How to buy healthy food on a tight budget
August 21st, 2012
11:18 AM ET

How to buy healthy food on a tight budget

It’s hard to argue with a $1 double cheeseburger. Perhaps that’s why so many believe that eating healthy is expensive.

The myth has become so pervasive that everyone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to health care providers is attempting to dispel it. Now the Environmental Working Group is joining in.

The EWG has combined forces with anti-hunger group Share Our Strength to create a healthy shopping guide for low-income households: “Good Food on a Tight Budget.”

The guide contains lists of “best buys” – those that pack the most nutrition for the lowest cost – in each food group, cooking/shopping tips, recipes, a meal planner and a price tracker.

Best buys include bananas, watermelons, broccoli, raisins, romaine lettuce, barley, tuna, lentils/beans, eggs, turkey and cottage cheese.

Price was the primary concern for the group’s choices, EWG nutritionist and lead author Dawn Undurraga said. Experts then screened out foods that contain a lot of chemicals, like pesticides, or whose production creates greenhouse gases.

“Your food choice is one of the most powerful choices that you make everyday that affects your environment,” Undurraga said.

Some of the guide’s top tips include buying grains in bulk, cooking dried beans to save money, mixing your own cooking sprays and substituting yogurt for cream in recipes.

Researchers based the weekly plan on the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) budget of $5 to $6 a day. The example meals total $35 using average food prices.

Still, the EWG understands that giving up fast food for family meals isn’t always easy.

“Healthy food is affordable, but it’s definitely a different style of eating,” Undurraga said. “It’s a back-to-basics style of eating. There’s not a lot of room for extras. It’s challenging.”

“Good Food on a Tight Budget” released Tuesday. It’s available as a free download or online from EWG.org/goodfood. The EWG has also connected with local community centers and food banks to distribute the pamphlet.

soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Normally, the working poor do not have the time in a day to spend several hours preparing home cooked meals for themselves and a couple of kids. Inner city dwellers are often transportation limited and have little access to large markets with diverse fresh product. Some use public transportation and are limited by what they can carry. In a perfect world, unlimited free time during the day to shop and prepare meals as these researchers had this article makes sense. In the real world, it's a. Joke!

    August 21, 2012 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      It does NOT take "several hours a day" to cook a decent meal. And this article WAS EXCELLENT and having raised and fed a family for 20 years, I knew these things anyway, but GREAT advice for younger families, or those who are generally clueless and just need a push in the right direction.

      Raising a family I always had a full time job PLUS carting kids around to all their activities and we were busy, busy and busy just like most families. You can cook in bulk on Saturdays. You can purchase a LARGE crock pot and cook your dry beans in them and freeze in portions or you can make a HUGE pot of homemade pasta sauce int he crock pot and freeze in portions. Chili freezes well for a night you have absolutely NO time to cook, just serve with a salad and cornbread. Cheap and healthy. The internet is FULL of healthy, low cost recipes that will save a family a TON of cash as opposed to eating out. "Going out to eat" then becomes and event that the family can truly enjoy together.

      August 21, 2012 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
    • A

      Are you kidding? It takes all of 10 minutes to throw together a big, delicious salad. Cook large when you have time and freeze leftovers for quick meals later. Pasta takes maybe 10 minutes to boil. Most meat can be cooked in the oven within 20-30 minutes. It would take me just as long to run to the fast food joint and pick up dinner.

      August 21, 2012 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
    • CT24

      @PortlandT – I disagree with several of your assertions. First, if you live in the city, you can generally walk out of your neighborhood to better stores; the exercise is good for you and buying only what you can carry isn't such a bad idea either. As for time in preparation, you can use a pressure cooker like the old days or you can slow-cook beans or chili at low heat while you do other tasks. A lot of fresh fruits and vegetables can be kept unrefrigerated for days if that's a problem. I've done all this in lean times recently, a 3 mile walk to & from a good store and kept the food costs down to about $31 per person per month, all while working overtime (65 hrs/week). You learn quickly how to make do. P.T., if you believe this is too difficult, it may say more about your notions than about the challenges of the working poor. To Valerie and A. – great responses!

