Why Are Healthy Foods Expensive? – How To Eat Healthy Within Your Budget

How To Eat Healthy When You Can’t Afford Organic, Free Range, Grass-fed Etc.

My site recommends healthy eating on the various topics I write about. From recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome to healing a leaky gut, an important basic component of good health is maintaining a healthy diet.

This is particularly important if you are recovering from an illness, as your body needs a variety of nutrients to assist with healing. Avoiding chemicals and additives from processed foods is equally important in not taxing your body as it heals.

Admittedly, some of the recommendations for healthy food from myself as well as other health writers nowadays can be expensive. This is due to rejecting highly processed, big agra chemicalized food to give your body the best chance of functioning well.

While you want to do everything possible to improve your health you are probably wondering ‘why are healthy foods so expensive’?

When your family is on a tight budget, you may find it difficult to always buy organic, free range or grass-fed food. So what to do? It is not all or nothing when it comes to organic foods. Not going 100% organic is not a problem as long as you know what you are buying. You can buy what you can afford without feeling guilty you are not eating ‘the right thing’ ALL of the time.

Here is the lowdown on how to afford the best food possible.


Avoid The Dirty Dozen And Eat From EWG’s Clean 15 list

Most of our foods contain pesticide residues of some sort according to EWG. This organisation tests produce for pesticides to let you know the truth about what you are buying.

In EWG’s food tests, they found 225 different pesticide residues in popular vegetables and fruits. Contaminated food is not good for you as many of these pesticides can cause harm when consumed.

EWG tested kale which is currently hailed as a superfood. The results were surprising. After washing, 92 percent of samples contained two or more different pesticide residues. Some samples contained up to 18 different pesticide residues.

why are healthy foods so expensive - kale

Dacthal was the commonest one found in 60 percent of samples. This was banned in Europe in 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency classified it as a possible carcinogen in 1995.

EWG cleaned all samples before ready for use testing them. This shows that cleaning produce before use does not remove all pesticide residue.

This organisation has a Dirty Dozen™ and Clean 15 Foods lists. It is worth reading EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ to understand what you are buying.

Choose organic for fruit and vegetables that are highly contaminated like strawberries and spinach, and  buy standard produce for the least contaminated items.


Healthy Alternatives To Grass-fed Meat, Wild Caught Salmon And Organic Vegetables

It is not always possible to afford or source grass-fed meat, wild caught salmon or organic vegetables. So here are some healthy options:

  • Grass-fed meat: Protein in your diet is important. While grass-fed and organic meats are the best for you, there are alternative options:
    • Lentils and beans are a good replacement for any meat. They are hearty and good for you and can be used in numerous different ways, from soups to healthy veggie burgers. You don’t have to make them your main protein source, but adding a few lentil or bean meals into your weekly meal plan will save you money.
    • Mushrooms such as portobello and cremini have an earthy, meaty, rich flavour and are an excellent meat replacement in any meat dish.
    • Tofu and tempeh are plant-based proteins made from soybeans. Replace meat with tofu or tempeh in just about any meat dish. The options are only limited by your imagination.
    • Eggs are a good source of protein and you can use them in many ways. However, for eggs it really is best to buy free range, eggs from hens not raised on GMO corn feed. They are not only healthier, but are more filling with solid yolks.
    • Buy small amounts of the cheaper cuts of grass fed meat and use a slow cooker to tenderize the meat and cook up some flavorful casseroles.


  • Wild caught salmon: Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which scientists say can prevent all types of medical conditions. When you do not like salmon or seafood, or it is outside your budget, here are some options:
    • Pinto, mung and kidney beans are delicious and rich in omega 3. You can use them in a variety of ways.
    • Chia and flax seeds are also rich in omega 3. Grind them up and add to your cereal or a smoothie. Try using flax seed oil in salad dressings. Only two tablespoons of flax seeds give you more than 50 percent of the omega 3 you need a day. I take it straight off the spoon, remember it must be kept in the fridge to prevent it going rancid.
    • Acorn squash and pumpkin have a healthy amount of omega 3. They are low in calories and high in fibre.
    • Eggs are high in omega 3 and an ideal source of nutrients.
    • Other seafood is full of omega 3. These include sea bass, mackerel, Alaskan halibut, herring, trout, sardines, and clams. Sardines and herring are both cheap and delicious. If fish is too ‘fishy’ for you, make it into fishcakes with potatoes, spring onions and herbs for additional flavor. It will help your budget too.


