Eating healthy can be expensive and is sometimes overwhelming. I've noticed that organic produce sometimes costs three times more than the non-organic kind - But healthy eating on a budget is possible; and doesn't mean you have to make a huge lifestyle change. Here are five key steps to keeping a healthy diet without overspending:

Planning is key

If you don't plan to eat healthy, you won't. Fortunately, planning isn't hard. This is how you start:

  • Take 15 minutes a week to go through your cookbook or latest Pinterest pins and put together a menu for the week.

  • Look for recipes with common ingredients so the extra produce, spices or meat from one recipe can be used for a whole new meal and not wasted.

  • Take note of what things you already have at home so you don't buy multiples.

  • Once you've made a detailed grocery list, have a quick snack before leaving for the store. (One of the biggest mistakes I make is going to the grocery store hungry and buying random junk, which wastes money and isn't healthy.) Promise to stick to the grocery list!

Don't be deceived

Fresh produce always tastes the best but frozen produce is sometimes your healthiest (and less expensive) option. Keep these things in mind when shopping:

  • Be sure to shop seasonally! In-season produce is cheaper and often on sale. You can also find produce at your local farmer's market for a great price, especially in the peak season.

  • There is nothing wrong with shopping the frozen aisle for convenience and cheaper prices. Frozen fruits and veggies often have more nutrients than fresh, because they are packaged and frozen when ripe. Other produce lose nutrients as they sit on shelves and in fridges to ripen.

  • Just because it's organic, doesn't mean it is always the best option. There are a variety of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that absorb minimal crop chemicals due to their tougher exterior (think watermelons and citrus).

  • Make sure you know what you're buying and why you're buying it, even if it means a little research on your part. Personally, I buy mostly conventionally grown but splurge on organic berries to avoid higher levels of pesticide residue.

Know where to go and how much to buy

Don't be afraid to branch out from your normal grocery store. Here are some reasons why:

  • Checking out other shopping venues could give you better deals on various produce or organic products. I add an extra 30 minutes to my shopping trip to go buy cheese and cereal at a different store than the rest of my groceries because it's cheaper somewhere else.

  • Coupons are the best! If you see a sale going on in the local advertisements, go have a look. Flip through your phone, emails or local paper and collect coupons.

  • Buy in bulk. Bulk items are usually priced lower. You may spend five extra dollars up front but save $10 and three separate trips to the store in the long run.

Save for later and freeze, freeze, freeze

Leftovers and bulk items are great to freeze and save for later. Here's my advice:

  • Leftovers can be your best friend. I don't like eating the same dinner five times in a row, but I don't have time to make something new every day so I freeze meals to eat later.

  • Learn what freezes well and what doesn't. My husband will probably never eat my meatloaf again because of that, but he has also been pleasantly surprised at how many things taste great after being frozen. Soups and casserole are a great option!

  • We buy in bulk to save on costs, but since it's just the two of us, we repackage everything into smaller portions and freeze it.

Shop with a buddy

Everything's better with a friend, right? Eating healthy can be hard by yourself so a support system comes in handy. Here are things you can do to help each other:

  • Share recipes and snack ideas.

  • Split bulk produce that can't be frozen so you both save money.

  • Help each other stay away from the candy aisle and stay focused on clean eating goals.

Now that you have some ideas on how to affordably shop for healthy foods, put it to the test! Shop, save, eat and feel good doing it.

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