights when neither of you has a big appetite. But don’t do it on the first date - they might think you’re just cheap.
- Don’t be afraid to split a single main course between 2 people. They’re often big enough to share anyway, and you can save money while cutting down on waste.
If you’ve left loads of food on your plate, don’t feel bad about asking your server to put it in a box so you can take it home with you.
Some people are too embarrassed to do this. But guess what, restaurant staff do it when they eat out!
If you don’t eat it, the food just gets thrown in the bin. If you don’t think you’ll eat the leftovers before they spoil, consider giving it to a homeless person.
- Whenever you have leftovers on your plate when eating out, ask your server to put it in a box for takeaway.
- Even better, take a small reusable food container out with you just for leftovers, so you cut down on packaging.
Plenty of restaurant chains and independent food and drink businesses offer incentives to customers.
These range from exclusive discounts to loyalty schemes and brand partnerships. If you want to avail of such offers, you can:
Sign up for newsletters for restaurants or food blogs in your area
Follow them on social media
Join restaurant rewards programs, memberships, and loyalty schemes
Sign up for credit or debit cards offering cashback and rewards for money spent at restaurants
Offers will vary depending on where you live and what kind of restaurant you like to eat in, but with a little snooping, you should be able to shave off a few dollars from your next meal.
- Follow the steps above to find restaurants offering discounts, rewards, and loyalty schemes in your area. When signing up for financial products, see if they have partnerships for rewards with popular restaurants.
If you’re still studying, chances are your student ID can get you A LOT of discounts at restaurants and bars.
Many colleges and universities provide guides to the best student offers around their campus, but these are usually incomplete. You can find even more deals and discounts if you look around yourself.
- Ask other students about good student meals in your area, look online, and join Facebook groups to keep up-to-date with the latest student deals offered by restaurants close to your campus.
Having a few drinks with your meal is the fastest way to drive up your bill. Without realizing it until too late, you can double the cost of dinner with just a few glasses of wine.
The best way to avoid this is by skipping alcohol altogether.
Stick to water when you eat out, and you’ll save so much money. I stopped drinking alcohol in 2017 but probably eat out even more now. That’s partly due to all the money I save not drinking alcohol with my meals, which I can then spend eating out more often.
- It might sound boring, but try eating out without alcohol. Most people quickly discover that they don’t miss alcohol at restaurants. And few things bring more joy than having the cheapest bill at the end of the night.
If you still want to have a glass of wine or a beer with your meal, but you don’t want to pay exorbitant amounts of money, try BYO restaurants.
At BYO restaurants, diners can bring their own alcohol to accompany their dinner. This can happen for many reasons (religion, culture, personal preferences of the owner) and doesn’t mean the restaurant is lacking in any way. I’ve eaten in plenty of BYO restaurants that are amongst the best in their area.
Also, you get to bring your favorite drinks with you to dinner, rather than picking from the restaurant’s list, so you know you’ll enjoy them.
- Look online for BYO restaurants in your area. Buy a bottle of wine or some beers at the store on your way to dinner to enjoy drinks without the usual restaurant price tag.
I love buffets. And I take “All You Can Eat” as a challenge.
Why do I love buffets? For one, you can eat as much as you like for a fixed price. Win!
But when you gather a group of friends together and eat out at a buffet, it's always a fun and relaxed experience, completely different from regular restaurants. There’s just a different, more laid back atmosphere.
And buffets can be incredibly varied, from Koren BBQ to breakfast brunch.
- Look for buffet-style restaurants in your area. Hotels that welcome the public to join their buffets are good choices too. Gather a group of friends and plan on spending a few hours eating and drinking together.
- If you like sushi, you know it’s expensive. All-you-can-eat sushi buffets are a great deal to save for your money.
‘Pay as You Feel’ restaurants are exactly what they sound like. You decide the value of the meal and pay accordingly.
I’ve seen examples of this model in cities as diverse as Manchester, Melbourne, and Kuala Lumpur. Pay as You Feel restaurants are usually run by NGOs and religious charities focused on feeding low-income communities. Any payment is treated as a donation to support their social work.
They’re often run by professional cooks and restaurant staff who volunteer their time to support the cause. So you don’t have to worry about the quality of your meal or the service.
Use Google to find Pay as You Feel restaurants in your area. When eating at them, use the cost of regular restaurant meals as a benchmark for how much you should pay.