  • Organic vegetables: When you cannot afford organic fruit and vegetables the danger is pesticide residue in some produce. Scrubbing them clean with a brush can remove some of the residue but not all. It is best to remove the skin of any non organic fruit and vegetables if possible as this is where the chemical residue resides. According to EWG, the following have little or no pesticide residue and are safe to eat:
    • avocados
    • sweet corn
    • pineapples
    • frozen sweet peas
    • onions
    • papayas
    • eggplants
    • asparagus
    • kiwis
    • cabbages
    • cauliflower
    • cantaloupes
    • broccoli
    • mushrooms
    • honeydew melons.

Grow Your Own Food

Growing your own food is a great way to know exactly what you eat and feed your family. While it is rewarding to see your own produce growing, it tastes better than anything you buy.

Growing food in your backyard also keeps you fit and healthy. Even get the kids involved. They will appreciate the value of food and get a kick out of contributing to what you eat.

why are healthy foods so expensive - garden

When I was a kid, my father allowed me a tiny part of his garden, a special partitioned area where I was guided to grow my own brussel sprouts, onions and cabbages. It’s not only fun for kids to watch what they plant grow into food they can eat, but it teaches them about where food comes from too.

Benefits of growing your own food includes:

  • You choose what types of pesticides and fertilisers you use on your food plants as they grow.
  • You can control when to pick you food. It has more nutrients when you pick and use it straight away.

Nothing tastes better than some new season tiny potatoes pulled straight out of the earth, steamed and served with parsley and butter (organic, grass fed of course if your budget allows). When you have the space, starting a vegetable garden is not difficult. Growing vegetables is simple. Here are a few tips for growing your own food:

  • Start with a small garden and plant what you love to eat.
  • Make sure the area you choose gets at least 6 hours of sun a day and has good access to water.
  • Use soil free of contaminants.
  • Research what grows well in your area at what time of year.

Container Gardens

Don’t have the space to grow veggies? No problem. Grow them in containers. It is easy. You can create a container vegetable garden on a balcony, patio or anywhere it will get enough sun. Choose vegetables, herbs and fruit trees that are easy to grow in containers.

You can use any type of container except treated wood. Just make sure it is big enough for the type of food you want to grow and has drainage holes. Use a top-quality potting mix and plant your seeds. You will soon have home grown produce right at your back door.

Cook At Home From Scratch

Cooking home cooked meals, and snacks is healthier than buying pre-packaged foods. It is easy and you know exactly what your food contains. Sure, it takes time to cook yourself and you may justify pulling food out of the freezer or opening a can or package by being too busy. But are you too busy to feed your family the best food possible to keep them healthy?

Once you start cooking everything from scratch, time will not matter as everything tastes better. It’s fun to involve the family too. Make it family bonding time, no phones allowed. Here are some of the benefits of home cooking.

Home Cooking Is Healthier

Food that comes out of a package is full of chemical additives and can contain bad fats and probably a lot of sugar, yes, even in savory foods. These are not things you want to eat. Cooking at home allows you to choose your ingredients. You can grow your own food, buy direct from farmers or farmers’ markets for the freshest ingredients. In no time everyone will be healthier.

Saves Money

Believe it or not cooking from scratch can save you money. Buying from supermarkets and organic stores is usually expensive. By buying from markets and even online for staples like flour, it will cost a lot less.

why are healthy foods expensive - saving jar

Also consider cooking meals that use produce that is in season. When you use ingredients that are not in season, they will cost more. On a couple of recent visits to Italy while browsing the local supermarkets and stores I noticed ONLY locally produced and in season fruit and veggies for sale. They truly do eat according to the seasons.

Not only do they eat according to the seasons, but they celebrate the beginning of each season when new produce arrives. At the beginning of spring when artichokes make an appearance small restaurants everywhere suddenly have artichoke dishes on the menu.

When eating with the seasons, not only are supporting local growers. But, once you get in the habit of cooking these fresh and delicious foods from scratch, it will no longer be a chore.

