Tips For Eating Clean When You’re Broke

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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. graciouspantry says:

    I was feeding a family of 5 for a while and I spent about $150 a week on groceries. You can certainly eat the rest of the bird. It’s cheaper to buy the whole thing if your budget is tight. Then use the bones and such to make broth/stock. Just don’t eat the skin as it’s the fattiest part.

  2. graciouspantry says:

    So are you referring to single ingredient items or actual recipes that freeze well?

  3. graciouspantry says:

    Generally, with clean eating, you tend to get more protein. And that does fill you up. So it may help, yes. And when your body gets all the nutrients it needs, it’s not as hungry either. That said, growing boys are notorious for eating a ton of food. So it’s hard to say if it will help or not, but it’s worth a shot!

  4. As a University student, clean eating is a struggle financially, and time wise..but its something I really want to implement into my life. Thank you for your tips!

  5. Hello everyone! I just wanted to say thank you for all the advice and tips I have read! I am actually going to start transitioning my family tomorrow. I have to do something my 7 year old daughter is weighing 108 pounds :/ and me and my better half have quiet a bit to loose as well. So we are turning this family around and making healthy choices. I am just so lost on where to start. I decided to do clean eats about a week ago and have been reading up on things since then and now tomorrow is the big day to clean out certain things and bring new things in! So, if anyone has any easy recipes that we can start with it would be greatly appreciated! I have three picky kids so I am nervous about the change. Thank you to everyone!

    1. I recommend checking out my kids section. You’ll find a lot there that your kids will most likely enjoy.

  6. Found your site through pinterest and what a find! So many resources and helpful tips. We started eating clean about 2-3 weeks ago. It was nice to read that we are on the right track. At first I was so overwhelmed, but friends convinced me to take baby steps – not do it all at once. I look forward to being totally clean, but for now, am pumped about the journey. I could relate to many of your stories and tips and have been “pinning” many of your recipes and ideas. I’ve subscribed to your recipes, and will be back many many times!

  7. I also have a problem here in Southeast Kansas finding foods for clean eating at an affordable price. In the spring/summer it’s not so bad, but in winter it’s awful trying to find these items without having to take out a 2nd mortgage on your house. We have a large backyard, and do grow our own veggies in the summer. I can up as much as possible, and make an awesome salsa straight from home! Only thing I add is vinegar! One thing that is impossible, though, is being able to tell whether or not the seeds we buy for our garden are from Monsanto, or some other altered food ‘factory’. None of them say on the back, and Monsanto has so many sister companies….That’s the only thing I hate about purchasing seeds for our garden. I’ve been told ‘they’ have a hand in just about every seed packet in the country…Any tips there? ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yes actually! Baker’s Creek (www.rareseeds.com) is a pretty good one, you can also find heirlooms from Peaceful Valley (www.groworganic.com). Both companies have non-gmo seeds.

  8. When we lived in Raleigh they had an amazing farmer’s market. I would shop in the wholesale building that the local restaurants would also utilize, and it saved me a TON of money. Most people don’t realize that the general public can shop in there as well. Wish we still lived there, the prices where we live in Georgia are ridiculous.

  9. Hi! My daughter told me about this site. I’ve started eating clean about a month ago because of a book I read…The Perfect 10 Diet. It’s not really a diet, but about eating organic good food that will control the 10 major hormones which will help you live a healthier life. It will help you lose weigh if you want, but it’s not necessary to be healthier. I’ve lost about 11 pounds. I’ve found that Costco here in MN is a great source of organic meat, chicken and ground beef. I go in with a few people so it’s not like I’m buying a TON of food just for me. It’s great that we can split the cost of a big package of meat between two or three people. Anyway, long story short, my daughter has convinced her family to give it a try…a step at a time for them, so I’ve VERY happy!

  10. Hi! I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying your site. I started going to the gym and trying to eat healthy in January and I’ve come across the concept of clean eating in the past few weeks. I’ve got to admit I’m struggling with it at the moment (I live in Central London, UK, and most of the supermarkets are small, metro versions so they don’t stock a lot of variety), but I’m taking it one step at a time and find your site really, really helpful, so thank you!
    Emma x

  11. Mrscarter says:

    I am not sure if this counts but my easy suggestion is to grow your own sprouts. Are those clean? I am new to this and I have enjoyed reading so much. It can be overwhelming. I like growing my sprouts because I can grow them in the winter and have cheep green to add to just about anything.

  12. I just found you via a FB friend who has lost 85lbs last year. She attributed most of it to eating healthier by way of clean eating. I am sort of lost though so I have printed out pretty much all of your getting started articles. Mo, thanks so much for all of your advice. Amazing and it doesnt sound so hard to do. Others are very helpful too, thank you.
    We have had a small garden for the past 3 years. When I freeze sauces or soups, I fill the freezer baggies half to 3/4 the way full, take the air out and lay them flat to freeze. Makes it easier to manuever things in the freezer as well taking up space.
    I am looking forward to this journey and am confident that once I run into any snags along the way, I can ask for advice here!

