May 13, 2015

Eat Clean on a Shoestring Budget

One of the most popular questions I am asked is "Is Clean Eating Expensive?" It's kind of a loaded question. Clean Eating can be expensive, but with careful planning, it won't cost you any more than that processed and convenience food diet you've been eating (no offense, I ate it too).

First, let's talk about Clean Eating...

The Basics

1. Whole Foods
2. Avoid Processed Foods
3. Avoid Artificial Ingredients and Sweeteners
4. Eats Lots of Vegetables and Fruits
5. Eat Lean Protein
6. Eat Complex and Whole Grain Carbs
7. Control Portion Size

There really is SO MUCH VARIETY! With so many foods to choose from, it's easy to create a meal plan that is within your budget. YOU HAVE THE POWER! You rule your meal plan, don't let your meal plan rule you. Plus, nutritious foods are more nutrient dense, so they keep you satisfied for much longer than those empty calories in sugary and processed foods. For the non-abbreviated version, visit my Clean Eating 101 article.

Second, let's talk organic food...

Not everything in your diet needs to be organic. You can save money on specific items by purchasing regular versus organic. Each year, the Environmental Working Group ( publishes the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists. These lists tell you which foods to buy organic and which foods you can get by with regular.

This year's lists!

The Dirty Dozen is the 12 foods that have the most concentration of pesticides. For example, 99% of apples tested positive for at least one type of pesticide ( When shopping, you'll want to buy these foods in the organic section. The Clean Fifteen are the 15 foods that you can purchase from the regular section of your store, to save some money in your budget without compromising your health.

Studies have shown that a clean and healthy diet is about $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy diet plan. While that may not be a lot to one person, it can be a huge difference to another. Your individual family budget is yours, and if you cannot afford $1.50 more per day, I've been there. When we started eating clean, we were a little shocked by the cost increase, and frankly, we couldn't afford it. I spent HOURS shifting through our budget to make it work for us. Now, my budget is no more than it ever was in the past! Here's what I found:

1. Convenience costs- Avoid pre-made and pre-packaged foods. Honestly, if you are following a clean meal plan, you're already avoiding these foods, so you will save a bit right from the start!

2. Control Portion Size- You aren't going to be able to eat right without taking a peek at your portion size. Eat less food! You don't need 2 cups of pasta at dinner, it's unhealthy, and you truly don't need that much food. When you control your portion size, you're going to control your budget and your weight. BONUS! Did you know that American diets have a portion size of 2-4 times the amount that a person should be eating? Nutritious food is more filling anyways, eat well, eat less, be satisfied.

3. Eat less meat- The USDA has reported that Americans eat about 50 pounds more meat than we did 50 years ago. There are other ways to get protein! Instead of serving meat with every meal, or large portions of meat with dinner, focus on adding other proteins. I suggest eggs, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, quinoa, black beans and other legumes, lentils, chia seeds, ezekiel bread, hummus, hemp seeds, and even peanut butter! Using less meat on a daily basis is going to result in less expense and less calories, win win.

4. Make your own foods wherever possible- Not only will you save money, but you can also control the foods that go into your mouth! Salad dressings for example can cost $3-$4 for a bottle and nearly every salad dressing out there has at least one questionable ingredient. Instead, try making your own. Recipes: Balsamic Dressing, Red wine vinaigrette. In addition, there are some snacks that will cost you pennies to make, instead of spending $5-$8 in the store. Try out my hummus recipe and cut the cost from your grocery list.

5. Buy in Bulk- Costco and Sam's Club have been adding healthy and organic foods to their stores. Figure out which items you can purchase in bulk and do it! We purchase several fruits, vegetables, yogurt, almond milk, power green smoothie blends (kale, spinach, chard), chicken breast, cheese, whole grains, eggs, quinoa, snacks, and even some organic sauces at our local buy in bulk store. A container of yogurt that costs $8 in the grocery store is $5 at our buy in bulk store!

6. Meal Plan- I plan for two weeks at a time. When I make my meal plan, I plan out meals that utilize the same ingredients and spices, just in different ways. I then buy in bulk to save money. My meal planning tips can be found here.

7. Buy foods that are in season- If you can get your fruits and vegetables when they are in season, you're going to pay much less. You may not get strawberries year round, but that's okay, because some other super fruit is going to be in season when strawberries aren't!

8. Prioritize your budget. If serving yourself and/or your family healthy meals is important to you, you may have to take a step back somewhere else in your budget.

25 Foods that are inexpensive and oh-so-healthy.

There is no way that you are going to get every single superfood into your diet, even if you had the money for it. But there are plenty of healthy foods, and even superfoods, that are cost effective.

1. Chia Seeds
2. Broccoli
3. Berries (buy whichever berries are in season and try your local farmer's market)
4. Oats
5. Eggs
6. Black Beans
7. Spinach
8. Garbanzo Beans
9. Lentils
10. Chicken Breast
11. Canned Tuna
12. Yogurt
13. Cottage Cheese
14. Brown Rice
15. Bananas
16. Watermelon
17. Onions
18. Sweet Potatoes
19. Oranges
20. Popcorn
21. Raw Nuts (almonds and peanuts being the least expensive)
22. Apples
23. Peanut Butter (don't get one that is loaded with sugar)
24. Peppers
25. Whole grain bread/pasta
26. Bonus- Tea. It's a bonus because it's a drink not a food. In general, don't drink your calories. But besides water, tea is a great beverage!

Low Cost Meal Pan


Yogurt and Berries
Toast with Eggs and avocado slices
Cottage Cheese with Berries

Rotate these meals and buy in bulk!


Chicken Salad Sandwich
Egg Salad Sandwich
Clean Eating Nachos
Green Salad with Homemade Balsamic Dressing and 2 sliced, hardboiled eggs.

Again, rotate!


Roasted Crunchy Garbanzo Beans
Yogurt Fruit Dip
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with sliced peppers or other seasonal raw vegetable
Avocado Hummus with seasonal vegetables
Apple & Peanut Butter
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Greek Yogurt Cookie Dough
Air popped popcorn


Crock Pot Fajitas with black beans and brown rice
Fried Rice
Chicken and Broccoli Quiche
Chicken Parmesan
Baked Chicken, Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes
Shredded Beef Tacos

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