11 Tips to do The Mediterranean Diet on a Budget

It’s no secret that the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy path to living. It’s been credited with reducing the risk of dementia, heart disease, and so many ailments. There are a few things missing from these studies.

First is the lifestyle and slower pace of life in Mediterranean cultures that contributes to living a healthier lifestyle than we have in the U.S.

The second is financial. Doing the Mediterranean Diet on a budget isn’t easy on the wallet.

Scientists have found a link between lower incomes and the ability to stick to a healthy diet. That’s true with the Mediterranean Diet. Healthy diets in general cost about $1.50 more a day than eating refined grains. That’s what we typically eat because processed foods are cheap and convenient.

How can you make the Mediterranean Diet work while not draining your wallet? Let’s go over the top ways you can do the Mediterranean Diet on a budget.

Grocery Shopping in Spain

Let me give you a little background for context. When I first moved to Spain, I went to the grocery store my first full day there.

I was shocked. I played the part of a typical American tourist and took pictures of the prices of everything. Wine was about a Euro. The fish counter was amazing and reasonable!

The grocery prices in Spain and the U.S are completely different. I’d get my meat and fish there, and visit the fruit and vegetable market for produce. And I’d hit up the local bakery for bread. I’d get a bottle of wine and spend about 60-70 Euros for two people.

grocery shipping for seafood in Spain

I got sticker shock when I came back to the U.S. I wanted to continue my healthy ways and eating patterns, but I also didn’t want to spend a fortune doing it, either.

11 Tips to Follow the Mediterranean Diet on a Budget

What you’re about to read are tips that I found helped me stay on track and stay on budget. Here are some good budget tips to follow. It is possible to stay healthy can eat well.

1. Know Where to Shop

My new favorite grocery store is Lidl. I’d shop there and Aldi when I lived in Spain and I was thrilled to learn that both chains have locations near me in Pennsylvania.

Great stores, high-quality foods. I always save a ton of money. The only problem is that they don’t have all of the items I need. I’ll have to run to another store and get the remaining items.

There are also specialty shops in my area that have great deals. There’s the Spanish grocery where I can get oxtails and morcilla. There’s the Turkish store where I can get a massive amount of local fruits and vegetables and anything else I can think of.

Do you have a favorite store to shop at? Try out different stores in your area to find the best ones. You’re looking for stores that have quality foods, a wide variety of different foods (not everyone will carry capers or saffron), and offer a lot of value.

2. Timing of Shopping

Did you know that grocery stores will have a clearance on meat and fish? You might not know that because the clearance racks might be empty by the time you get to the store.

One of my regular grocery stores has chicken and fish on sale every Saturday morning. That’s a good thing for me because that’s when I normally do my shopping for the week.

If you’re going to buy fish and meat, you might be able to get some clearance deals. You just have to know when to show up. A grocery store near me always has meats on sale (still high-quality) every Saturday morning.

If you can find out when those specials are and time your grocery runs accordingly, you can save a bundle.

3. Plan Ahead

The best thing you can do is to plan ahead. Plan out your meals for the week and make your list. That will keep you from getting more than you need.

Think about the times you go to the store without a grocery list. You walk down each aisle, picking up everything in sight that you think you might use during the week. Next thing you know, you’re spending a small fortune.

Always shop with a grocery list!

This will give you a good idea as to how much you’re going to spend at the store, too.

As part of planning ahead, you can get what you need and reduce waste. You don’t pick up things that you don’t really need that you’re just going to throw out later on.

collection of veggies and spices
Photo by Angele J from Pexels

4. Always Keep the Pantry Full

The pantry is usually the least expensive thing to keep stocked. It can also be a great go-to for meals when you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like cooking.

Having a stocked pantry also gives you the chance to stock up when things are on sale, instead of when you need them.

Here’s a perfect example. I use diced tomatoes a lot in my cooking. I typically keep about 3-4 cans in the pantry. I know I have enough, and when I see that diced tomatoes are on sale, I’ll buy a few more cans.

If I were to run out, I’d have to buy cans at full price. I avoid full price as much as possible.

5. Buy in Bulk

You know that you’re going to be consuming a lot more nuts and legumes. Buying in bulk is a great way to save money as bulk items are less expensive than buying in packaging. Some stores may have olive oil in bulk, so keep an eye for that as well.

Keep in mind that buying in bulk is likely to change in light of the pandemic. I can’t say for sure how stores plan to adapt and offer bulk buying right now. I do know that there are stores that are forgoing bulk buying completely.

7. Start a Garden

To me, the best way to get fresh herbs and veggies is to grow them yourself. It’s also super cost-effective if you’re trying to do the Mediterranean Diet on a budget.