Avoid Processed And Fast Foods

Avoid processed and fast foods as it is full of chemicals and bad fats. Keep in mind though, that single ingredients that have no added chemicals is still real food. It is the foods processed with chemicals made only from artificial and refined ingredients you need to avoid.

Here are some reasons not to eat processed foods.

Manufactured Foods Are Made To Overeat

Often we naturally go for foods that are fatty, sweet or salty. Manufacturers know this. They are up against fierce competition, so they need to produce food that tastes good. Processed food sellers make foods that reward your brain.

This is why you can crave processed foods. This can be unhealthy. It can affect your behaviour and thoughts, and lead to junk food bingeing. And, if you give into your cravings for unhealthy processed food all the time, you can become obese or sick.

Packed With Sugars

Fast, processed foods are usually packed with sugars and high fructose corn syrup, which is even worse. Although these give you a hit of energy, they are devastating for your metabolism.

processed food

Too much sugar has links to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. It can cause high triglycerides, high cholesterol, fat accumulation in the stomach and liver, and insulin resistance.

Consuming foods and drinks high in sugars can lead to serious health problems.

Full Of Artificial Ingredients

When you look at the ingredients in processed food it is likely you do not even know what most of the ingredients listed on the label are. The reason for this is they are the artificial ingredients. They are not real food but chemicals added for different reasons such as: preservatives, flavouring, colorants and texturants.

Processed Foods To Avoid

It is almost impossible to avoid all processed and junk foods. Here are four types of processed foods to avoid:

  • Hot dogs, bacon, sausages and deli meats
  • Sweet drinks and sodas
  • Commercially baked goods
  • Readymade meals whether canned, frozen, microwavable or they come in a jar.

Good Processed Foods

There are some processed foods that are healthy. These are the ones that have not been chemically altered, and have no added sugar or salt. Always read the ingredient list on the label to check. Healthy processed foods include:

  • Frozen fruit and vegetables still have most of their nutrients as there is minimal processing.
  • Jars of tomatoes have minimal processing.
  • Whole grain pasta, and breads can be good for your immunity, digestion, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  • Plain unsweetened yoghurt is full of vitamins, calcium, protein and contains probiotics.
  • Packets of unsalted, raw nuts and nut butters are packed with protein and fibre.

Healthy Fats

There are healthy fats and others that are bad for you. Good fats are your main source of energy and essential for many functions of your body. The good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These comes from fish, nuts, vegetables and seeds.

Most healthy fats are liquid and not solid at room temperature, the exception to this is coconut oil which depending on where you live and the temperature can be solid.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats were first discovered in the 1960s from the Seven Countries Study. This found that people in Mediterranean countries had low rates of heart disease even though their diets were high in fat.

A Mediterranean diet is low in saturated fats which comes from animals. However, those in mediterranean countries eat healthy fats like olive oil. Eating a diet high in good fats is a healthy choice today.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are essential to your diet to keep your system in top condition. You need these fats to prevent inflammation, for blood clotting and muscular movement.

There are two types of theses fats: omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Eating these fats reduces harmful cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. Omega 3 fatty acids can help prevent stroke and heart disease. Omega 6 fatty acids have also been linked to preventing heart disease. Your diet should have a higher ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fats.

Fresh Or Frozen Food

Fruit and vegetables are usually frozen within hours of harvesting so they keep their nutrients better than fresh produce that is not consumed soon after picking. According to studies, fresh produce loses a lot of its nutrients within 7 days of harvesting. Another reason to buy locally produced, in season fruit and vegetables.

why are healthy foods expensive - frozen veg

Experts say there is little difference between fresh or frozen produce. But when buying frozen produce, try to buy fruits and vegetables that still have their skin. When manufacturers remove the skin for freezing and blanching, it removes a lot of the nutrients.


Putting It All Together

When you want to eat healthy, it does not have to cost a lot. You just need to keep in mind a few simple things. Growing your own produce and cooking your meals from scratch is a great way to know exactly what is in the food you eat when you cannot afford 100% organic.

It is important to avoid processed, junk food. It is full of chemical ingredients, sugars, salt and bad fats. Stick to the good fats when you are cooking and you will reap the rewards of healthy eating.

Now you know how to eat healthier without it costing you a lot of money. There is no need to obsess about organic foods if you do not have the budget. It is possible to buy healthy alternatives and choose organic where your budget allows.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment. 

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