      August 21, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
    • Teddy

      I own a rental in a lower class neighborhood and I plant a garden for the tenants every year.Collards,cukes,tomatoes,potatoes,squash,radishes,lotsa beans in several varieties.,beets,onions,garlic.Free food from April-Nov and no-one has ever even picked one thing from the garden.I look in the trash bins and it's all pricey,pre-prepared,heat n' eat meals and lotsa sweets and soda bottles.
      On the other hand,I eat a hot meal every nt and it takes me no more'n half an hour to cook a wholesome meal from scratch.Typically a piece of fish,3 fresh veggies and a complex carbohydrate.I spent $60 on groceries today for the week.Sorry Tony,you buy into your own delusion.

      August 22, 2012 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
    • Marijuana is the Tree of Life

      Marijuana is the Tree of Life

      Usain Bolt smoked Marijuana and became the fastest man on Earth.
      Michael Phelps smoked Marijuana and became the fastest man in water.
      Barack Obama smoked Marijuana and became the President of the United States.

      God Bless Marijuana and the Great Humans it helps to create...!

      August 23, 2012 at 01:06 | Report abuse |
    • veggieconquistadora

      The meals I cook on workdays generally take me 30 minutes or less. I cook up all my beans, etc from dry on Sunday, and use them through the week. Cooking from scratch isn't hard or time consuming if you do it properly.

      August 24, 2012 at 07:40 | Report abuse |
    • L

      Totally agree with Valarie and A. 20 Years ago I was divorced with a young kids. Not assistance from the government. Divorced. I made do with that I had and make more by scratch, etc., A lot cheaper and a lot better for you. I've heard this from my own daughter – she doesn't cook and doesn't like it. So her kids eat junk. I call it laziness.

      August 26, 2012 at 00:34 | Report abuse |
    • dawn

      Doesnt take all day to cook healthy. I pop healthy meats in the toaster oven, oven, or I put something in the crock pot before work. While things are cooking I do laundry etc. It is rarely fancy but it is healthy and flavorful. BTW Frozen veggies are just as healthy and in some cases more healthy than fresh. I frequently get them on sale for a dollar a bag (4 servings per bag). It just takes a bit of thought and preplanning. People claiming they don't have time ...I bet have time to watch tv?

      September 4, 2012 at 16:09 | Report abuse |
    • haleyxerin

      I think the only joke here is you. 20-30 minutes to bake/grill a frozen chicken breast, a salad takes 5 maybe 10 if you need to wash your veggies, and a simple slice of whole grain bread is already made but you might want to toast it and that takes less than a minute. There are loads of things that be put in a crock pot (those can be purchased at Good Will on the cheap). Use beans in place of meats in a recipe, even canned beans are less than $1 per lb. Canned and frozen veggies are cheap and quick. There truly is no reason not to eat healthy. You just prefer the taste of pre-made crap.

      June 4, 2013 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
  2. Lonely World

    I came from a middle class family where eating fruits and vegetables and other healthy choices was the family rule. Now I'm poor and stuck in a one bedroom apartment and on food stamps $150 a month. I deplete my food stamps really fast on that because they are way to expensive and even if I bought them in bulk, they spoil very quickly if I can't finish them. You can only cook so much but honestly I struggle staying on a healthy diet. A tomato is $1 or more, raspberries $3.50 for very small little plastic container 1 inch thick, onions only cheap if bought in bulk (can't possibly use them all up), etc..etc.etc...

    You can't buy healthy cheeses because they range from $7 and up for a small chunk the size of a fist. It's all a (bleeping) joke! Cereal, whole grains and other commodities are going up in price and the boxes are getting smaller. Yogurt is $0.70 or more cents for dinky little 4 – 6 oz container. Nothing is affordable anymore when you are poor, no job, no buying power, no opportunities, corrupt government, a horde of illegal immigrants that undermine human capital wages, and on and on and on. EATING HEALTHY is for the rich (staying elite) or the middle class (which is shrinking). $10 / Hour or less jobs at 40 hours a week (if you are lucky) is not enough to eat healthy everyday.

    The Bush Administration, Clinton, , Obama and Romney have failed the American people. Ron Paul is our ONLY hope. Otherwise, hello to more obesity in this nation.