  13. I just discovered your website and am looking at using several of your suggestions as I began to change our eating methods. I had some questions on the Healthy homemade bread recipe. So…just to be sure–the video said 5.5C WW flour + 2C AP flour. Instead you use 7.5C WW Pastry flour? You said you were only using 3 ingredients…but I noticed kosher salt, granulated yeast AND vital wheat gluten, and of course water. Did you nix something else? Thanks for all you do!

    1. Mae – Was that on this blog post? I think I know what you are referring to and if so, then yes. I used 7.5 cups ww pastry flour.

  14. I can’t buy Organic here in Texas it is SOO pricey. Non-organic is spanic is $1.30 while the Organic is $3 to $4 dollars it is so crazy.

  15. to help me freeze more i freeze in the dollar store freezer bags they lay flat and r cheap i have lots of disabilbtiy so i cook enough for a couple meals at a time sometimes and freeze the left overs for when i am unable to cook i just thaw and nuke so much healthier than fast food

  16. Hello! I’ve seen your blog referenced on Facebook and heard about it through friends at LEAST once a day for the last 10 days, I swear…so I decided to come by and check it out! I’m just slowly getting on board (again) with clean eating…I’m at about 50% now, and, as you mentioned above, it’s a journey, not an overnight process, so I’m being kind to myself when I accidentally find my spoon in a Talenti gelato container. These suggestions (yours, and everyone elses) will be so beneficial for me. Thank you for posting all of the fantastic recipes, and for sharing your life with us!

  17. Switched myself and family to clean eating three weeks ago. I like the idea of making my own beans. Do you have a receipe. I am not very creative when it comes to cooking and in the past relied on canned and frozen. I love your blog I have made several of your receipes in the last three weeks. Thanks

    1. Staci – It’s been my experience that the best way to cook dry beans is in a slow cooker. I have a 4 quart pot. I put 1-2 cups of beans in the pot and fill it a little more than 3/4 of the way up with water. I let it cook all day and I get perfect beans every time. (you do have to drain them). If you don’t have a slow cooker, then you’ll have to do it on the stovetop. A large pot with approximately 3-4 cups of water for every cup of beans. I’m sure there are other ways to make them, but those are the two I know of.

  18. heather malott says:

    Your website has been a godsend for my family and myself! Started clean eating just recently and I basically plan my weeks off of your pinterest page. 1 thing I’m having trouble with is when reading the ingredient list I’m not sure if there are certain ingredients that sound scary to me but may actually be clean. I was hoping you would know of a resource that would help clarify what to have and what not to. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  19. This comment is for LIS that used to live in Raleigh.

    I live near Raleigh and was wondering what whole sale building you are talking about?? I would love to start clean eating and feel like Im lost but would love to shop somewhere not so expensive for certain things. Thank you for your help!!!

  20. My Mom’s favorite technique for saving money on clean food is to visit the produce clearance rack. Most grocery stores have them, but they are not always easy to find. She usually uses whatever she finds for that night’s dinner, but if she finds bell peppers, she’ll slice them and freeze them for up to a week. (If they last that long – frozen bell pepper strips are one of my favorite summertime snacks!)

    1. Fal – Interesting. I’ve never seen anything like that in the stores here. Wish we had them!

  21. For all of you looking to save freezer space I use a foodsaver type system. It removes all the extra air and I get more in the freezer then when I used freezer bags. Also I used to work in a food store if your looking for the clearance or marked down produce or other fresh date sensitive food usually the day before a products sell by date we would print out manager special stickers on to the items our tags are yellow. Also ask your store if they use this practice so you know what to look for. hope this helps those on a budget.

  22. I love eating clean!! Lots of people don’t realize that cutting out all the C.R.A.P.
    Carbonated beverages
    Refined sugar
    Artificial sweeteners
    Processed foods
    Can stop joint inflammation from arthritis as well as reduce diabetes and heart medicine improve fibromyalgia improve thyroid function and improve moods by reducing the amount of blood glucose fluctuations that can cause mood swings…. And The list goes on. I am taking my grandmother to the store tomorrow to show her it’s possible to eat clean on a small budget! My two year old do it, it can be a pain some days cooking but it’s totally worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚ love your website I’ve been following you for a year now ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Jessica – Thanks so much! And yes, what we put in out mouths has the potential to harm us or heal us. Food is powerful stuff!!

  23. Thinking of embarking on this journey…I have never been good nutritionally…Hoping to get my family eating healthier.

  24. I am just looking into how to start clean eating. I love to bake! Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, everything from scratch. Is it possible to do this clean? Can you recommend recipes or baking blogs? Thank you.

    1. Casie – I think I have more dessert recipes on my blog than anything else. If you click the Recipe Index at the top of the page, you can look under the Desserts section. Lots of stuff there. Enjoy! ๐Ÿ˜€

  25. Thank you for this information. I am very new to the idea of eating clean and although I find the benefits worth it. The idea is some what overwhelming. I have two kids and one income in the home. We are on a very strict budget. Can you recommend some good reading materials to me? Thank you in advance.

    1. Candis – The only reading materials I can recommend are this blog, My Whole Food Life, Elana’s Pantry and for printed materials, I would say Clean Eating Magazine. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re looking for though…