Most restaurants are busiest on the weekends. To match the demand, they often have separate menus with higher prices on Friday and Saturday evenings.
When there’s less demand during the week - but the restaurants still need income - they’ll switch back to a cheaper menu.
If you’re happy to eat out any night of the week, you can save a lot of money doing so midweek.
Then, on the weekends, consider hosting small dinner parties amongst your friends or family, so you still get to socialize.
Treat yourself mid-week by eating out on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. There’ll be less demand for tables, it’s a nice way to end a long workday, and you might save some money too!
Depending on where you live, you should be able to drink tap water in most restaurants.
However, if you don’t specify when ordering, the wait staff will presume you mean bottled water - and then charge you for it.
In such instances, bottled water is a needless expense that is also incredibly harmful to the environment.
When ordering water with your meal, ask if tap water is available and safe to drink. If so, choose it every time and order as many (free) refills as you like.
Like shopping at ethnic stores, ethnic restaurants are great for eating delicious food on a budget.
Look for small, family-owned restaurants serving the immigrant community in your area, and you’ll find incredible hidden gems serving fantastic food at affordable prices.
These are great for trying out new cuisines, experiencing cultures you may otherwise not be familiar with, and learning about the people living in your area that you might not interact with often.
See if there are any small, family-owned ethnic restaurants in your area catering to immigrant populations with affordable, authentic food. Go for dinner at these restaurants instead of higher-end restaurants serving the same cuisine at higher prices.
How about eating for free? Or even better, getting paid to eat?
Restaurants hire mystery diners (through an agency) to test their businesses’ customer experience, without waiting for good (or bad) reviews. As a mystery diner, you’re secretly sent to restaurants to check that specific standards are being met, such as cleanliness, customer service, quality, etc.
The cost of your meals is covered, so you get to eat at popular restaurants FOR FREE. If you build up a good reputation as a mystery diner, some agencies will even pay you for your time.
Sign up with a mystery dining agency in your area to enjoy free meals. Successful mystery diners can get over $100 a month in free meals at excellent restaurants.
I love dessert. It might be my favorite thing about eating out.
But recently, I’ve realized that it's an expensive, unhealthy love affair. Desserts in restaurants are not just incredibly expensive.
Most restaurants don’t make the desserts they sell. They’re ordered from a supplier. The desserts are produced in a factory, just like all junk food, and they’re incredibly unhealthy.
So, these days, I usually skip dessert and save $3-6 per meal.
Enjoy your meal, skip dessert, and stop at an ice cream parlor on the way home if you still want something sweet after.
This one will be controversial, but hear me out.
Many restaurants add a service charge on the presumption you’ll be satisfied with the service you received. But sometimes, the service is terrible, and you’re still charged 15% on top of your meal.
Most people don’t realize you can ask for the service charge to be removed if your restaurant experience was genuinely terrible. I don’t recommend doing this every time you eat out, but keep it in mind next time you’re unhappy with a meal.
If you’ve had a terrible experience at a restaurant, you can ask for the service charge to be removed.
If you do this but don’t feel your server was to blame, consider tipping them directly.
Food is one of the best things about traveling.
You get to try something new, experience local cultures, and enjoy delicious cuisines - all at the same time.
But maintaining a budget and healthy diet when traveling can be challenging. Without planning ahead, expenses can spiral out of control - while you start packing on the holiday weight.
I’ve traveled extensively to over 40 countries in the last decade.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you stay healthy and within your budget, while still experiencing the joys of international cuisines.
Just like at home, creating a budget for eating out when traveling will keep you disciplined.
Most people overlook this vital part of a trip and wind up shocked at how much they (over)spend while traveling.
With a little bit of research, you can quickly figure out how much food costs in most parts of the world and factor this into your overall budget.
For example, Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam are renowned for their cheap, delicious street food. You can often eat out for under $2.
But Paris? Not quite.
Traveling in European cities, you might want to mix eating out and self-catering - or you could end up spending a small fortune.
When planning your trip, research how much food costs in your destination (both groceries and restaurants) and make a daily budget just for that.
Make the most of local markets and supermarket chains to do your grocery shopping.
There may be a language barrier in some countries. Still, I find that with some sign language, a phone calculator, and lots of smiles, you can usually communicate with vendors enough to make basic purchases.
These days, Google Translate also goes a long way.
Buy your groceries in local markets, small, family-run grocery stores, and budget supermarkets.
Wherever you are in the world, you can find small family-owned restaurants and cafes selling cheap local dishes. Seek these out.