    August 21, 2012 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Al

      This is cute. You are clearly trying to make a political statement here especially with you last 2 paragraphs. First off if you are living alone $150 should be plenty to live off of (just cook in bulk and freeze/fridge it). If you are jobless swallow your pride and get any old job (I was a waiter and a security guard prior to my current employment) until the right job comes along. Better than being a drain on society. Low on money? Get rid of non essentials like cable TV, smart phones, cell phone, AC (I dont even have Cable TV, AC, or smart phone even with my engineering job because its not necessary). What im trying to say is swallow you pride and take your political comments to another news article.

      August 21, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • Hahahahahahahahaha

      Um. You're retarded too right? How exactly would Ron Paul help you? Hahahahahahahahahahaha

      August 21, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • ULL Grad

      I'm pretty sure that by having Ron Paul elected, he will not change the price on raspberries and cheese for you. Sorry, dude.

      I am also pretty sure that you could save your own money and the government's by buying frozen, no sugar added raspberries for much less.

      Eating healthy is not for the rich. I am in graduate school, and I am far from rich. I eat healthy for every meal. I just learn to budget and eat for less. Instead of buying 7 small yogurts for breakfast, I just buy a large tub of yogurt. For lunch? I buy a box of tabouli salad mix and it lasts me several days. I throw in some random veggies to that. For dinner? Frozen foods rule, sadly, but they aren't all awful. I get frozen tuna and other fish in bulk as well as veggies like brocolli.

      To give you some credit, your budget is not huge, but it is do-able.

      August 21, 2012 at 17:47 | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      How on earth are you burning through $150 worth of food stamps that fast per month? I'm not poor at all, but my grocery budget is $150/month for just myself and yet I still manage to eat well. Sounds like you are just not planning your food budget and meals.

      August 21, 2012 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
    • Galina L.

      Don't eat cereals at all, eat several eggs for your breakfast (I have been eating such breakfast for 5 years, lost weight, improved health), then you will be too full to eat expensive snacks or a boxed food. Organ meats and chicken cost very little, frozen veggies are cheep. Don't buy any stupid serials and any snacks at all!

      August 21, 2012 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
    • Oldlady

      I have been doing what the article suggests for quite a long time. I am on a fixed income (SSDI) and my food stamp allotment is $65 a month, which is about $2 a day. The doc wants me to lose weight and told me to follow a diet plan that features fruits and vegetables. I told him the diet was for the elite. Carbs and more carbs are what is affordable on $2 a day. Rice, beans and potatoes.

      August 22, 2012 at 10:43 | Report abuse |
    • Galina L.

      @old lady,
      If I had your budget, I would eat mostly eggs, some butter and a cabbage soup.

      August 23, 2012 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      you are on $150 worth of food stamps a month and you think ron paul is the answer? how would he help?

      August 24, 2012 at 08:08 | Report abuse |
    • Mama of 2 boys

      Really? $150 for one person? That's ridiculous.
      I can feed our family of 4 on a budget of $200/mo. We eat a balanced diet, always with fruits, veggies, and lean protien. It's really not that hard, and it does not take that much time. Don't buy name brands, look for coupons, and know what foods get you the most bang for your buck.
      If I had $150 a month for each person in my family... dang, we'd be eating caviar.

      August 24, 2012 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
    • dawn

      Seriously? Frozen veggies and fruits=just as healthy. Much cheaper! Cereal? If you must get oatmeal, we eat it 3 days a week with a handfull of rasins (which were purchased on sale) in there. I do not buy your argument at all. I get meat cheaply too...I am not too proud to buy the "freeze or cook today" meat that is on clearance. Then I freeze it for later. What being on a tight budget does not allow is mindless shopping and boo hooing that you can not buy what other buy. I grew up with nothing and we learned how to eat very healthy with very little money. It is something that can be learned...quit crying and get educated about how to buy/eat quality food. Yes, it sucks to have to cook, shop and be creative...I have been there and am a better consumer for it.

      September 4, 2012 at 16:18 | Report abuse |
  3. Been there

    I agree with the 2 previous posters to a point. My local 7-11 is filled with poor people who think nothing of carrying a case of beer home but say canned veggies weigh too much. But not all poor are this way. I think food stamp recipients should get reduced or free fare to for grocery shopping only and I also think they should have quotas on junk food. This isnt to punish. I am actually speaking from experience and just think being that 140 a month I got would last a week at a 7-11, but I was unemployed and didnt even have a penny for bus fare. What the closest store that took SNAP offered was milk at 5/gallon, spagetti sauce for 4 bucks...and not one fresh fruit or vegetable. If it hadnt been for SNAP Id have starved but if it hadnt been for friends who lemt me bus fare, Id have traded my health for a meal..

