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. 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!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Melanie – My pleasure! I’m happy I can help in some way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. 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. The Gracious Pantry says:

      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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!!!

  5. 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. The Gracious Pantry says:

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

  6. 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.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Liz – Nice tips! Thanks!

  7. 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. The Gracious Pantry says:

      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!!

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

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Carol – I’m sure you’ll do great!

  9. 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. The Gracious Pantry says:

      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˜€

  10. 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. The Gracious Pantry says:

      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…

  11. Hello, I have started clean eating back in March. I had read a couple of Tosca Reno books about clean eating and I have looked over your site as well. I was sold on the idea of cutting out sugar and this would help me loose weight. You see i am 42 ( close to 43) and i weigh 334 pounds. I finally came to the reizarion back in March, that i really need to do something. But the sad part about it is, i have been working out at a gym for the last two yrs. I had lost y 0 pounds and gained it ba k cause i just did not care, then one day i had my “ah, ha” moment. So, I pulled out my CE books and got started. But I belive I am making some mistakes. In a months time, I had only lost 10 pounds, this was working out as well at leaat 3 to 4 times a week. This is what I ate in one day: B: Oatmeal (not instant) w/flax seed and wheat germ, 3 hard boiled eggs whites and one yoke. S: missed was working out, L: Tuna salad sandwich ( olive oil mayo, sweet relish ( what I had on hand, and sm amount & chia seeds) 9 whole grain’s bread and a cheese stick. S: apple w/Almond butter, D: whole wheat pasta, natural spagetti sauce added black beans and grd turkey, S:banana and walnuts, (up late, stay at home mom, usually up late) another snack, clean eat pumkin/walnut muffin. So what do you think with this one meal? Also another question, my 9 yr old is eating clean with me, but he is a little over weight, but he is complaining he is still hungry, I would not let him eat anymore, then all of a sudden I noticed he is going thru a growing spirt. How shld I handle this? I hope you can help, jt wld be greatly appreciated. Thx

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jill B. – In regards to your son, be very careful. I don’t know how old he is, but you don’t want to interfere with healthy growth. As long as he’s eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise, I wouldn’t deny him a healthy snack. If he’s hungry enough to eat a salad or a bag of veggies, then he’s honestly hungry. If he’s saying he’s hungry but only a muffin will do, than you can probably feel safe saying no because it’s more likely just a craving. I think your best course of action is to talk to a dietitian where your son is concerned. They can help you determine how many calories he should be getting every day, especially while growing. I know when I was young, I ate like a bird until a growth spurt hit. Then I ate everything in sight. But every kid is different, so please consult a dietitian. It’s well worth it.

      As for you, have you considered cutting back a bit on the carbs? It seems like you are getting a lot of them. With clean eating, you have to keep things balanced and from what you list here, it just looks heavy on the carbs. This is just a guess though. I’m not a dietitian. It’s very difficult for me to give out specific advice the way a dietitian can. I’m sorry, I wish I could be more help.

  12. I do apolgize for typing errors. I had lost 50 pounds

  13. Danielle C. says:

    Hi! I have been wanting to start eating clean for a long time but when I start looking into it I get overwhelmed. Also, Im on an extremely tight budget right now. Since I dont have the extra $ to stock up can I still eat clean until I can afford to buy in bulk?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Danielle – Bulk is typically cheaper than packaged goods. But you don’t have to buy bulk to eat clean.

  14. Thank you for your responses. I was wondering if I was having too many carbs. But I think this is confusing me a little ( I might be over thinking it ) From my understanding, you are to have a complex carb and protien at each meal? I just want to make sure Im doing this correctly, I hope you don’t mind If I disect this so I am understanding? So for the breakfast, oatmeal ( complex carb )w/flax seed ( healthy fat) and wheat germ (complex carb ); which I believe was too much carbs, right? Plus the 3 egg whites (protein ). Lunch, Tuna (protein )salad sandwhich ( bread was a 9 wholegrain, not 9 pieces of bread, which was a complex carb ) tuna was mixed w/ mixed with olive oil mayo & sweet relish and chia seed ( healthy fat ). Sweet relish bad, I know and a cheese stick ( protein). Snack: apple ( complex carb ) almond butter ( protein ). Dinner: whole grain pasta ( complex carbs ) natural spagetti sauce w/ black beans ( compkex carbs ) was this too many compkex carbs? And ground turkey ( protein ). Snack: banana ( complex carb ) walnuts ( protein and healthy fat ). Late snack: pumkin/walnut muffin, ( complex carb and protein and healthy fat ). So am I looking this coeectly? Again, I hope you dont mind me disecting this, as I stated before, I just want to make sure I am doing this right. Thank you bunches…..

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jill B – You definitely have the right idea! I simply meant that if you are not making the progress you would like to make, that maybe you need to look at adjusting your macros. Perhaps, even with this balance, it’s just too much for your body. A big part of clean eating is figuring out what works for you personally. Sometimes you have to tweak things a little. So maybe try having eggs and a turkey patty for breakfast and have a low carb dinner. I really don’t know anything about what will work for you, you just have to experiment to see what will get your body moving in the direction you want it to.

  15. Made this morning, not bad. I tried the “icing”, it made the oatmeal thicker, but that is ok. Have to try new things. But I have noticed that eating clean, some foods are bland in taste. Thank you for the recipe, otherwisee, not bad…..

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jill B – Icing?

  16. Ok, good. Thank you much….

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jill B – Sure!

  17. One of the comments from above, they took greek yogart and vanilla to make an icing.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jill B – Oh! Okay. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Sorry , it was on cartot cake oatmeal comments.

  19. kyli atkinson says:

    I have been trying to find the whole recipe to the banana, pumpkin, maple syrup, and pumpkin spice recipe but i cant. Please help me, thanks.
    if you could send me any others and an easier way to understand your website id appreciate. As i have MS and i am a dork sometime.
    sincerwly
    kyli

  20. janet fazio says:

    Good ideas! I buy a lot of rotisserie chicken and make soup after cutting off all of the meat. You can’t beat homemade chicken soup.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Janet – Nope! It’s the best soup around! ๐Ÿ˜€