Do you have low energy and enjoy eating sugary snacks as a pick-me-up? I've been guilty! Over-consuming these types of foods can rob our bodies of essential nutrients, leaving us exhausted and feeling not so great. That said, perhaps you want to commit to a clean eating meal plan but are worried about the costs. Well, here's the great news! Eating clean on a budget meal plan is possible!
Eating clean will help you stock up on vitamins and give your organs a break from processing all those processed foods. Plus it isn’t just beneficial for your body. The simple ingredients you’ll be consuming will also save money on grocery bills too.
If you love the sound of this win-win, why not try our steps for eating clean on a budget meal plan? Before we dive in, let's first go over what clean eating is.
What is eating clean?
Let’s get started with the definition of "clean eating" so you know exactly what your goals are. Clean eating focuses on consuming an abundance of whole foods like:
- Whole grains and beans
- Natural oils
- Nuts and seeds
What is a clean eating meal plan?
A clean eating meal plan on the other hand combines whole foods into a variety of different delicious meals. The benefit is from the variety it helps to create with your meals. This will help you avoid food boredom while sticking to your clean eating goals!
To get all the benefits from clean eating, you want to try to eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. You also want to minimize the following:
- Processed foods
- Microwave meals
- Cakes, cookies, and pastries
- Fast food
Now you know what the definition of "eating clean" is. But you may be curious about whether clean eating meal plans on a budget are possible. So, let's dig into the possibilities of eating healthy on a budget.
How easy is clean eating on a budget?
So, you’re on board with the health benefits of following the steps for eating clean on a budget meal plan. But have you heard that healthy foods are super expensive? If you’re worried that you can’t afford clean eating on a budget, then we’re here to trash that myth.
It’s true that bee pollen or trendy protein shakes can certainly eat into your weekly grocery bills. But these aren’t at all necessary. Instead, eating clean meal plans are affordable, easy to follow, and will probably be even cheaper than your current diet.
Top 10 steps for eating clean on a budget meal plan
To make a success of clean eating, it’s important to plan out and follow a basic routine. That way, you’ll become a clean eating convert in no time. Follow these 10 steps to eating clean on a budget.
1. Stock up on affordable clean ingredients
The first step to clean eating on a budget is stocking up your ingredients. There are plenty of cheap food staples that will form the bulk of your clean eating meal plans.
Many of these are tinned or frozen so you don’t need to stress about the expiry date. Some examples of affordable clean ingredients are:
- Lentils and beans
- Barley and quinoa
- Wholegrain pasta and brown rice
- Tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, artichoke, etc.
- Tinned tuna
- Sweet potatoes and white potatoes
- Frozen vegetables and berries
- Peanut butter
2. Buy frozen ingredients
The USDA recommends adults eat 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit every day. But this can be out of reach if you’re buying fresh. An equally healthy alternative is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables in bulk.
These are just as nutritious as buying fresh, often because the produce is harvested and immediately frozen during peak growing season.
Frozen foods also minimize waste as you’re only using the quantity you need and can refreeze the rest. Just remember to factor defrosting time into your meal plans. Frozen ingredients are key to clean eating meal plans on a budget!
3. Buy store brands
There can be a stigma in eating store brand products rather than the household names we’re all used to. But this stigma is just the result of clever marketing and rarely reflects the value of the food you’re buying.
The truth is: buying store brands will save you considerable money as you lay out your steps for eating clean on a budget meal plan.
Let’s say you buy 20 store products in your next grocery outing and each of them is $0.50 less than your usual big brand favorites. That’s an immediate saving of $10. Do this every week for a year, and you’ve saved $520 – wow!
4. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is another way how to eat clean on a budget. Larger quantities of dry or tinned goods cost less than purchasing several smaller versions of the same food. So, if you have space at home, it makes sense to stock up on your clean foods to save money in the long term.
Remember though to be mindful of expiry dates so you don’t waste money. It’s easy to get carried away and buy too much. If you know you have some food that will perish soon, try to work it into your meal plan for the week or batch cook a dish to save for later.