    August 21, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Portland tony

    @Valerie ...I wasn't addressing the working mom's problems at all. I was simply pointing out some logistical problems faced by the working poor. Pulling all those fresh salad mixing out of the fridge and cooking massive amounts of food to be stored in the fridge are luxuries not all can afford. And would you believe some people work on Saturdays and get to ride to work on a bus?

    August 21, 2012 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pandorahope


      I am living the reality you speak of. I used to work 2 jobs, Now I work one job due to the amount of time I spend on public transportation. I takes 3.5 to four hours per day to get to and from work. I can only carry as much as can my two hands can hold which is two heavy or three bags. I do buy a lot of beans, I use a crock-pot and I bake whole wheat bread twice a week. I buy one box of cereal per month on sale. Mostly we eat pancakes made from bulk flour and oatmeal for breakfast. Still, it is challenging to feed my small family of two on $200 and eat healthy daily. I budget $280.

      Did I mention my other household member is a growing teenager with a size 11 shoe? On the upside he can carry a few bags of groceries when they are too heavy for me. I am lucky, I have a fig tree outside and my neighbors provide some of their garden goodies to eat. I buy the cheaper produces like bananas, apples, pears, carrots but at least they are fresh.

      There are some truths on both sides of the argument.

      August 30, 2012 at 16:59 | Report abuse |
  5. Soylent Orange

    What's wrong with some lettuce, or cabbage, or big bags of carrots? All healthy. All relatively inexpensive.

    August 21, 2012 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • petewillett

      Lettuce isn't really that healthy. It's basically just water.

      August 25, 2012 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • Edith Ann

      Who in the heck wants to eat cabbage, lettuce, and carrots everyday? I prefer lots of fruits like grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon and a variety. I live alone and my grocery bill is never less than $100 a week. And I use coupons. I am not overweight either so it's not like I pig out.

      April 3, 2013 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
  6. larry5

    The problem is that good food is expensive in the short run and a screaming good deal in the long run. Lots of stuff being sold as food is anything but food.

    August 21, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galina L.

      The problem is also that normal nutritionally dense food like meat, eggs, butter, animal fat is considered unhealthy, while veggies and whole grains don't contain much nutrition. I eat fatty meat, organ meats and eggs, avoid all grains and sugars, eat my veggies for flavor, but only with some animal fat. My diet is very satisfying, so I don't need snacks.

      August 21, 2012 at 23:12 | Report abuse |
    • pandorahope

      Well said!

      August 30, 2012 at 16:59 | Report abuse |

    Pay now or pay later. If you eat cr a p food day after day after day now, you can expect to spend many hours at your doctor's office in the future. Obesity, diabetes, arthritis, etc. are all a result of diet.

    I've always thought that if you are a recipient of food stamps (or whatever it's called now), you should be given vouchers for a very specific diet, much the way WIC vouchers work. One head of lettuce, one pound of carrots, one pound of chicken, etc. No chips, no soda, no snacks. Use government funds to support a healthy lifestyle. That way the government won't be paying so much for health care later.

    August 21, 2012 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ryan Marston

      I don't think any government will try to encourage self responsibility. You, and most Americans, see the Food Stamp program as a way to help people get through a rough patch in their lives. Politicians see these recipients as votes and not people. This program isn't designed by these guys to help people – it's designed to keep voters. And no, I don't believe most people on this program are the moochers of society. This does benefit many struggling people and should be maintained; and, I agree with your modifications to it.

      August 22, 2012 at 02:17 | Report abuse |
    • pattysboi

      Iceberg lettuce has absolutely NO nutritional value whatsoever.

      August 23, 2012 at 02:45 | Report abuse |
    • haleyxerin

      while I agree with pattysboi iceberg is NOT the only lettuce on the planet. The darker the leaf the healthier it is.

