Posted by: Kara @ The Foodie Dietitian | May 5, 2010

HELP! How do I eat healthy with little time and little money?!

The other day I received a comment on my blog that went like this:

Dear Kara,

I am a 23 year old medical student who finds it especially difficult to cook healthy meals when you’re only cooking for 1, and when time spent cooking is time lost studying. I eat horribly but I try to rationalize it with the fact I run every day. Do you have any basic recommendations for someone looking to eat healthier on a strict budget/time schedule.

Peace, Love, and Medicine,

Now don’t be fooled, this 23 yr old medical student just happens to be my cousin as well. Thank you Ryan for expressing and publicizing your concern. Hope you don’t mind I outed you as my family member! 🙂 I am really grateful that Ryan brought up this point though because how many of you out there feel like him? I DO, I DO!! I mean helloooo I get paid pennies, work a full-time internship, a part-time job, have assignments out of my ears, not to mention tend to my blog, and like all of us out there somehow fit in the laundry, the groceries, the cleaning, the exercise, the social life, and oh yeah maybe take a minute for myself to take a deep breath every once in a while! 🙂

What I’m trying to say is I get it. It can be super hard to fit in time to cook and have enough mula eat healthy. But the way I look at it is eating healthy is only difficult if you make it that way. There are easy solutions out there and if you make eating healthy a priority, it will all start to fall into place. So I’m going to provide you today with some basic tips on how to save time and money but not skimp out on the nutrition!! The good thing is a lot of these suggestions help you save on both!

Eat healthy without spending a bundle!    

  • Most important is PLANNING! Plan out your budget and plan out your grocery lists. This way you know how much to spend and you’re not buying extra things that weren’t on your list that you really don’t need.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you’ll find staples for your healthy diet like produce, meats, and dairy and also find things that are on sale! Once you start walkin’ down those aisles, you’re asking for processed foods with hiked-up prices!
  • When shopping for produce, buy what is local and in-season as these are going to be the best bang for your buck! Frozen fruits and veggies are also fairly inexpensive and have high nutritional content as they are frozen soon after being picked while in-season.
  • Try to avoid buying vegetables that are pre-washed or pre-bagged. They cost more and the quantity is less.
  • Buy grains and dried legumes in bulk. You save money on packaging costs!
  • Buy plain meats/poultry/seafood that are not already prepared. Season and flavor yourself to save.
  • Cook soups, sauces, stews in large quantities and freeze for later use.
  • Meats tend to be pretty pricey! Go “meatless” a couple times a week. Or try making meat a “side dish” instead of the center of your meal. AKA think 1/4 of your plate being your protein source.
  • When in doubt, make it from scratch. Prepared, prepackaged, and convenience foods are going to be more expensive and most likely will be more processed and higher in calories. Making foods from scratch cuts out on the added sodium and sugar that gets added to a lot of foods and it saves you money!

But what if I don’t have the TIME to eat healthy? 

  • I said it once and I’ll say it again. PLANNING! Plan out what your day is going to look like the night before and fit in your meals and snacks accordingly. If you know you are going to be out for 3 hours running errands or going to classes, then plan ahead and make sure you bring along that healthy snack with you! If you don’t plan ahead, you will get desperately hungry and grab whatever is available (kind of like my Mc’ Donald’s fiasco a few weeks back).
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy foods! This may seem like a no-brainer but think about it, if we buy junk food, we are ultimately going to eat that junk food. The solution? Don’t let it enter your house! Don’t buy it at the grocery store! Problem-solved.
  • Prepare food ahead of time when your schedule allows. Freeze that grub and then bust it out when you are cramming for exams or trying to beat that deadline. Time lost cooking. Zip.
  • Here’s a little secret for ya. Cooking does not have to be extravagant. 4-course meals are not necessary! Buy a cookbook for yourself that gives you recipes for meals in 20 or 30 min or less. There are tons of them out there! I wonder why?! 🙂
  • Snack ideas for healthy grab-n-go’s: fruit with nut butter, trail mix, veggies and hummus or yogurt dip, wheat toast and nut butter, cheese and whole-wheat crackers, yogurt and fruit, yogurt and granola, cottage cheese and fruit, fruit and yogurt smoothie

My final thought…

Rule of thumb for healthy eating in a flash: aim for meals that include at least 3 food groups and snacks that have at least 2 food groups. Variety is the spice of life people. As long as you’re eatin’ those whole grains, loading up on fruits and veggies, squeezing in some low-fat dairy and lean protein, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend on cooking! You are still eating healthy!

Want to hear more about my own personal food philosophy and lifestyle?! Check out my recent guest blog post on!

Peace, love, and healthy food,




  1. My tip:

    CROCK POTS!!! Slow cookers are amazing! You can throw everything you need for a chilli, a soup, a whole chicken, veggies… Anything and everything you need.

    Get one. Get a slow cooker cook book. And love your life!

    • Great tip!! I need to invest in one, I’m missing out! It’s so easy to cook with crock pots, you just throw everything in and let it cook! No hassle, little time wasted!

  2. Great tips. I also agree with Scott on the crock pot.

    • Thanks Alisa! Yes I think the crock pot is key!

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