The Savvy Shopper’s Guide To Clean Eating On A Budget 

 Last Update December 11, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

Eating better is high on most people's lists when it comes to things they want to change. However, the perceived cost of healthy foods often leads people to opt for cheaper alternatives. 

Fortunately, adopting a clean eating lifestyle doesn't have to put a strain on your finances. With some practical tips and a bit of savvy planning, it's entirely possible to prioritize your health while adhering to a budget.

Maintaining a healthy diet doesn't have to be costly. However, with the tips below, you can embrace clean eating while staying within your budget. You may have unknowingly purchased cheaper food options when you could have afforded higher-quality alternatives had you known how to allocate your money wisely.

What Is Clean Eating?

Clean eating and healthy eating are very similar but slightly different in focus and approach.

Healthy eating is a broad term that encompasses a balanced and varied diet that provides essential nutrients for optimal health. It involves making choices that promote overall well-being, taking into account factors such as portion sizes, macronutrients, and food groups. 

Healthy eating allows for various cooking methods and food preparation techniques, including grilling, baking, steaming, and sautéing. It emphasizes the importance of portion control and incorporating a well-balanced combination of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) into your meals.

On the other hand, clean eating specifically emphasizes the quality of the foods consumed, focusing on unprocessed or minimally processed options while avoiding or minimizing processed and refined foods. The goal of clean eating is to prioritize the nutritional value of food, promoting health and well-being.

Clean eating encourages the practice of cooking and preparing meals at home using fresh, unprocessed ingredients. It encourages avoiding or minimizing processed convenience foods and instead choosing unprocessed or minimally processed options.

Here are some key principles of clean eating:

Whole, unprocessed foods

Clean eating advocates for the consumption of whole, natural foods in their unprocessed or minimally processed state. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Minimize processed foods

Clean eating entails minimizing or eliminating processed foods from your diet. These are typically packaged foods that undergo extensive processing and contain added sugars, unhealthy fats, artificial additives, and preservatives.

Choose nutrient-dense foods

Clean eating highlights the importance of choosing nutrient-dense foods that are abundant in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It encourages incorporating a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals.

Avoid refined sugars and unhealthy fats

Clean eating encourages avoiding or limiting refined sugars, such as those found in sugary beverages, desserts, and processed snacks. Opt for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup in moderation instead of relying on refined sugars. Likewise, it is recommended to limit the intake of unhealthy fats such as trans fats and saturated fats commonly found in fried foods, processed snacks, and fatty meats.

Hydrate with water

Clean eating encourages prioritizing water as the main beverage of choice. Drinking enough water helps maintain hydration, supports digestion, and aids overall well-being. Limit sugary drinks, sodas, and excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages.

Read labels

It's important to read the ingredient labels attentively when buying packaged foods. Opt for products that avoid artificial additives, preservatives, and unfamiliar or hard-to-understand ingredients.

Cook and prepare meals at home

Preparing meals at home allows you to have control over the ingredients and cooking methods. By embracing clean eating, you have the opportunity to select fresh, whole ingredients and steer clear of unhealthy additives often present in restaurant and takeout meals.

Mindful eating

Clean eating emphasizes mindful eating practices. Make it a habit to eat slowly, relishing each bite and staying mindful of your hunger and fullness cues. This practice fosters a positive relationship with food and aids in preventing overeating.

Can You Eat Clean On A Budget

Yes, it is possible to eat clean on a budget. While some health foods and specialty items can be expensive, many affordable options can still support an eating healthy and clean lifestyle.

How To Clean Eating On a Budget

Cook at home

Preparing meals at home offers a wonderful opportunity to save money while indulging in flavorful and nourishing dishes. Preparing meals at home is generally more affordable than dining out.

When you cook at home, you have control over your ingredients, allowing you to choose more affordable options, especially when buying in bulk or during sales. By planning meals and shopping strategically, you can make the most of your budget and avoid the markup that comes with dining out.

Planning and preparing meals in advance can save both time and money. By batch cooking, you can utilize ingredients more efficiently, minimize food waste, and have ready-made meals to enjoy throughout the week. This eliminates the need for costly last-minute takeout or convenience foods.

Buy In Bulk

Bulk food is cheaper than individually packaged but only on products you use often or don't go bad quickly. Many grocery stores offer foods like apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, oranges, and onions in large quantity bags, and typically these bags are cheaper than buying individually.

When buying in larger quantities, the price per unit or ounce is often lower than buying individual or smaller packages. This is because suppliers and retailers offer discounts for bulk purchases, passing on the savings to the consumer. As a result, you pay less for each item or unit of a product.

For example, if you go through whole wheat flour fairly quickly, purchase your whole wheat flour from club stores like Costco or Sam's Club.