      June 4, 2013 at 20:31 | Report abuse |
  8. Ehhh

    Of course most meals are going to be healthier and burgers from McDonalds. However, a truly healthy, plant-based whole food diet, is a lot more expensive than typical budget foods. Processed grocery store food, like canned food, pasta, lunch meats, breads, etc, are a lot cheaper than fresh fruits and veggies.

    August 21, 2012 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • haleyxerin

      but frozen fruits/veggies are still just as healthy and can be much cheaper. Plus if you buy in season and freeze it yourself you will get out cheaper and you know it's good. But even little changes make a difference. Sure a turkey sandwich isn't as good for you as a huge salad but it is way better than a Big Mac.

      June 4, 2013 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
  9. Moogie

    I can attest that while in line behind food stamp recipients, I witness alot of processed food, unhealthy snacks, soda, and
    unhealthy crap. Currently, there is no excuse for people not to eat healthy, food stamps or not. It just takes planning. They should go back to the days of government cheese, peanut butter, dried milk, and canned goods; forget food stamps.

    August 21, 2012 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galina L.

      Peanut butter contains trans-fats, dry milk is crap.

      August 22, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
    • petewillett

      natural/organic peanut butter does not have trans fats, and it tastes better.

      August 25, 2012 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
  10. Converted

    It was interesting when I read Deuteronomy and the laws of Moses. Much of them were health based and are still valid today. I love it when science and the bible come together. Eventually religion will also be able to see the creation and evolution in the writings but that might take a while as most of the powerful have too much to lose in acknowledging that.

    August 21, 2012 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Converted

      Well that was some fat fingered trick. Sorry wrong comments section.

      August 21, 2012 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
  11. BrendaLea

    I'm disabled after working 20 years as a Cna. I
    Am on SSDI. I live within my means AND I eat healthy. I budget. I plan and I dont waste. I'm not
    High maintenence but
    Am choosey. I
    Eat a lot of beans, rice and
    Produce. I check
    Portion sizes. I
    Eat mindfully and am not ashamed to eat
    Leftovers. I am
    Not thin and am trying to get down to a healthy wt though I have a
    Long way to go.
    This is doable
    And I want to do this so nothing is allowed to stand in my way. I can
    Sacrafice other
    Things but not

    August 21, 2012 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahahaha

      Did you grow an extra right hand pinkie finger that keeps hitting the return key? Hahahahahahahahahahah Or is this a coded terrorists' message? Hahahahahahahhahaha

      August 22, 2012 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
    • Galina L.

      Eat more eggs and less rice. It is impossible for most people to avoid being fat eating mostly carbohydrates. I eat more fat than carbohydrates for 5 years, lost weight, improved health.

      August 22, 2012 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
  12. MashaSobaka

    Anyone who is ACTUALLY on a tight budget knows that cooking for yourself is a lot cheaper than buying prepared food, even fast food. When you have to stretch the pennies as far as you can, there isn't any room for delusions. I cook for myself from fresh ingredients because it's more affordable than grabbing junk on the way home from work. It's not rocket science.

    August 22, 2012 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathy

      Exactly, I had a food budget of about $100 per month when I was in college just a few years ago and I had no trouble eating healthy and staying within that. Buy in bulk, use coupons, use your store discount card, buy on sale and buy store brand instead of name brand – all of those add up to a lot of money.

      I rarely ever bought fast food because it was way more expensive than cooking for myself. I can easily feed my entire family of 4 a healthy dinner for less than $6, which won't even buy you a McDonald's meal for a single person.

      August 22, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
  13. The Dude

    Hey, I lived on generic Mac & Cheese for 5-6 years when I was in college and starting out in the real world so I could save money and start my nest egg.

    Sure, many of my friends binge drank, ate very well and bought all sorts of non-essentials, but they have hardly any savings at all. Sure, they may have had more fun, but when I retire early, I'll be laughing....I hope!

    August 22, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Galina L.

    If I had only $150 for a month, I would buy chicken, beef liver, chicken gizzards, A LOT of eggs, cabbage, carrots, frozen veggies, apples in balk, onions, rice, potatoes,coconut oil, butter,cheep type of olive oil, green onion. I would have an eggs-based breakfast, cabbage soup with chicken meat everyday for lunch, something for dinner. If I ate bread (I don't), I would bake my own and make my own pan-cakes. I would never waste money on things like iceberg lettuce – it is a nutritional desert. I would never pay for anything in a box. When money are scarce, it is better to buy food with high calories density first.

