5 Insider Tips to Save Money While Eating Healthy: Mediterranean Diet on a Budget

If you are considering improving your diet, you may be wondering, will this cause my grocery bill to go through the roof? Can I eat healthy and spend less? How can I watch my budget and my health at the same time?

We have all this and more-- including the tip that could save you $1500 per year or more!

Read on for our top five expert tips to eat healthy while watching your budget. 

Is a Mediterranean Diet a budget friendly way to eat?

Many healthy ways of eating, including the Mediterranean Diet, can have a bad reputation for being expensive. Often people feel that its not possible to eat well and spend less. 

We have great news!

With an overall focus on produce, beans, and healthy grains, the Mediterranean Diet can be substantially cheaper than other methods of eating that are more meat-heavy.

Whether your food bill increases or decreases depends a lot on what you have been eating, where you buy your produce, whether you buy in-season produce, if you meal plan, and so much more!

If you are used to ordering take-out 5 nights a week and then switch to primarily cooking at home, you can save yourself some money.

If you normally grill beef and turkey burgers most evenings and you swap to preparing homemade veggie burgers, your wallet will benefit.

If you are used to buying cheap convenience foods like chips and granola bars, switching to nuts and fresh produce as snacks may increase your grocery bill, slightly. (Your health, however, will thank you!)

Ways to reduce your food budget:

If you are looking to maintain or reduce your food bill, there are several ways that you can achieve this. Here are some of our recommendations for cutting your food bill while maintaining the health benefits of Mediterranean living:

1. Buy frozen instead of fresh (produce and seafood)

Research has shown that frozen fruits and vegetables retain similar nutrient content as their fresh counterparts.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are typically picked and frozen at peak ripeness, locking in all the goodness!

While shopping for frozen produce, be sure to read the food label to double check that there are no additives such as sauces, salt, or sugar (sometimes manufacturers sneak things in to make food last longer or taste better).

Check out some of our delicious and nutrition recipes using frozen fruits and vegetables here.

This advice goes for seafood too. In many grocery stores, the “fresh” fish has already been frozen for shipment and then thawed for presentation.

Thus, buying frozen is virtually no different, but will often be lower in cost.

2. Build your meals around beans, rice, and legumes, rather than meat

Beans and rice are a fraction of the cost of chicken, beef, or seafood. Embrace vegetarian meals

Many of your favorite dishes can be made vegetarian without much heartburn: tacos can be stuffed with beans and rice; stews and chilies can easily be made with legumes instead of beef; pasta and lasagna are delicious with hearty tomato sauce no meat required!

3. When you do eat meat, make your portions smaller

Start to think of meat as a side dish. Even if you are having, for example, grilled chicken for dinner, have a smaller portion and pair it with a few different sides. Ideally, your plate would be half-covered with veggies, one-fourth meat, and one-fourth grains or legumes. (Check out the ideal Mediterranean plate here.) 

Swap out portions of recipes that call for meat with veggies, grains, or legumes. For example, use half a pound of ground chicken in your chili instead of a full pound and make up the difference with a can of beans.

Meals made with ground meat, like meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf can usually be mixed with a substantial quantity of minced veggies without affecting the taste too much. Try diced, sautéed onions, mushrooms, or cabbage.

4. Reduce your consumption of convenience foods.

There is a trade off between quick and easy convenience foods and those that may take a little longer to prepare, but may be more budget-friendly.

A box of “minute rice” which has already been precooked and takes just a few minutes once home costs more than a bag of rice that needs to be soaked and then cooked for 45 minutes. Same with the bagged salads or pre-wrapped vegetables.

You are paying for the convenience of these items!

While it may be worth it to buy these items if it makes your life easier (we do at times), learning to meal prep and prepare frozen foods, beans, legumes, and grains in large batches for the week will help you save money in the long run!

5. Plan Meals:

Planning your meals is an easy & very effective way to decrease your spending. People find they can $1500 or more per year by being more organized and intentional with their grocery shopping and meal preparation!  

How does Meal Planning Save Money?

Here are several ways that planning your meals decreases your grocery bill! 
Reduced Food Waste: The average American household wastes about $1,500 worth of food annually! That's ALOT! Meal planning can help reduce this waste by ensuring that you only buy what you need and use what you buy.

Fewer Impulse Purchases: Impulse buys can add up quickly. By sticking to a meal plan and shopping list, you can avoid unnecessary purchases. This can save you an estimated $20 to $50 per grocery trip.

Bulk Buying and Using Sales: Planning meals in advance allows you to buy staple items in bulk and take advantage of sales. This has been indicated to give you a savings of 10-20% on your grocery bill.

Eating Out Less: By having planned meals at home, you are less likely to eat out or order takeout. The average restaurant meal costs about $13, whereas a home-cooked meal can be as low as $4 per serving. Delivery fees for ordering takeout can increase your food bill by 20%! Reducing restaurant visits can save a family of four hundreds of dollars each month.

Examples of Savings:
Imagine that you typically spend $150 per week on groceries (our family spends a lot more than that!). By meal planning, you reduce waste and impulse purchases by 20%. This means that you could save around $30 per week, or $120 per month. 

Over the course of a year, this adds up to $1,560 worth of food savings! 

Want to learn more about how to meal plan? Check out this article

Ready to meal plan? Try our done-for-you meal plans here. 

Budget-Friendly Mediterranean Foods:

Here are some delicious & healthy Mediterranean Diet foods that you should consider adding to your diet if you are keeping an eye on your budget. 

Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are nutritious and affordable.
Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta can be bought in bulk.
Vegetables: Carrots, potatoes, and leafy greens like spinach are typically low-cost. You can also buy frozen to save more!
Fruits: Apples, bananas, and oranges are usually reasonably priced.
Canned Fish: Canned sardines, mackerel, and tuna are cheaper alternatives to fresh fish.

What else would you add to this list? Share your budget friendly meal hacks with us in the comments below!



ReFED, "A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent," 2016.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Consumer Expenditures Report," 2019.


90% of Clients self-report our Mediterranean Diet Meal Plans as "good value for the money". Standard, Gluten-free, and Dairy-free available. 

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