Eating healthy is something that I am striving for now that I am in my 40s and deal with an autoimmune disease. But when you are trying to get out of debt or reach other financial goals, your food budget seems to be the easiest area to cut. Unfortunately, thanks to technology in our modern culture, not-so healthy food seems to be the cheapest. Being single doesn’t make it easier as there are many times where I want to blow off making an entire meal when it’s only me that’s being fed.

The good news is that eating healthy doesn’t have to be terribly expensive or difficult as a single person. With a little planning and awareness of your food purchases, you can make healthy food choices without blowing the budget. Here are some tips for eating healthy as a single person.

Shop Primarily at Discount Food Stores

Anyone who knows me knows that I primarily shop at Lidl [insert hyperlink] or ALDI [insert hyperlink]. These discount grocery stores have become very popular in recent years for their low prices and minimalist shopping experience. These stores generally sell their own food brands and have less variety to choose from. They are able to keep their costs low by not providing grocery bags and have minimal staff service (ALDI also requires a quarter deposit to use their shopping carts; Lidl doesn’t). Their meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and other food products are of high quality and would be comparable to other grocery store.

While I can’t solely buy everything from Lidl or ALDI, it’s usually around 90% of the items that I need. As a single person, I struggle to spend at least $50 a week on groceries at these stores. Once I did the comparison with my other local grocery stores, I was sold. Lidl has now become my primary place for grocery shopping.

Plan Your Menu Around Store Specials

Planning your weekly food menu around store specials not only saves you money but also takes the work out of planning meals! Sometimes less is more when it comes to choosing what meals to make. Be aware of when your favorite grocery store’s new specials are posted on the web or when you get the weekly mailer in the mail (my favorite mail day!).

I look at what meats and vegetables are on sale that week and then look up recipes with those ingredients. Be willing to try new foods – you may find new meals that you enjoy.

Eat Seasonally

It’s always cheaper to eat the produce that is in season. But did you know that buying in season depends on where you live in the US? The Seasonal Food Guide provides an awesome resource that shows you what produce is in season based on where you live in the United States. Buying fresh produce in season ensures that you are getting the best produce at a price you can afford.

Make it a point to try new produce that you have never tried or didn’t like at one point in your life. You may be surprised at the foods you like. Who knew that brussel sprouts (one of the few vegetables I despised as a kid) would now be one of my favorites???

Of course, you can also supplement fresh produce with frozen fruits and vegetables. Again, shop your weekly specials to make sure you are getting the best price possible.

Shop Local

A great way to save money and support your local community is to buy at local farmer’s markets. I have memories as a kid going with my dad early on Saturday morning to find the best deals on produce. It became a scavenger hunt to find the vegetables we were looking for. The best piece of advice is to not go to the markets looking for specific produce but rather shop for the produce that is in season and available. It’s a great way to get connected with your community while saving money and eating healthy.

Incorporate Meatless Meals into Your Diet

A great way to cut down on food costs is to have more meatless meals throughout the week. You can start by simply adding one meatless meal a week into your meal rotation. There are plenty of recipes you can search for on  Pinterest that use beans, legumes, eggs, and other budget-friendly proteins as the main star of the meal. Eating more meatless meals can help you add more vegetables and fiber to your diet without packing on the calories.

Plan Your Meals and Set Aside Time for Meal Prep

Meal planning can seem like a major chore to those of us who are single. The biggest issue is creating enough variety while at the same time not creating so much food that we can’t eat it all before it goes bad. There is only so much freezer space in an apartment refrigerator! However, setting aside a few hours each week for meal prep will save you precious sleeping minutes in the morning and you will be set up for healthy eating success.

Most of my meal prep time goes to cooking two to three meals either in my crockpot or Instant Pot. In order to give myself some variety, I portion out the meals and put half of the portions in the freezer for future weeks and half in the fridge for the current week. Once you start making meals on a weekly basis, you will have a variety of meals on reserve in the freezer and won’t have to cook each week.

In addition, I cut up fruit and veggies to be eaten throughout the week. Once you look at the prices of pre-cut produce at the stores, I guarantee you want to spend a few minutes doing produce prep. I also either hard-boil a bunch of eggs or make egg cups in the oven to have breakfast all ready to go for the week.

Eating healthy and staying on a budget are not mutually exclusive – you can have your (healthy) cake and eat it too!