Mediterranean Diet on a Budget

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

The Mediterranean diet is widely recognized as one of the healthiest dietary patterns in the world. It’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats and low in processed foods and saturated fats. This eating pattern has been associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, improved weight management, and overall health. 

My last blog post shared tips for getting started with a Mediterranean diet. However, many people are intimidated by the idea of following the Mediterranean diet because they think it is expensive and difficult to maintain on a budget.  This is a common misconception, and with a few simple tips and tricks, it’s possible to follow the Mediterranean diet without breaking the bank.

Plan your meals in advance.  Planning your meals in advance is a great way to stay organized and avoid impulse buys. Make a grocery list of all the ingredients you need for the week and stick to it when shopping. This will help you save money by avoiding impulse purchases and reducing waste.

Shop in-season produce. Buying in-season produce is a great way to save money and get fresh, flavorful ingredients. In-season fruits and vegetables are cheaper than those out of season because they are more readily available. Check out this guide to see what fruits and vegetables are in season.

Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is a great way to save money on staples like grains, legumes, and nuts. These ingredients can be stored for long periods.  Check out this USDA guide for storing dried goods.

Cook at home.  Cooking at home is one of the best ways to save money while following the Mediterranean diet. Homemade meals are usually healthier and less expensive than eating out. Plus, you have complete control over the ingredients and can easily adjust portions to fit your budget.

Use leftovers.  Leftovers are a great way to stretch your food budget further. Consider doubling the recipe when you cook so you have enough for another meal. You can also freeze leftovers for a quick and easy meal later in the week.

Substitute expensive ingredients. If a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient, consider substituting it with a more budget-friendly option. For example, you can use canned or dried beans instead of fresh ones or substitute olive oil with a cheaper alternative like avocado oil.

Grow your own herbs and spices. Consider growing your own herbs and spices at home to save money and get fresh, flavorful ingredients.  Check out the PBS Let’s Grow Stuff website for fun and simple videos designed to help beginner gardeners learn the tools of successful vegetable and herb gardening.

Avoid highly processed foods. Highly processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and salt and can be expensive. Instead, focus on whole, unprocessed ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Following these tips and tricks can help you enjoy the benefits of a Mediterranean diet without breaking the bank.  Start by incorporating more fresh, whole ingredients into your diet today and enjoy the many health benefits of the Mediterranean diet!

Questions?  Drop me a line at [email protected]

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About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning.