Tips For Eating Clean When You’re Broke

Does clean eating seem like an expensive and overpriced option to you? Are you avoiding it because you just don’t think you can afford it?

I was the same way at first. That is until I learned how to eat clean on a budget! Below, I’ll share with you the 5 tricks and tips I’ve used to do just that.

5 Tips For Eating Clean When You're Broke

Shop In Bulk

Start in the bulk section of your local health food store. Bulk foods are cheaper than the packaged versions, and you get really clean and healthy foods. Think beans (easy to cook and cheaper than buying cans), whole grains such as barley, millet, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), and whole grain flours. Avoid anything boxed or canned. While this is pretty much a general rule of clean eating, many clean items still come in a can or box. Remember, you pay for the packaging!

Selective Organics

You don’t have to purchase all organic produce to get the benefits of eating organic. Save your money for the organic options of the “dirty dozen.” Those foods which contain the highest amounts of pesticides.

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Bell Pepper
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Grapes
  10. Spinach
  11. Lettuce
  12. Potatoes

Get Familiar

I shop at three different stores because I know where I can get better prices on different foods and supplies. That said, you have to factor in the carbon footprint and cost of driving from store to store. For me, these stores are relatively close together. If I had to drive further to get to each one, it would outweigh the benefits of going to a cheaper store.

Clip Those Coupons

While few people want to take the time to clip and organize coupons, it can definitely add up in the savings department. Typically, you won’t find a lot of sales on bulk items or fresh produce. But often, stores will put out coupons for a certain amount off of your entire order, as opposed to the manufacturer offering a discount on one specific item. Keep your eyes open for these deals. I know Whole Foods occasionally offers discounts on anything in their bulk section. This is the time to stock up, especially on items you buy regularly.

Cook From Scratch

I know, I know. You don’t have time to cook every day. But with a little planning, you can work on home-cooked meals every day of the week. Plan to cook and freeze portions of large recipes on the weekend. Bake your own bread. With the right recipe, it’ll be cheaper than that 99-cent loaf at the SaveMart. And it’s easy! Here’s a recipe for Healthy Bread In 5 Minutes A Day, and here’s another quick and affordable recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

Make Poor Man Meals

Keep those homemade meals simple. Fewer ingredients equals less cost per serving. While the term “Poor Man Meals” may not be the most uplifting, it gets to the heart of my point: Don’t make elaborate meals. Keep it simple, like spaghetti or fried eggs on whole-grain toast.

Buy The Whole Bird

Buy a whole, organic chicken. Yes, it seems pricey at first. (I paid almost $14 for a medium-sized, organic chicken at Trader Joe’s). But here’s the thing. There are so many ways to extend the “life” of that chicken. The meat can be frozen or used in soups, sandwiches, or on its own. Plus, once you’ve removed the meat, you can boil the bones to make the best chicken stock ever. You just can’t beat homemade chicken stock. So you can start to see where you can actually save money by buying a whole bird.

This is by no means a definitive list. If you know of any ways to save on eating clean, please share them in a comment below. We’re all on a budget these days. Let’s help each other out and save some money while still maintaining our health!

Article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.

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111 Comments

  1. Love the list!
    I love freezing a lot of the stuff I use, so that I can buy things when they’re on sale, freeze them, and be able to put something together quickly and also if I don’t use them for a while they don’t go bad. I peel fresh ginger and freeze that, I chop lots of onion and freeze it, I zest lemons and freeze it, I wash cilantro, dry it and freeze it… I freeze a lot of things, so everything’s on hand when I need it. I also keep many organic cheeses in the freezer because I don’t use cheese very often but it’s nice to have on hand, so when there’s a coupon or something’s on sale, I get it.
    Also, buying frozen fruit and vegetables is normally much cheaper than buying fresh and as long as it’s JUST the fruit and veggies and no additives or sugars it might be more nutritious than buying fresh since they’re frozen at their prime.
    And like you said, cooking from scratch is best but sometimes it takes a little time. So, it’s a good idea to take some spare time to make your own clean-eating mixes (like for pancakes or muffins, maybe) and store them in the freezer so it’s not such a hassle but you don’t have to pay a lot of money for the good-quality mixes.
    Also, shopping at warehouse stores really help. They have a lot of junk food, but they also sell whole ingredients really cheap, like rolled oats and agave nectar and organic peanut butter that just has roasted peanuts and salt (at least my local Costco does) which definitely saves on costs. Sometimes looking at the big-company stores not known for having health food helps. More often than not, they listen to what the customer wants and a lot have started stocking more wholesome ingredients simply because that’s what’s “in” and will get them money, and they probably sell it a bit cheaper, especially if it’s a warehouse store.
    Stock up on BEANS. It’s not necessary to eat meat every day, and it’s healthier to eat fish so why not save that money toward good-quality fish and eat more beans? Buy them dry, preferably in bulk, and cook them in some salted water. You can freeze them and if you’re adding them to stews or soups, they’ll defrost as they cook. Or you can defrost them yourself and use in things like tacos and salads. As long as you don’t overcook them, beans hold up extremely well to freezing.

    I think that’s all I have. ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and I bought a star fruit the other day because I saw they were on sale. It’s not ripe yet but I can’t wait to try it!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Hey Mo!

      Such great ideas! My freezer is so small that I can’t freeze too much, but I do have it crammed with good food. I keep telling myself I’m going to buy a deep freezer some day, and then…. let the cooking REALLY begin! lol

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Tiffany

  2. I just wish I could have a better selection of good foods here where I live. I am from small town Iowa and things are hard to find. Everything Organic or anything healthy here in Iowa is almost outrageous! I want a Trader Joes so bad here!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Hi Angie,

      I’m so sorry. Have you tried growing your own veggies? If you don’t have much space, you can always try container gardening. I do that here with my son. We only have a small patio off our condo. We have fresh herbs all season long!

      All you can really do, is the best you can. Buy the best you can afford, and cook as clean as you can. Believe me. Even small changes make a big difference!

      Take care,
      Tiffany

    2. I totally agree with you. I live in a little town in Iowa myself and gosh it is so hard to find things that will be healthy and nutrious. Organic is just so expensive that it makes it hard.

      1. The Gracious Pantry says:

        Vanessa – Dry beans, rice, lentils, oats, things like that are always affordable. Do you have those in your locals stores? Add some fresh produce and you’re doing pretty good. Is that available to you? Or can you sign up for a farm box? Order from Amazon? A lot of people do weekly grocery shopping that way and it comes right to your door.

  3. Tiffany,

    My freezer is small, too! Haha. I just cram and cram and cram until it all fits, then eat away to make room. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      I wonder if I could get my 2 year old to sit on some of my freezer food like you do a suite case. Maybe then I could get it all in? Just a thought. lol

  4. Heard about your blog through Facebook. I am trying to eat clean as well. It’s hard. I’m about 50% successful so far, but I feel that the percentage is growing. Thanks for this blog!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Thanks Becky!

      I’m glad you found it too! Making the switch to clean eating is a process. You can’t expect to go cold turkey overnight. As long as your percentage keeps growing, you’re doing very well!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Tiffany

  5. Great ideas! I’m going to try my hand at growing my own tomatoes this summer to try to save some money. Wish me luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Hi Shannon,

      You’ll do great! Plenty of sunshine and water, and you’ll have more tomatoes than you know what to do with.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Ive been clean eating for about 6 months now with a few slip ups every great once in a while , but iam thankful i picked up toscas books . I started 6 months ago on losing weight and only got so far before i stopped and tryed everything to finish losing and when i found clean eating more just started coming off with no effort . Iam so thankful i found clean eating and i try to spread the word about it and hope more will follow .

  7. Thanks for the budget tips. One way I save money is being vegetarian though i occassionally eat seafood. I have a small patio on my condo as well and am doing container gardening this year to grow my own herbs and veggies i use often.
    I like the freezer idea for allot of items! Some things I buy and freeze are: zuchini, squash, portabello mushrooms (my meat replacement and SO yummy). I also make my own spahgetti sauce and freeze that too along with vegetable soups in the winter time.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      That’s great Michelle! I tried being vegetarian for a while, but just could not stick with it. I admire you for doing it. That’s wonderful!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. Hello… I like to save all of my cuttings from vegetables.. anything and everything cut from onions, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.. and any herbs that you would put into a soup broth.. (ex.. parsley, thyme..etc.). I put them all in a gallon size freezer bag and when the bag gets full, I make my own vegetable broth. Just toss in water, boil for a few hours, strain.. and your ready to make soup or freeze for later use… minus additives and high sodium.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Robyn – That is an amazing tip!! I think I’ll use that myself. Thank you so very much!

  9. i do have a large deep freeze, so i make great use of it. one trick i do for the kids is i make all kinds of wholewheat muffins, banana, bran, blueberry..ect..they defrost well within 30 min. or 20 sec in micro. i also make breakfast cookies, i go to bulk section and grab all the nuts and seeds the kids like and freeze them for when time is short. just give each kid a cookie on the way out.
    i also make my beans from scratch and i dont add salt at all, just a couple of cloves garlic when boiing. salt can make it take forever to cook as it stops the water from penatrating the outer skin. i also make musli for snack time. the kids love it with a touch of honey for sweetness. its cheap and healthy. i love having a deep freeze. i can really take advantage of those once i year sales..lol
    des

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Desiree – I’m envious! I’d love to have a deep freezer. My mom has one, and they’re fantastic. Not very expensive either. But I don’t have the room at the moment. Serious bummer. Some day though!

  10. Hether Crawford says:

    Great tips!

    Buying local, in-season only produce is a great way to save money! You cut out the middle man. Also, pick one day every week to go meatless. It’s only one day, and it saves a lot!

    This spring/summer I have a group of friends that have agreed to start a “community” garden with me! We are all going to plant, work and harvest, saving a lot of money!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Heather – What a fabulous idea! More people should create community gardens. In fact, if you get a chance, check out the book Food Not Lawns. Such a fabulous look at cutting your food budget and helping your community in the process!

  11. Great tips! I heard on TV that dried beans cost 1/5th as much as canned. I’m too dependent on the cans and need to break this habit. Can you freeze soaked beans?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sarah – You can freeze beans for up to 6 months (I believe, it might be longer) after they have been cooked.

  12. HI great tips!…I heard about your website through youtube and I’m trying to lose weight. I wanna explore clean eating and it benefits. I’m a little confused about your list at the top. Is it a list of what we should eat or a list of what we should avoid?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Shay – My list at the top? I’m not sure what list you are referring to. If you meant the list of foods at the top of this article, that’s just a list of foods that you should try to buy organic instead of conventional due to pesticide content. Usually, the thicker the skin is on a fruit, the less you have to worry about how much pesticides have sunk in.

  13. Great list! I was just telling someone about clean eating and her main concern was how she would afford it. Forwarding her this now!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Megpies – Fabulous! Thanks for sharing my article!

  14. Great list. Looking forward to the chicken stock recipe. There is a Trader Joes coming this year to a city near me, so excited for this! Thanks Tiffany ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Oh, I wish I had a deep freezer! My fridge freezer is crammed to the point that I don’t even know what’s back there anymore. ๐Ÿ™ If I had a deep freezer, I’d prepare four-serving lasagnes, and make my own muffins (instead of the VitaTops and Van’s muffins I’ve been getting).

    I’d, definitely, have to blend and freeze lots of whole fruit popsicles for my sweet cravings. There would be black cherries with dark chocolate chips, cherries with vanilla yogurt, strawberries and kiwi, grapes and no-sugar-added white grape juice… Mmm… ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Charlena – Sounds like it’s time to clean out the freezer!!

  16. In the meantime, I can just run some frozen mixed berries through my Magic Bullet and eat it like granita. ๐Ÿ™‚ A splash of fruit juice would melt it enough to make a sorbet.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Charlena – Sounds yummy!

  17. bloominwhereGodplantedme says:

    the best ways we save are growing our own herbs and veggies (we have more luck with tomatoes than anything else…. early girl and big boy always give us the most fruit… growing lettuce and kale is also really easy and they’re pretty… you can plant them in with your flowers!! For several years I just mixed edibles in with my flowers lol!! Tomatoes are great b/c you can make so many things from them… pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup, the ilst goes on… frozen fruit also helps a lot in the winter… just check the label to make sure they don’t add a bunch of crap to it lol! Also throughout the summer I try to pick up an extra here and there (peaches, berries, squash, etc….) and freeze it… that way by the time winter rolls around we have lots of stuff in the freezer (we have a deep freeze that I would be willing to stick in the living room if I had to haha! Just throw a table cloth over it and call it a “sidebar” ha! Also buy cheap oats in bulk and grind them in the food processor to make oat flour… the same can be done with rice… buying the flour in the store is ridiculously expensive!!!! Oh! And another trick to make your freezer space go further…. instead of putting stuff in tupperware containers or whatever… put it in freezer baggies and let all the air out…. then it just takes up a tiny bit of space and it will pretty much “freeze” to whatever wedge of space you happen to have. Sorry this is long…. just my thoughts!

    1. Anonymous says:

      BWGPM – Wow!!! Thank you so much for the hints and tips! Man, I wish I had a deep freezer. I would give just about anything for one of those. Some day! Love the zip lock bag trick. I WILL remember that one!!

  18. betty @sweatstudysleeprepeat says:

    love this post.. ive recently decided to change my lifestyle and start eating clean.. i’m def having a hard time adjusting my budget..which stores to shop at, which items to get when.. so thanks. i need to start using these tools!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Betty – You bet! You don’t have to go broke eating clean!

  19. graciouspantry says:

    Christi – Excellent point! So very true!

  20. graciouspantry says:

    Alicia – So true! Thanks for the input!