Can you afford to eat healthy?

Today DIY Jahn will be hosting a special guest post from one of my teammates at TD Nation. TD Nation is the group from which Camp Grit It sprang!

Interested in joining Camp Grit It?  Click here!

Marsha is working toward her goals and has heard, many times, about people who feel that they cannot afford to eat healthy. Here’s her take on this…


After hearing several complains about people not being able to “afford” to eat healthy, I decided to look into it. One person who claimed they couldn’t afford health foods was eating enough bread and muffins for one breakfast that he could have afforded to be eating a small breakfast steak! So, I’ve been wondering: how can an intelligent person be so confused as to what is healthy eating and what is not?

The reason most people give other people a hard time about eating healthy food is because they know that they also should be doing the same, but don’t want to change. People don’t give up their old habits easily, especially when it comes to food. (remember, old habits die hard). It’s really not that there isn’t enough money for groceries, it’s just that grocery money is being spent on the wrong foods.

Seldom is anybody really starving in the house; there is always food to eat, it’s just not nutritionally good food. I watched a friend on a calorie-counting website who was almost starving due to losing her job. She lived on cheap white bread, tomato sandwiches, and peanut butter for all of her meals for almost two months before finally finding a new job – now that’s starving! That is what it means to not be able to afford to eat healthy.

At the same time, I look around the grocery store and I can see other peoples’ carts filled with 50% carbs, 25% fat, and even less protein – with barely any vegetables at all! Unfortunately, these cart-fulls of food will never make anyone feel good or be healthy.

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The thing is: it doesn’t really cost any more money to eat healthy, you just have to reallocate the grocery money and switch the percentages around. If you really look into it, fattening, carb-loaded, junk food is very expensive. And a big problem with it is that it does not contain the nutritional values you need so your body is still starving. Since your body is starving, you need to eat two or three times the amount of food you would actually need if you ate a nutritionally balanced meal. Is it really less expensive if you have to buy twice as much?

When I put my groceries on the cashier’s belt, I get raised eyebrows and I love it. 50% of what I put up are veggies and fruit – canned, frozen, fresh, you name it. 25% of what I buy is protein – beef, pork, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt. And only 15% of what I buy is carbs and even these are healthier carbs like sweet potatoes, whole wheat breads, and brown rice. The last 10% of my groceries are allocated into pet foods and the like.

And you know what the crazy thing is? I’m actually spending less now on groceries than I was six months ago – before joining TD Nation! Not to mention we are both eating unbelievably healthier meals now.

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Another hard part can be if your significant other or family is eating differently than you are. You tend to end up with more food than you need. That’s how it was for me in the beginning – I was shopping the old way for his high-carb lifestyle and then trying to buy good food for myself with whatever money was left over.

Now, six months later, he’s eating what I’m eating about 85-90% of the time. An occasional fish fry, tater tots, mac and cheese once a month (not every week, and his Oreo cookies keep him happy! You know what the secret is? Leading by example! People want to be healthy, but they don’t think they can. When you lead the path, they’re bound to follow.

It’s our job then, to lead by example and teach people how to eat healthy on a shoe string budget, not just tell them to do it. Many people really want to eat healthy, but just don’t know how to make it happen. They’ve been told again and again that it is too expensive. They’ve also been told that they can’t do it. They decide that it is easier to say they are unable to get healthy because of money and accept that they can’t do it than to do the work to make it happen.

Instead, people who say they cannot afford to be healthy need to look to themselves and decipher why they want to be healthy in the first place. What is it that makes them want to lose weight, get fit, or just be healthier in general? When your why is strong enough, you can do anything. Anyone who has gotten anywhere in life knows this.

Those who are worried about the cost of groceries need to focus on why they want to be healthy – when they remember their why, it’s easier to focus on how to make it happen and the sacrifices don’t feel quite so bad. They need to remember that their why needs to be strong enough to make them not want to put those two bags of chips, cookies, and snack foods into the cart.

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So, that’s my take on “I’m broke so I can’t be healthy and therefore I’m overweight and have poor health issues.” If you made it this far, congratulations and thank you!


Thank you again to Marsha for guest-posting on DIY Jahn! We truly appreciate your contribution and know that it will make a difference in peoples’ lives. Want more posts on budgets, weight loss, DIY projects, crafts, recipes, and more? Follow DIY Jahn’s blog!

Want to join Camp Grit It and learn more about losing weight and eating healthy on a budget? Click here!

Want to comment on Marsha’s post? We would love to hear your comments! Share them in the posts below!


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31 Replies to “Can you afford to eat healthy?”

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say but having a family makes it harder, especially when organic costs almost double and one parent is not working! But all in all we are a very healthy family 🙂

    1. Yes, organic can definitely be more expensive, I agree. And feeding a family does cost more. I’ve got some posts coming out soon on how you can save money grocery shopping though – it’s possible! 🙂 Thank you for commenting, Lorna!