    August 22, 2012 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L

      Not it is not better. If you are that poor you can get food stamps. If you are saying $150 a month for just you – I can do it on 1/2 that. I don't get your post.

      August 28, 2012 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
  15. wendyfarkas

    Looks like the poor have two choices: cancer from pesticides or obesity from cheap fast food... Scary world.

    August 22, 2012 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Cosmos Human

    I work f/t as a social worker and go to grad school part time. I am far from wealthy. Barely middle class. I follow a high protein and low carb dirt. I lost 50# the past 6 months. In 2009 I was 250#. I now weigh 135. I am no longer a diabetic. I eat very healthy and work out. I eat egg whites for breakfast, protein shakes as snacks, and a huge salad with a protein for dinner. Sometimes salad for lunch. I try to have something every 3-4 hours. This works bet for me. I don't need to eat a lot of food anymore. I have a cheat day once a week. I shop at Aldi usually as they have the lowest prices. It can be done, You can eat healthy on a limited budget. I am living proof. I don't drink diet pop, but I do drink coffee and use stevia as a sweetener.

    August 22, 2012 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galina L.

      Why you don't eat normal eggs? Egg yolks contain very important nutrients, especially for not very young people. My mom at 75 yo started to eat 2-3 eggs for breakfast every day one year ago instead of oat-meal, low-carbs food the rest of the day, lost fat and normalized blood pressure.

      August 23, 2012 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
  17. Neddy

    Knowledge is key, and sorely lacking. Lack of time is the other problem. For many, they simply don't know how to cook from scratch, and many can't easily learn from a cookbook (not everyone has the reading skills to follow a recipe); for others, they be cobbling two or three part time minimum wage jobs together, leaving little time for shopping and cooking. For the poster who suggested that city dwellers can easily walk several miles to a better store, I invite you to take a stroll in a few select Detroit neighborhoods, at night (after you get off work); the closest "good" market is 3 to 5 miles away, and you'll be walking through streets full of vacant homes, crack houses, no street light lights, packs of stray dogs and delinquents, with the sound of regular gun fire in the air. Not too many people would be willing to take that walk for a head of lettuce and some apples (and it's not really any safer during the day, either). This is the "food reality" for many inner-city dwellers.

    August 22, 2012 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. zeeehaw

    Farmer's Markets may help a little if you have one locally. I started Juicing about six months ago and live in Tokyo so the price of my food bill is through the roof. Im trying to get healthy and there's definitely a price to pay.


    August 23, 2012 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Christian

    There are many meal plans out there that show you can eat healthy on the benefits of a family of 4 on CHIP benefits. One is 100 days of real food. This person has weekly plans and shopping lists that include organics and she shows you can eat real and health on government benefits.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jessica

    I think this article raises a very important point that eating in a healthy manner can be an affordable option for people. I agree that it may appear difficult and daunting to purchase and prepare healthy foods, but with willpower people can accomplish anything. While I agree that making healthy choices in fast food restaurants is overly expensive (a $7 salad compared to a $1 cheeseburger), cooking and preparing meals at home is really the focus of this article. It is also important to keep in mind that food can provide more than just energy. Food is supposed to provide nutrition and vitamins and processed, cheap foods, like ramen noodles, do not provide the nutrients that people need, especially children. The Natural Standard has a recipe database with hundreds of healthy recipes and provides information about many of the ingredients.

    August 23, 2012 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LukeWarm

    Yes, you can eat healthy on a small budget, but you can eat even cheaper with junk. And I concider most items in a box or can junk due to all the additives/preservitive and HFC – which is just unneccessary sugar.

