The Mediterranean Diet Can Save You Money

By Bethany Sanders


Want to save a little on this month’s food budget?  The Mediterranean Diet might just help you pinch a few pennies at the grocery store.

That’s according to a new study from the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition that found that clients from a local food pantry program were able to spend less on more nutritious foods after six weeks of cooking classes based on a Mediterranean-style diet.

The Study

  • A total of 63 people gathered from low-income housing and food programs participated.
  • They participated in six weeks of Mediterranean Diet cooking classes where they learned how to make simple dishes from fresh ingredients.
  • The ingredients did not include meat and seafood, which can quickly eat up a grocery budget.  Instead, ingredients included fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Mediterranean Diet CostsParticipants left class with one bag of groceries and no instructions about what to do  next.

Six Months Later

  • A peek at participants’ shopping lists revealed they were buying more fresh fruits and veggies and less junk food.
  • Participants ate a wider variety of food than before they took the cooking classes.
  • They had incorporated up to three meals a week based on the Mediterranean Diet.
  • Participants’ reliance on food pantries dropped 6%, and 15% fewer were food insecure.
  • As a bonus: 50% of participants lost weight.

Mediterranean is Heart Healthy and Budget Friendly

The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded for it’s health benefits.  The most recent study tells us that it can not only reduce risk of heart disease by 30%, but might just reverse heart disease as well.

Though the diet typically includes fish and chicken as protein sources, eggs are an excellent, budget-friendly alternative.  Nuts are expensive, but with the growing season fast approaching seasonal fruits and vegetables will at bargain prices again.
Strawberry Water Splash

As someone who works with a low-income population every day, I’ve seen first hand how hard it can be for people to cook fresh, healthy meals every day on a food assistance program.  The key to this study’s success was education.  I think that it’s natural to crave healthier meals with fresher ingredients, but cooking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, nor does the necessary creativity to load up on fresh foods without going over budget.

Do you have any tricks for eating a healthy diet based on fresh ingredients without overspending?  Share them in comments below.


  1. kitekrazy

    Outside of rice, beans and pasta, I can’t agree with this. Geography plays an important part. Plus there is nothing wrong with using canned vegetables.

  2. Mariam Abirafeh

    Beets are delicious steamed, healthy and at 99cents per pound you can have a great vegetable side dish to feed a family of four. I also love dandellion very inexpensive you can buy a bunch or two , wash , chop, then cook for 10 minutes, drizzle olive oil in a suate’ pan & add it to a diced onion, squeeze fresh lemon juice and you have a great healthy inexpensive side dish or on it’s own with whole wheat pita bread. Yummy!

  3. Spectra

    I honestly think that it doesn’t have to be more expensive to eat healthy on a budget. You just have to be very resourceful and plan your meals ahead of time. I plan a week’s worth of food and snacks and buy ingredients for those when I shop for the week. That way, I don’t waste anything and I have just enough produce to last the week without it going bad. I use a lot of things like canned/dried beans, canned tuna in water, nuts, in-season produce, etc. I try not to eat a ton of meat in my meals–I try to stretch it as far as I can with veggies and things like beans or brown rice.

    • Bethany

      I agree, Spectra, as long as you plan ahead and are creative. We are having trouble staying in our food budget now that we are eating healthier, though. I definitely see a difference. I think I am just not yet that good at planning ahead!

      • Dee

        Thats the key: advance planning. Either make the time or taking time to do it. We get lazy; or want to make fast food.