Not only can you save money, but they also offer a more authentic experience than bigger, fancy international restaurants selling dishes made with expensive imported ingredients.
Again, you might experience a small language barrier, but ask for English language menus or learn the names of some standard local dishes to avoid any shocks.
Stick to small restaurants selling local dishes. Food halls and markets are also good options.
Staying in an apartment, hostel, or guesthouse with a kitchen is the best way to save money when traveling.
While it might not be as exciting as eating out every night, it’s way cheaper. Also, you can still experience plenty of local culture shopping for ingredients.
If you don’t want to share kitchen facilities with other travelers, consider renting apartments on Airbnb and similar sites. If you’re traveling as a couple or group of friends, they often offer the best value anyway.
Cooking at ‘home’ also makes it easier to monitor what you’re eating and stick to healthier foods.
Choose accommodation with kitchen and self-catering options. You can filter for these on all hotel booking websites and Airbnb.
Ingredients for an omelet are the same all over the world. All you need is eggs, cooking oil, and salt.
The same is true for rice, pasta, some salads, and many simple, healthy dishes.
Before you start traveling, master some basic dishes to cook with simple ingredients available anywhere in the world. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can fall back on these to stay healthy without too much hassle.
Master a handful of simple, healthy dishes you can quickly cook anywhere, with even the most basic ingredients and kitchen supplies.
Yes, even traveling, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day.
In fact, it might be even MORE important.
If you have a packed schedule of sightseeing and tours, you’ll need plenty of calories to keep going.
Load up in the morning with a big, healthy breakfast of oats, fruit, and cereal.
Try not to drink too much coffee, so you don’t crash halfway through a tour.
Wherever you are in the world, make time for a good, healthy breakfast at the start of the day.
Snacking is the quickest and easiest way to fall into bad food habits while traveling.
The lack of routine, constant sightseeing, and long days mean you can easily wind up depending on junk food and unhealthy snacks to keep you going.
To avoid this, set aside some time to make quick, healthy, and filling snacks you can carry around in your bag or backpack and eat on the go.
This is also a great way to avoid snacking on cheap food when you’re in transit on buses or trains.
Pack some reusable Ziploc bags or lightweight Tupperware in your luggage for DIY snacks when you travel.
Buying bottled water when you’re out and about is not just expensive - it's terrible for the environment.
By packing a refillable water bottle, you’ll save money and help to protect the environment.
If you’re in a country where you can’t drink tap water, buy one big 5-10 liter bottle you can keep at your accommodation and use this for your refills every day.
A mettle refillable water bottle can withstand damage from traveling, doesn’t leave a bad taste, and keeps your water cool.
For many people, travel + alcohol go hand-in-hand.
How are you supposed to enjoy yourself without trying out the local beers, spirits, wines, and cocktails as you travel the world? What about the nightlife?
Well, since quitting alcohol in 2017, I can tell you that traveling without alcohol is fantastic - and in many ways, more fun.
And it doesn’t matter how cheap you think a country's booze is. If you’re drinking it every night and with every meal, it quickly gets expensive. You also end up spending a lot more on food, taxis, late checkouts, and other unexpected expenses.
Not to mention, you miss out on so much when you’re spending half your holiday hungover.
So, consider the unimaginable and try doing your next holiday (almost) teetotal.
Cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink when traveling. While it can seem cheap (and fun), the costs quickly add up.
We all know that airport food is insanely overpriced.
But it's also, generally, very unhealthy. If you wait until you get to the airport to eat, you could end up paying $10 for a stale, processed sandwich with no nutritional value.
Instead, plan ahead.
If you’re traveling by air, take a packed lunch with you to the airport. You may not be allowed to take the food with you into the departure zone, but you should have time before going through security to eat a quick snack just in case.
Load up on filling and healthy foods like bananas, nuts, oats, and carrots to stay satisfied for as long as possible.
If I’ve learned anything about traveling, it’s this: ignore Tripadvisor restaurant reviews.
Not only is the site full of fake reviews (both positive and negative), the best-rated restaurants usually cater to tourists rather than locals.
As a result, they’re usually overpriced, inauthentic, and crowded with tour groups.
Instead, use Google reviews, sites like Yelp, and Instagram to find local favorites.
Don’t use Tripadvisor for restaurant recommendations. It's full of fake reviews and overpriced touristy restaurants. And occasionally, fake restaurants.