  2. Well said, but I actually am super picky. I do not like most foods that have a strong taste and am not very organized in regards to ..umm.. anything. I like your post though!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Jen! It’s true that it can be hard to eat healthy on a budget if you are picky, but like you said – not being organized can really make it even harder. When I plan meals ahead of time, I save so much money…regardless of what I want to eat. The problem is that it’s really hard for me to develop the meal plan, because like you, I don’t get very organized. On top of that, I have trouble sticking to it, because I procrastinate. I’m working on it though! Thank you for the comment!!! 🙂

  3. Is fun y how people think eat inglés healthy Is Boring But most Because They need creative ideas and realize Is not just tomato es and lettuce… My boyfriend (comes from a back ground Of 0 fresh fruits or veggies But happily little by little he Is accepting The idea, and what you mentioned is true today we went to the supermarket all veggies fruits etc no more than 3 euros huge amounts and we bought ice cream 4.50 and ham 3! So totally agree eating healthy is cheaper!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Montse! 🙂 I agree, it can be hard to think of it as cheaper, but it definitely is based on how much you eat comparatively. When you eat unhealthy foods, your body needs more of it than when you need healthy foods. Plus, who doesn’t want lots of fresh fruits and veggies! THanks for the comment! 🙂

  4. I think people use cheap/price when what they really mean is easy/time… The costs are fine… But you have to put time and effort into healthy food… We’ve become used to instant gratification…

    1. I completely agree, Fred. It’s so easy to go to McDs or pull out a frozen meal because you can instantly get your food without doing any work. When we have to put effort into it, that’s when it becomes harder. Learning to balance the money vs difficulty of a task is where we as a population struggle. Thank you for adding to this!

    1. I completely agree! I don’t have a trader joe’s near me, but I am sad about that! You can also go to places like ALdi’s and get great low-sodium canned foods and fresh produce for cheap!

  5. It can be so hard to eat super healthy, and mostly Organic, but I try when I can. It’s good to see that there are frugal ways of making it happen. I really enjoyed this guest post! -Anni

    1. Thanks, Anne! I appreciate your comment. It definitely can be hard with organic foods, but I’ll be posting more on how to save with those, too, soon! 🙂 Keep an eye out for it!

  6. Actually maybe in your country you can find cheaper healthy things… but for example I live in Italy and I cannot find cheap fruits and vegs… grocery shopping is a struggle every week because a lot of money goes along with it. In UK it’s like this too, I lived there for 2 years and a bag of chips costs like 70p and a small cup of ready cutted fruit £3… it’s absurd… like they want us to be fat!!?? Supermarkets should promote healthy foods not junks…

    1. Wow, Erika! I didn’t realize costs were so different in different countries, but thank you for that perspective. I know getting pre-cut fruit and veggies can definitely cost more than just whole fruit and veggies because you pay for the convenience. So, sometimes that can save you some money. Not to mention the nutritional difference between the chips and fruit as far as filling you up and creating a healthy being. Something to remember is that you almost can’t afford to not be healthy – the future healthcare costs and the costs on your wellbeing… YOu know? Thank you for such a great perspective, Erika! I truly appreciate it!

    2. Erika, I have cousins in several parts of Italy ( Rome, Milano, Biblione etc) and they are buying all the food from farms. The price is lower and freshness lovely.

      1. Buying from farms is a GREAT idea. Not only are you supporting your local friends and the local economy, but you are also receiving high quality food for much cheaper than at the stores. I definitely recommend it. Thank you for this comment!

  7. This was such a great read! I totally agree with Erika above that it really depends on the country, and how affordable they make healthy products. I live in Denmark, and here the government once implemented a sugar/fat tax that was put on all unhealthy products. That was supposed to prevent obesity etc.
    I love eating healthy, and I stick to it, but still think all healthy products should be made more affordable! Here where I live, superfoods like chia seeds and matcha are SO expensive just because the products are in trend at the moment. It’s a bit unfair 🙁

    1. Thank you for your comment, Juliana! I appreciate your perspective on why the foods are so expensive and I think you’re right. In America, products like chia seeds and such are expensive right now as well. It’s really unfortunate for those who want to eat healthy as a lifestyle rather than as a fad. I will be posting more on how you can save money grocery shopping soon so stay tuned!

  8. As you, I pay attention for food quality. I cook from scratch, I cook for several days. I am going to local producers and buying local and season products. I started to follow groups and friends and I even go to collect local vegetables. In plus, in the forests there are several eatble plants, for free. I have some containers where I am growing some plants (condiments) and a veeery small garden that reduced the budget in the summer with 10%.

    Yes, we can eat healthy and cheap; just a lot of study and a little effort.

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