I live in a small apartment, which makes a real vegetable garden impossible. There are community garden spaces, which are big plots of land that rent out space to gardeners.

I’ve done community gardens in the past and the space is about $50 a year (water included) for a 10×10 space. That give you plenty of room to grow great food.

This year, I decided to keep things simple and grow herbs in small pots. That will save money on buying fresh herbs later in the summer into the fall.

8. Make Fruits and Vegetables Last

Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, there’s no doubt about it. The longer you can make them last the less you’ll have to spend on replacing them. You’ll be able to buy things on sale and get enough to last for weeks instead of days.

This article has some great tips to make your fruits and veggies last. I usually do well to make things last, but making herbs and leafy greens last is my biggest challenge.

Keeping them in a plastic bag or container with a paper towel works pretty well. The paper towel sucks up moisture, which can keep herbs from wilting.

Another option is to buy frozen fruit and vegetables. They’re often less expensive and they offer similar health benefits as fresh vegetables.

They may not be better options when you’re cooking though. For some recipes, you just need fresh fruits and vegetables.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to keep a stash of frozen goods.

9. Eat More Legumes

The cool thing about the Mediterranean Diet is that there are a ton of budget-friendly Mediterranean Diet recipes. Lentils and chickpeas often serve as the main part of the dish, like this chickpea salad recipe.

Eating more legumes is good for you and a Mediterranean Diet staple. Yes, you’ll get enough protein in your diet. You can eat more legumes, supplement that with fish and meat a few times a week.

Legumes are way inexpensive compared to meat and fish, and you can buy them in bulk. That will cut down on your budget, cut down on your meat consumption.

10. Set a Grocery Budget and Stick to It

Do you know how much you usually spend at the grocery store? Doing the Mediterranean Diet on a budget means setting a budget for groceries. Then you need to stick to your budget.

Start by looking at how much you spend on groceries a month over the last 6 months or so. Average them out and that will be your starting budget. Next, you’ll decide how often you shop. If you shop weekly, divide your monthly spend by 4. If you shop every other week, then divide by 2.

You might find that if you’re just starting the Mediterranean Diet, you’ll want to pad your budget a bit to account for spices and condiments.

How can you stick to your budget? First, never go to the store hungry. That’s an invitation to buy stuff you don’t need and go over budget. You can add things up in your head as you’re shopping.

This is much easier to do if you’re grocery shopping online than at the grocery store. You can see how much you’re spending as you add things to your cart. That makes it much easier to manage.

11. Take Advantage of Wine Sales

I do talk a lot about wine. Not because I’m a wino (well, that is part of it), but I see wine as a complement to a wonderful meal. I live in Pennsylvania and thanks to coronavirus, all of the liquor stores were shut down (the horror!).

I did a little stocking up on wine beforehand, but not much. It did force me to think outside the box to get wine. It turned out that Groupon is a great place to get wine deals. Who knew?

I came across Splash Wines, which had a Groupon to get 15 bottles of wine for $52 + shipping. All in all, it was about $85 for 15 bottles of wine or less than $6 a bottle. I gave it a try.

Bear in mind that I live alone. That’s enough wine to last for the summer and give some away as gifts.

Even though I drink red wine more often than anything, I got a mix of white (great for cooking!) and red (great for me!). It took a while to get here because of the pandemic and the ability to fulfil orders.

It was worth the wait because I got wines that I wouldn’t normally buy. I got a Trebbiano from Italy, a Tempranillo from Valencia, Spain, and other European and California wines that so far have been great.

I’m sharing this story because there are so many opportunities like this. You don’t even have to get that many bottles. There are deals for 6 bottles which can bring the costs down. Quality and quantity make this a great deal.

You can find a similar deal and try out wines that you normally wouldn’t get. It also gives you a chance to stock up on wines. Just because it’s in the house doesn’t mean you should drink them all in a week!

Doing the Mediterranean Diet on a Low Budget

It is possible to follow the Mediterranean Diet on a budget. In the U.S., grocery store prices are higher than many places, which can make it seem impossible to eat a healthy lifestyle. I hope these tips that I learned can help you manage a Mediterranean Lifestyle on a low budget.

Also keep in mind that how you eat is just as important as what you eat. If you follow the eating patterns of eating slowly and enjoying food, you’ll be sure to take big steps towards a healthy lifestyle.

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Heather McDaniel is the founder of Invincible Women Fitness Academy, and a nationally certified fitness and nutrition coach. Inspired by her Italian roots and living in Spain, she loves to explore and share the benefits of the Mediterranean Lifestyle. She works with women all over the world, helping them rediscover their strength, health, and confidence.

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