    My personal example it just a few years ago when I suddently found myself a single mom of two with a min wage job I had maybe 60.00 a month for groceries and house hold needs. We ate a lot of ramon noodles and frozen mix veggies or beans and rice. No way I could ever afford anything fresh. Absolutely no way! We ate a lot of carb based food since noodles, rice and beans are cheap. I could bet 6 boxes of mac & cheese for a dollar. That is 6 whole meals. As I worked my way up the ladder I was able to encorporate more fresh foods into our diet. Now we eat solely from farmers markets and whole food stores. Need to undo all the damage from the years of struggle. I have also learned how to dehydrate, can, and freeze seasonal items. (Grew up in the country so it wasn't that hard to re-teach myself)

    I can go to the store and buy a can of HFC infused spagetti sauce and a box of noodles for less then 3 dollars and have two meals out of it. But if I decide to purchase (tasteless) fresh ingredience from the local grocery then I can't even get the 4-5 tomates for 3.00 let alone the fresh onions, garlic, herbs needed to make the sauce. And no way could the fresh just picked an hour ago tomatoes I purchase at the farmers market are way more expensive, but the taste is well worth the price to me. When people say it is cheaper to eat unhealthy.... in a way it is. Tell me your cheapest meal and I can always give you a cheaper one. A 10 cent package of ramon noodles and a handful of frozen veggies will feed my family.

    August 23, 2012 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Al

      This is truely a great story. People could learn a few things from you. You took a bad situation and learned what you needed to get by for you and your children. People should learn to get by instead of trying to get pity for their situation

      August 24, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • pandorahope

      I loved reading your post. I too know how to eat for next to nothing. I believe unless you were in an emergency situation, you simply would not want to eat a starch based diet for very long. I came from a family of seven, so i learned early hot to feed a family for very little. My Mom worked full time, used public transportation and she had a little garden,a fig tree, a pear and an apple tree in the back.

      August 30, 2012 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
  22. Laura L

    I agree that the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables is too high. I am discouraged from eating fresh fruits and vegetables because they are expensive and tasteless. I think that the US government should some how put a price block on cost of friuts and vegetables, because, not eating healthy foods has contributed greatly to obesity and poor health in the USA.

    August 23, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JN

    Fresh produce is pricey. Look into food co-ops online – bountifulbaskets.org is nationwide and growing. Stock up your freezer with whatever you get a lot of. Add whole grains and beans to meat dishes, to use less meat. Buy as much in bulk as you can. And cook. Cooking should be a priority.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. mapaxn

    I really like the web site they offer, but the comments here are annoying. Google these articles: "Study: healthy eating costs more" and "the high cost of poverty" to check your ignorance. I'm tired of hearing about will power, or accusations that people are seeking pity. How about a real challenge like demanding companies in the food industries to quit advertising food out of context of it's original purpose; or challenge our cultural obsession with having the perfect body. It's no wonder people end up giving up and giving in to their favorite foods when nothing they do is every good enough anyway.

    August 25, 2012 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Laura L

    The real problem in america is affordable fruits and vegetables. The prices have to come down!!! Why don't americans rebell and start boycotting main grocery stores until they bring down the prices. Americans, you have the power! Just start demanding it.

    August 25, 2012 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. petewillett

    Another way to cut down on prices: cut back on (or get rid of) meat in your diet. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc. are all way cheaper than meat. Also, eat more avocados. You can buy four organic avocados for $5 at Whole Foods, and when you consider that one avocado is essentially a meal (350-450 very healthy, albeit high-fat, calories per avocado), that's actually quite cheap.

    August 25, 2012 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jane

    I can pick my own lettuce at a local farm near where I live for $1/head. Each head of lettuce is HUGE!! I'd rather eat the lettuce over a burger at a fast food place!!

    August 26, 2012 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Adan Smith

    I agree that the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables is too high. So what i can do? for it..I think its very nice blog post. I am also pretty sure that you could save your own money and the government's by buying frozen, no sugar added raspberries for much less.

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    August 28, 2012 at 08:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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  30. Nicole

    Great post! I remember doing a paper on this in college and comparing what 20 dollars could buy you at Burger King vs. how many BAGs of food one could purchase at the supermarket- it's pretty amazing! Also, the idea that family meals take hours to prepare is a complete misconception. The Natural Standard website has a great recipe section and many delicious and healthy meals can be done in 20 minutes or less! Note: These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent Natural Standard’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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  32. Brittany

