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July 16, 2019 / Amy Height

Your Guide To Clean Eating On A Budget


With its focus on fresh veggies, unprocessed proteins, and whole grains, clean eating meal plans can seem like a pricey proposition. Good news: clean eating doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s possible – even easy! – to nourish your body on a budget. All it takes is some planning and a bit of strategy.

Clean eating is a commonly used term with many varying meanings, but a simple way to define it is putting unprocessed foods into your body. These are foods that have had little done to them: they’ve had nothing added or removed from their natural state. Clean eating prioritizes these minimally processed foods over heavily processed and refined ones, which the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics designates as foods that have been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways.

What this leaves on a clean eating menu is a wide variety of whole foods that offer tons of nutrition and great flavor – including many options to keep your wallet full and your grocery budget on track.

Tips for Eating Clean on a Budget

Clean eating can be affordable! While it might mean foregoing the $24 piece of salmon at the fish counter or the locally-foraged morel mushrooms, you can build a varied weekly menu that will help you feel your best. Nutrition and budget-consciousness can coincide: here are some of our favorite ways to eat clean on a budget.

Avoid Trendy Health Foods

health food supplement pills

The term “natural” and “healthy” on food labeling is not regulated, which means that food products that claim these benefits may not be as healthy as advertised. These products are often more expensive, too.

Not sure how to tell what’s real and what’s marketing fluff? As a general rule: The best clean eating plans are the ones that involve little or no packaged food. Fresh veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are nourishing, budget-friendly options, with no fancy logos or buzzwords required. You don’t have to visit a specialty store or organic-only establishment: you can eat clean on conventional produce, quality meat, and plant-based proteins from your local grocer. Farmers markets can also be a great place to source locally-grown fruit, vegetables, and meats without the premium price tag.

Plan Ahead So You Don’t Have to Buy Expensive Meals Out

Stopping for a $15 salad every day of your work-week can add up quickly. Cut this expense by planning and packing your own lunch and organizing your homemade dinner in advance with a clean eating meal plan. Having foods prepared for your day and something delicious waiting at home will save your wallet, and help you avoid unexpected expenses (and junk food!) when hunger strikes.

Pack Nutrient Dense Snacks On The Go

A satisfying snack that keeps you fueled is essential to avoiding the siren song of the vending machine. Plan your snacks ahead of time, focusing on ones with a balance of carbs, fat, and protein to help sustain you throughout the day. These two snacks take less than 30 minutes to prepare and are easy to make in advance for the week ahead:


Prepare Meals with Ingredients You Already Have

Knowing what is in your pantry will help reduce food waste, save money, and reduce the time you need to spend at the grocery store. It can be helpful to do a thorough inventory of your fridge and pantry once a week, and craft your clean eating meal plan based on what you already have. PlateJoy’s smart grocery lists allow you to add what is already in your kitchen and the app creates meal suggestions based on the food you already have.

Make a Grocery List Ahead of Time

couple shopping at supermarket with shopping list

Making a grocery list ensures you don’t waste time and money buying groceries you don’t need. After doing an inventory of your pantry and fridge, craft a grocery list that focuses on the perimeter of the grocery store: fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and meat are sold here, and you can avoid the pricier interior aisles that house processed food.

Clean Eating Recipes That Won’t Break the Bank


With all of these budget-friendly steps in mind, use your ingredients to create a great meal plan of recipes for the week ahead. If you don’t have time to craft your own recipes, a meal planning service can do it for you. To get you started, here are some budget-friendly clean eating recipes to incorporate into your week:

The Takeaway

With a little planning ahead and some careful strategizing in the grocery store, it is possible to eat clean on a budget. Avoiding pricey brand-name health foods and opting for fresh greens and bulk grains can make a big difference in your grocery bill, and planning your meals can set you up for success. PlateJoy can help you get started on a clean eating journey with simple, custom meal plans to suit your preferences and your budget.

Amy Height
Holistic Nutritionist @ From the Ground Up Wellness

Amy Height is the founder of From the Ground Up Wellness, a holistic nutrition practice where she specializes in plant-based nutrition and helping her clients combat food addiction. She completed her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she received her certification in the Health Coach Training Program. She is a triathlete and CrossFitter with a passion for all things outdoors. By night, Amy stage manages Broadway musicals and she frequently travels North America seeking out the best vegan restaurants and the best run courses. Follow her on Instagram or check out her blog for recipe and wellness ideas.


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