Hotel receptionists and Airbnb hosts are goldmines for restaurant and food shopping recommendations.
They know cities better than anyone, and if you ask politely (when they’re not busy), you can often get excellent recommendations that you’d otherwise never know.
If you’re taking a walking tour, the same applies to tour guides.
Just make sure they’re not sending you somewhere so that they can get a kickback.
Hotel receptionists, Airbnb hosts, and tour guides are the best people to ask for tips on cheap, authentic places to eat.
When you’re traveling solo, eating out alone is expensive.
It can also be just a little bit lonely.
To save money and have more fun, hook up with people you meet traveling and go out for dinner together.
Once you get to know one another, you can even start cooking together.
Communal BBQs are great for this. You save money, make friends, and don’t have to worry about cooking ‘proper’ food to impress people.
Take every opportunity to eat with other people when traveling. It’s more enjoyable and reduces the cost of eating out.
Restaurants often use lunch menus and ‘menu of the day’ specials to use up ingredients in the kitchen. As a result, they’re usually much cheaper than the regular menu.
But don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you’re getting the scraps and leftovers.
In fact, in my experience working in restaurants around the world, these dishes are often the most exciting and interesting - they give the chef a chance to experiment and be creative.
To save money eating out while traveling, stick to lunch menus and ‘menu of the day’ specials. For dinner, think about self-catering.
Just like at home, buffets are a great way to eat out (and eat a lot!) when traveling - without spending too much.
In some countries, buffets are an essential part of their food culture, and you can find great options that aren’t just overpriced tourist traps. Korean BBQ buffets are just one example.
Buffets offer a chance to load up on lots of food for a set price. They’re also a fun way to eat out with friends and get to know people you meet traveling. Ask the staff at your accommodation for recommendations.
Many cities around the world - especially in Europe - offer tourist cards with discounts for museums and attractions. Most tourists don’t realize they often also include local restaurants.
If an official discount card isn’t available, backpacker hostels often have similar programs with restaurants in their area. Ask at reception if guests get any discounts or promotions.
Look online or visit a tourist office to see if the city you’re visiting has any discount cards for restaurants.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve started staying almost exclusively in hotels, guesthouses, and hostels that offer breakfast included in the price.
While they initially look more expensive, you usually end up saving money.
Having a big breakfast at your accommodation, especially if it’s buffet-style, is quicker and more convenient than making your own (which requires grocery shopping) or eating out for breakfast (potentially expensive and time-consuming).
Not to mention, you really feel like you’re on holiday when you just roll out of bed and go straight for breakfast, with no effort required.
Save time, money, and effort by staying in accommodation with breakfast included in the price. If the breakfast includes fruits and other portable snacks, save them for later and take them out when you go sightseeing.
So far, this list has focused on reducing the cost of food when you’re traveling. But there is another option.
By cutting down on other expenses, you can afford to spend more on food without breaking your budget.
Accommodation is often the biggest expense by far when traveling. But if you switch to staying in cheaper accommodation - like backpacker hostels, campsites, RVs, BnBs, etc. - you can afford to spend more on food.
Spend less on accommodation, so you can budget more for food expenses when you travel.
On a trip to Ethiopia, I decided to check out a traditional dance performance in the capital, Addis Ababa. The performance took place in a huge tent, with a dinner of traditional Ethiopian dishes served to the audience.
Not only was it a great introduction to Ethiopian culture, but I enjoyed a massive, delicious (and cheap) dinner included in my ticket price.
Cities all over the world offer similar experiences - combining cultural events with food. They’re often better value than touristy restaurants and certainly more memorable.
Look out for cultural events and activities that offer meals as part of the ticket to save money and enjoy the experience.
Once in Sofia, Bulgaria, I joined a free food tour. For 2 hours, they took us to a handful of local Bulgarian restaurants to sample various dishes. At the end of the tour, we tipped the guides as we saw fit.
Not only was it a great way to fill up on tasty food (almost for free), but I also got to learn about Sofia’s history and culture. After the tour, I went back to the first restaurant for a proper lunch that cost less than $4.
When planning your sightseeing, see if there are any tours based around food. You’ll save time and money, and learn loads about the local culture.
I’ve packed a lot of information into this guide. It might seem like a lot. But hopefully, you can see now that eating healthily on a budget is quite easy.
By changing your habits slightly, investing in the right equipment, and planning ahead, you can take control of your diet and live a healthier, happy, and more balanced life.