5. Plan the week ahead and shop using a list
One of the best habits for clean eating on a budget is to write a grocery list and stick to it! The layout of grocery stores can tempt you into spending money you don’t have on items you don’t need.
When you have a list, you can keep your head down and work your way through those food items until you’re ready to pay.
You can keep a list on your phone and add to it throughout the week when you remember that you’re running low on something. It’s also worth going through your larder before you shop to make notes of anything extra you need.
6. Do your own prep
Low on time? It can be tempting to buy pre-sliced fruit and vegetables but these are more expensive than buying raw. And seriously, it doesn’t take that much time to chop some carrots or slice an apple, does it?
Do the prep yourself to save money – often you’ll find that there’s less packaging involved in whole foods, so this is a win for the environment too. Prepping your own food is a big part of eating clean on a budget meal plan!
7. Eat leftovers
Ever noticed that your Grandma didn’t let any food go to waste? Whether it be eating chicken salad the day after a roast chicken dinner, or making a stew or soup to freeze, older generations were certainly thrifty.
These same frugal living skills ensure your clean eating ingredients can be used across several meals throughout the week so you’re keeping tabs on your health and your budget.
Batch cooking is a great tip, so if you’re making a lentil traybake, why not double up and freeze one for next week, too? And if you have leftover veggies, you can easily chop up, blend and make a base sauce as a quick heat-up for a pasta dish or curry later. Repurposing leftovers is another way how to eat clean on a budget.
8. Eat less animal protein
First up, clean eating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go vegan or even vegetarian if you don’t want to. There’s room for lean animal protein when you’re putting together clean eating meal plans on a budget.
But meat is expensive in comparison to natural whole foods like grains and vegetables. So, try to think of meat as a side dish rather than the star of the show. For example, why not add a couple of ounces of fish or chicken to a stir fry and bulk your meal out with salad and rice?
9. Use eating clean meal plan examples from others
If you’re struggling to create your own eating clean meal plan, check out 3 of the best examples here:
1. Bless This Mess: Eating Clean 2 Week plan
This two-week family-friendly plan comes with a printable shopping list. Choose from delicious ideas like Breakfast Burritos with roasted sweet potatoes, Peanut Butter and Honey sandwiches for lunch, and Tortellini and Vegetable soup for dinner. This is a simple plan for how to eat clean on a budget!
2. Trifecta Clean Eating Plan for 21 Days
Each day of the Trifecta plan falls under 1,500 calories, so this is the plan for you if you’re hoping to lose weight. You’ll use plenty of seasonings and herbs to pack a punch to your meals.
3. Beauty Bites: 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge
In this beauty-focused plan, you’ll be eating plenty of nutrients that are great for your skin, hair, and nails. Many of the days begin with Overnight Oats for Healthy Skin which is simple to prepare the night before.
10. Be inspired by YouTube videos
YouTube is an excellent source of channels that will demonstrate exactly how to eat clean on a budget. Check out some of the following videos:
This information-packed video proves that healthy eating doesn't need to break the bank. Instead, it's all about making strategic budget-friendly picks, stocking your kitchen, and minimizing food waste so you're not throwing money down the drain.
Health Nut Nutrition
This video shows you 13 tips to save money at local health food stores, including looking for offers as soon as you arrive. It's also not necessary to shop for organic produce if the fruit or veg has thick skin, for example, bananas or avocados.
Apples will last for a few weeks if stored in the fridge, while bananas can be bought on sale and then frozen for pancakes, oatmeal, or smoothies.
Daniel and Kelli are focused on clean eating being as plant-based as possible but stress it doesn't need to be expensive. Their top tip is to use nuts and oils to add healthy fats to your diet. These have long shelf lives so are a great investment.
Leverage these steps for eating clean on a budget meal plan today!
Are you ready to try out our steps for eating clean on a budget meal plan? By now, you know that succeeding at this type of healthy eating all comes down to the prep work.
Knowing what you’re going to buy and which healthy meals you’re going to make will ensure you’re not wasteful or tempted by unhealthy ingredients.
Get started today by taking an inventory of your larder to see what’s already in stock. Then pick your fave recipes and shop for your first week of eating clean on a budget. Once you’ve started, you won’t look back!