    I am 24 living on my own and learning how to eat and cook decent healthy meals. I live in Florida (to give you an idea on the prices of items) and buy meats when they are on sale. Chicken breast and salmon is usually my main meat purchase. I buy as much as I can and have them portioned out in ziploc bags preseason them and stick them in the freezer. If I cook for just myself I pull one out if I cook for more I pull more out. I buy a lot of my fruits and vegis at the produce stand at the end of my street (I could even walk if I wanted) I get about $30-$40 in produce for about $10-$15. Sometimes I will even treat myself to boiled peanuts. PLUS I am supporting my local farmers. I usually buy my rice, cereal and grains on sale when they are buy one get one. I use coupons when I remember to snag a Sunday paper. I think the hardest part about having a decent healthy diet is the produce going bad quickly. I tend to forget what I have in the fridge and that's how I end up wasting money. Being 24, in college, a full time job and a part time job it is hard to balance time and keep track of it and what I have. But, it's worth it to put decent food in your body. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself every once in a while or having a piece of candy here and there.

    September 17, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Janet

    My husband and I spend $150 a month or less. We live in Los Angeles which is an expensive place to live.
    We eat whole foods, no processed food, choice grade meat, excellent produce and only eat out once a month. I shop at Ralphs, Sprouts and a local produce market. WE EAT VERY, VERY WELL.
    I spend a few hours on Sunday making meals for the week because we both work full time.

    If people would only try to do things differently they would see that this is not hard to do.
    The BS people spout about not being able to afford to eat healthy is just that- BS!
    Life lessons 101- change your habits, change your destiny. It is as simple as that!!

    I do seminars on this topic and teach families how to budget more effectively. I repeat ANYONE CAN DO THIS

    September 18, 2012 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • stephroberts17

      WOW! i just dont seehow you can eat for that much on food each month!!! mean my husband spend like 150 a week!!!

      May 17, 2013 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
  34. amelia22brown

    Generally, for preparing a meal on workdays at least requires 30 minutes or less. You need to balance costs properly because if you have a tight budget it s not possible to eat in a restaurant.

    Hence for saving both time and money you can cook dry beans quickly and eat them as your regular meal. Some companies sell healthy food products that are easy to store and can be prepared in a short time. An example of a great company creating these types of products is Sheffa Foods – you can look them up and take a look at their product line.


    December 5, 2012 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. scottashley442

    Generally, for preparing a meal on workdays at least requires 30 minutes or less. You need to balance costs properly because if you have a tight budget it s not possible to eat in a restaurant.

    Hence for saving both time and money you can cook dry beans quickly and eat them as your regular meal. Some companies sell healthy food products that are easy to store and can be prepared in a short time. An example of a great company creating these types of products is Sheffa Foods – you can look them up and take a look at their product line.

    December 6, 2012 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. stephroberts17

    I i dont see how somebody can live off of 150 bucks a month? you are full of it. ive always been poor since ive been on my own always worked minimum wage jobs and let me tell you....i think by budget of food was that i am obese a LOT bigger back in my 20s and i would eat nothing but toast cereal tv dinners that costed a buck and such and i was barely even making it then...and i would have to buy dog food that included that 150 a month in food....i dont think i even spent that much a month on food but whatever it is i made it through it.....

    now that im married things for me are more comfort and im still working my low wage job but hey its better than nothing...together we make good money combine him making 20 bucks an hour...but the thing about it is im doing weight watchers now and theres no way i can spend like 150 bucks for my food each month...that crazy and believe me i try to BUDGET my husband budgets everything but since ive been losing weight and eating a lot healthier it costs a LOT OF MONEY!!!! im going to try and make and freeze portions of meals like you all suggested see if that can keep it down.....biut other than that.....i know what its like from both sides of the world.....

    stop making fun of people that are poorer than you and are on foodstamps you dont know them and it could be YOU!! how or what would you do?? i dont wish that on anybody..

    May 17, 2013 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. haleyxerin

    I just have one question, since when is fast food cheap? The VERY RARE occasion my parent, siblings, and I go out for fast food we spend a minimum like 30 bucks. I made dinner last night it took maybe 20 minutes and I don't have the exact price but 1 can black beans, can healthy request tomato soup, salsa, tortillas, and a little cheese. Had I used dried beans and block cheese it would have coast far less and again 20 minutes maybe and I'm sure it was far healthier than anything they sell at Taco Bell.

    June 4, 2013 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.