Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Healthy Eating on a Budget 

Eating healthy is important in living a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. It can also play an important role in managing chronic health problems such as diabetes.

But you may be facing certain obstacles when trying to eat healthy, like trying to eat healthy on a budget. You might not be able to eat when you need to. Or you might do things like skip meals to save money. You might even be experiencing what is called food insecurity. Food insecurity is when you are unable to buy enough food for a healthy lifestyle. Lay-offs at work, unexpected car repairs, or an accident on the job can suddenly force your family to choose between buying food and paying bills. One "bad month” can be enough to send a household into food insecurity.

If you are going through food insecurity, you’re not alone. Many other Veterans may also have trouble eating healthy while on a budget. 

What can I do?

Managing food dollars wisely involves planning before, during, and after grocery shopping. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. One of the best ways to control spending is to create a shopping list along with a weekly meal plan.

Contact your local VA facility social worker, dietitian, or healthcare team to get connected to resources that can help you.  

Budget-friendly recipes to try at home

You can use the sample grocery list below to create a 3-day meal plan that is both tasty and budget-friendly. Shop for the ingredients, or use what you already have on hand. Learn to make some delicious and nutritious meals at home. Pick 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner recipe to make each day. Or pick 1 recipe to make for several days. This meal plan will last you 3 days if you try each different meal option once.

Sample budget grocery list


Vegetables (non-starchy)

Canned salmon

Canned tuna

Canned chicken

Canned or dried beans

Prepackaged nuts

Peanut butter

Canned or frozen green beans

Canned or frozen carrots

Canned or fresh tomatoes

Canned or fresh mushrooms

Fresh or frozen onion

Canned cream of mushroom soup


Starches (grains and starchy vegetables)

Powered or regular low-fat milk


Canned or frozen peas

Canned or frozen corn

Rice (white or brown)

Noodles (egg or other variety)

Bran or oat cereal

Oatmeal (rolled oats)



Canned fruit (all types)

Lemon juice (fresh or bottled)


Red wine vinegar

Maple syrup

Oil (canola or olive)

Breadcrumbs or saltine crackers (crushed)

Tartar sauce or ketchup

White flour

Tabasco sauce (optional)

Spices and Herbs 


Garlic or onion powder

Dry mustard

Parsley, dried (optional)



The following recipes were created using the ingredients from the grocery list above. Here are some sample breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes to try at home.

Sample breakfast recipes 

Cold Cereal with Milk

Hot Oatmeal

Overnight Oats 

Sample lunch recipes

Black Beans, Chicken, and Rice

Mediterranean White Beans 

Tuna Salad

Sample dinner recipes

Chicken with Green Beans and Mushrooms

Salmon Patties

Tuna Casserole 

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/1/2020
Help improve the VHL. Share your opinions! Click here for brief survey

VHL Web Tour Video - Opens in a pop up window

Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library