I often hear people say eating healthily is expensive. Sometimes it’s true: organic foods are more expensive than their non-organic equivalents, whole wheat bread and pasta is more expensive than white and so-called “superfoods” are often pricey.

But it’s perfectly possible to eat healthily on a budget; in fact some healthy options are even cheaper than the unhealthy ones!

I first wrote this blog a few years ago, I have just updated it for 2024 prices and the advice still applies.


1. Cook from scratch

This is by far the best thing you can do to save money. Ready-made foods like frozen chips or pizza may seem cheap, but if you work out the cost per meal you will almost certainly find that cooking from scratch is cheaper. For example, a pouch of pre-cooked rice is around 65p for two portions, while cooking wholegrain rice yourself works out as about 7p per portion (based on Tesco 2kg bag of brown rice).

Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, if you don’t feel confident, borrow a recipe book from the library and have a go. If you are short of time, batch cook a big pot of soup or stew to last the whole week, or put portions in the freezer for the days you know you’ll have less time.

Check out my super easy home-made soup recipe to get you started.


2. Waste not, want not

Only put on your plate what you will eat and put the rest straight into a Tupperware for the following day. Even if the leftovers are not enough to make a full meal on their own, could you get creative and add it to something else to make up a meal? Perhaps leftovers from Monday and Tuesday could be combined to make a meal for Wednesday? This will certainly save you money and could help stop you overeating too.


3. Eat seasonally and locally

While it’s true that some fresh vegetables and fruit are expensive, these are usually varieties like peppers, aubergine and tropical fruits that have travelled from afar or are difficult to grow. Local and seasonal varieties tend to be far cheaper. For example, in ASDA you will get change from a pound for any of the following – a cabbage (80p), a swede (62p – use to make healthy root vegetable mash), a kilo of onions (99p), 2 kilos of carrots (35p/kg), an iceberg lettuce (79p) or a bag of “essentials” apples (99p). All healthy and cheap options!


4. Don’t diss the frozen isle

We don’t tend to associate the frozen isle with healthy foods, but actually there is nothing wrong with buying vegetables and fruit frozen, and in fact it has been argued that it’s healthier as the vitamins and minerals are locked in. This can also be a cheap option, especially for fruit: Tesco’s “Perfectly Imperfect” frozen berries are £2.99 for a large kilo bag which are ideal for overnight oats.


5. Replace meat with plant protein

Meat is expensive; replace it with beans, chickpeas and lentils which are all very cheap sources of good quality protein and, unlike meat, also contain beneficial complex carbohydrates and fibre without saturated fat (why I call them the forgotten superfood!). The cheapest option is to buy them dried – chickpeas and beans will need soaking overnight and boiling for an hour; but if you are short of time, pre-cooked tinned beans are also inexpensive (49p for a tin of kidney beans in ASDA). Add the cooked beans to stews or sauces where you would usually use meat.

Dried Red lentils are a brilliant store cupboard essential. All the benefits to your budget and health as beans but they are really easy to prepare: no soaking required, and they cook in just 20 minutes.  Add them to soups and sauces to thicken and make hearty and filling.

Try out these bean and lentil recipes which all work out as under £1 per portion.

Home-made baked beans

Lentil and vegetable Bolognese

Traditional Malawian dinner


6. Drink water and herbal tea

Sometimes the healthy options are the cheapest. Plain water is the healthiest thing you can drink, and you can get it out the tap for free! So give the fizzy drinks a miss and save yourself money as well as improving your health. If it is hot drinks you go for, how about a peppermint tea? Herbal and fruit teas don’t dehydrate like caffeinated drinks and a box of peppermint tea from ASDA will set you back £1.20 for 40 teabags: that’s just 3 pence per cup.


7. Skip the unhealthy snacks

People often complain that healthy snacks are more expensive than unhealthy ones. But not snacking at all is even less expensive! Not snacking between meals could also help your health since it will give your digestive system a rest and could help you lose weight. If you do need a snack between meals, a healthy and inexpensive option could be oatcakes or carrot sticks with home-made hummus. Hummus is easier than you think to make and cheaper than shop-bought. Check out the recipe here.


8. Know what to buy organic

If you would like to buy organic but can’t afford to all the time, get familiar with the “dirty dozen, clean fifteen” (a Google Image search will give you the full list). Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and onions contain very little pesticides so are fine to buy non-organic; while others like tomatoes and peppers tend to be crops where more pesticides are used so these are best to buy organic.


9. Pack your own lunch box

If you have lunch at work or college, don’t buy expensive, readymade sandwiches. Find a suitable Tupperware box to use as your lunch box and fill it with salad leaves, leftover cooked vegetables, beans, potatoes or whatever else you have to hand. Add salt and pepper or spices and herbs and a teaspoon of olive oil to make it tasty. This is a better option for both your health and your wallet.


10. Make porridge for breakfast

It doesn’t take long and you can flavour it with fruit to make it sweet. Not only is this a healthier option than sugary breakfast cereals but it also works out cheaper. For example a 375g box of ASDA’s “rice snaps” cereal costs 95p, which works out as 8p per 30g portion (without the milk). A kilo of ASDA’s porridge oats is £1.25 which works out as less than 4p per portion. Oats are a great source of slow-release carbohydrates and contain some protein as well as beneficial beta-glucans (good for the immune system), anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals. And you can easily make it with water instead of milk to save money.