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Eating Well On a Budget

By PearlPoint Nutrition Services September 14, 2012Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Want to stock up on healthy foods without breaking the bank? It is possible to eat healthily while on a budget. Here are some tips to help you maximize your shopping trip!


  • Make a plan for meals for the week and shop with a list to prevent impulse purchases that may not fit in your budget.
  • Limit processed ready-prepared foods. These items can be more expensive and less nutritious than fresh whole foods.
  • Cook at home more and eat out less. You can cook and freeze large batches to save money.
  • Buy extra of foods that last and are on sale. Check unit prices, larger packages are usually cheaper. Dried and frozen foods will keep for a long period of time.
  • Buy items that are used often or are handy to have in bulk when on sale. Items include natural peanut butter, low sodium soy sauce, vinegar, Dijon mustard, low sodium stock, and whole wheat flour.
  • Grow your own herbs and spices to save.
  • Consider purchasing BPA free containers that can be used for storing leftovers and bringing lunch.


  • Use the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Using the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists when purchasing produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are most beneficial to buy organic.
  • Buying whole fresh fruit and cutting it up yourself is cheaper than buying pre-cut fresh fruit.
  • Buy fruits and veggies that are in season. Fresh produce prices can drop when in season.
  • Cut and/or freeze fresh fruit when it is on sale or ripe.
  • For vegetables that are about to go bad, make a soup or freeze.
  • Stock up on long lasting vegetables and store them in a cool dry place. Potatoes and carrots can taste great for weeks after being bought.
  • Purchase plain frozen vegetables and fruits without any added sugars or sauces and season yourself. Frozen veggies are nutritious and keep for a long time.
  • Purchase low sodium or no salt added canned vegetables and rinse to remove more sodium.
  • Purchase canned fruit that is packed in 100% juice or water rather than syrup.
  • Purchase unsweetened dried fruit, it keeps well.
  • Choose 100% fruit juice. 100% fruit juice concentrate is often cheaper.


  • Buy whole grain bread, tortillas, and pita bread when on sale and save in the freezer.
  • Store whole grain breads, tortillas and wraps in the refrigerator to preserve freshness.
  • Grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa can be purchased in bulk and will keep for a long period of time.
  • Buy steel cut oats in bulk or in larger containers, packets cost more and usually contain added sugar and salt.
  • Look for whole grain cereals that contain less than 5 grams of sugar and more than or equal to 5 grams of fiber.

Dairy/dairy alternatives:

  • Purchase low fat or reduced fat dairy products.
  • Sliced and shredded cheese is more expensive. Buy a block and shred or slice yourself to save money.
  • Freeze cheese that starts going bad. Frozen cheese tastes best melted.
  • Buy yogurt in large containers rather than 6 oz serving cups to save money. Plain Greek varieties are usually lower in added sugar. If desired, you can sweeten plain yogurt on your own by adding fruit or jam.
  • Stock up on milk alternatives like shelf-stable soy or almond milk when on sale to save money. Refrigerated milk alternatives keep for longer than cow’s milk.

Protein foods:

  • Buy chicken with the bone in and skin on and remove yourself to save money.
  • Most processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meats) contain nitrates and nitrites that have been linked to increased cancer risk. Look for natural, nitrate and nitrite free varieties if purchasing processed meats.
  • Buy meat that has been treated well (organic, cage free, hormone free, etc.)
  • Aim to replace meat with beans or lentils for 2 dinners per week. Beans are very inexpensive, and a good protein source.
  • Eggs, beans, natural nut butters and nuts are sources of protein that easy to prepare, keep for a long period of time, and are inexpensive.
  • Soak and cook dried beans to save money. Canned save time, but rinse before eating to lower sodium content.
  • Purchase wild caught frozen fish filets, shrimp, and other seafood. Canned tuna and salmon can be a less expensive option. Look for wild Alaskan or Pacific salmon.
  • Raw nuts are often cheaper, you can roast in the oven or in a pan on the stove top yourself if desired. Nuts stay fresh for longer in the freezer.
  • Limit red meat (beef, pork, lamb) to 18 ounces per week. Buying less meat will reserve more money for produce.
  • Purchase the leanest cuts of meat possible, look for “loin” and “lean.” Trim excess fat off of meats to decrease saturated fat content and reduce exposure to pesticides.


  • Use expensive oils like extra virgin olive oil in salad dressings. You can mix 1 part of an expensive oil to 9 parts of a cheaper cooking oil to maximize taste and nutrition for a lower price.
  • Make your own salad dressing rather than purchasing bottled to lower sodium content and save money.
  • Try using a spritzer bottle filled with oil for spraying when cooking. You will use less oil this way and save money.
  • Buy whole avocados and make your own guacamole instead of purchasing premade.

Overall, consider these guidelines for eating well for cancer prevention adapted from AICR:

  • Shop mostly from the perimeter of the store selecting fresh produce, meats, and dairy products.
  • Look for short ingredient lists. If it has more than a few that you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it!
  • Buy foods in their most naturally occurring form. Eat fewer processed foods.
  • Move toward a plant based diet. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
  • Choose a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise daily, eat nutritious foods and strive to reach a healthy body weight.

Adapted from

Blog Author: Katherine T. Fowler, MS, RDN, CEDRD, LDN
PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

Author PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

PearlPoint Nutrition Services is a program of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

More posts by PearlPoint Cancer Support Staff

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