Buy The Whole Bird

When it comes to organic chicken, buying the whole bird is much cheaper per pound than the parts separately. If your family eats chicken frequently, it can reduce your food bill drastically. It's important to consider that purchasing the whole animal requires adequate freezer space and the ability to store and manage the meat properly. Additionally, buying in bulk may require upfront costs and planning ahead to ensure you can use or preserve the meat effectively.

Use Modern Technology To Your Advantage. 

There are saving and cashback apps that you can get on your smartphone or computer. 

Ibotta: Ibotta is a fantastic app that I highly recommend. It provides the opportunity to earn cash back on purchases made at a variety of stores, including popular options like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Costco, and many others. It's incredibly easy to use: simply select your purchases and snap a picture of your receipt. Ibotta will promptly refund the cash back to you. Plus, you can even receive $5 immediately just by signing up! Give it a try, and start saving today.

Honey: Honey is an exceptional browser extension that enables you to effortlessly discover the best discounts available on the internet. With Honey, you can unlock incredible savings directly from your browser, making online shopping more affordable and convenient than ever before.

Stop Snacking On Processed Food

Processed snacks, such as chips, cookies, and pre-packaged snacks, are often more expensive per serving compared to homemade or whole-food alternatives. By reducing or eliminating processed snacks from your diet, you can allocate your snack budget towards more affordable and nutritious options.

Opting for whole foods as snacks, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, enables you to take advantage of bulk purchasing options. Purchasing these items in larger quantities is generally more cost-effective, especially when compared to individually packaged snacks that often come with a higher price tag.

Store Price Comparison 

Store price comparison is a valuable strategy that can significantly help save money on groceries. This tip can be very beneficial if you are clean eating on a budget. 

Comparing prices across different stores, co-ops, and local farmers' markets allows you to identify where specific items are priced lower. By researching and comparing prices, you can pinpoint stores that consistently offer better deals on your frequently purchased products. By comparing prices, you can make well-informed decisions about where to shop, maximizing your potential for savings.

Read Labels To Avoid Overpay

By being mindful and reading labels, you can make informed purchasing decisions, choose products that provide better value for your money, and avoid unnecessary expenses on items that don't align with your needs or preferences. This practice supports both financial savings and healthier choices.

Reading labels and examining the ingredients list is crucial because terms like 'organic,' 'natural,' and 'clean' can be misleading. The term 'natural' is not regulated in the food industry, so verifying the ingredients is essential. By doing so, you can avoid paying a premium for a product labeled as 'natural' when it may not truly meet that standard.

Have A Shopping List

A well-thought-out meal plan can help you cut expenses when prioritizing fresh, in-season produce. It also helps you keep on track and helps to eliminate unnecessary purchases and junk food. If you do run into a situation where your fruit or veggie is about to go bad, freeze it or find ways to use it before it goes bad.

Emphasize plant-based foods

Focusing on plant-based foods can contribute to significant cost savings on your grocery bill. Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts are generally more budget-friendly compared to animal-based products.

Plant-based protein sources are generally more cost-effective compared to animal proteins like meat and dairy products. You can significantly lower your grocery expenses by reducing your reliance on these items and embracing plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh.

Have meal plans

Before going to the grocery store, create a weekly clean-eating meal plan and meal prep. Meal planning will help you avoid impulsive purchases and ensure you buy only what you need.

Seasonal and local produce

Opting for locally grown and in-season fruits and vegetables can often provide more affordable and fresher options compared to imported or out-of-season produce.

Shop sales and discounts

Stay vigilant for sales, coupons, and discounts on healthy food items. Strategically plan your meals around these opportunities to maximize savings on your grocery bill.

Cook from scratch

Pre-packaged and processed healthy meals are usually more expensive. Preparing meals from scratch allows you to have control over the ingredients used, ultimately leading to long-term cost savings.

Drink water

Purchasing bottled drinks, soda, juices, and other beverages can quickly increase costs. By choosing water as your main drink, you eliminate the expense associated with buying these often pricier options. Water is typically available at a significantly lower cost or even free from your tap.

Grow your own food

While some initial costs may be associated with setting up a garden, such as soil, seeds, tools, and irrigation, the long-term savings on grocery expenses can be substantial. Growing your own food reduces your grocery bill and allows you to enjoy fresh, flavorful produce straight from your garden.

Repurpose Leftovers

Instead of discarding leftovers, give them a new purpose by transforming them into entirely different meals. This not only helps reduce food waste but also allows you to make the most of the food you have.

Buy Generic Or Store Brand

Buying generic or store-brand products can be a smart and effective way to save money on groceries. By purchasing generic or store-brand items like olive oil, frozen fruits, and frozen veggies, brown rice can reduce your grocery bill.

Generic or store-brand products are typically priced lower than their name-brand counterparts. This is because generic or store-brand products typically have lower marketing and advertising costs compared to branded products, resulting in more affordable prices. Opting for these alternatives allows you to enjoy similar quality while paying less.


affordable clean produce

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.