6 Simple Tips for Following a Mediterranean Diet on a Budget

Mediterranean diet recipes can be pricey, but it's possible to keep costs down. Follow these pro tips for cooking delicious food without breaking the bank.

The Mediterranean diet continuously ranks as one of the best diets for overall health among health professionals and experts. The (mostly) plant-based diet follows a simple guideline of eating whole, fresh foods without any severe restrictions. But when you're trying to feed yourself (or your family) on a budget, maintaining a healthy eating plan of fish, veggies, fruits, and whole grains may seem difficult. Good news: There are plenty of ways to maintain a Mediterranean diet plan without spending a fortune on groceries. "A common misconception about the Mediterranean diet is that it's expensive," says Brynn McDowell, RD, and author of The Mediterranean Diet Made Easy ($16, Amazon). "However, if you think about the fact that this diet is based on the traditional style of eating for entire populations of people (young, old, rich, poor, families, etc.), you'll see that instead of expensive ingredients, it's actually based on seasonal, local food." Read on for expert advice on how to eat a Mediterranean diet on a budget.

avocado-yogurt spaghetti with veggies
Brie Passano

1. Stick to Seasonal Produce

It's a safe bet you'll find better prices on strawberries or tomatoes in the summer rather than the middle of winter. Aim to plan your meals around whatever vegetables and fruits are in season. This way, you can rely on enjoying fresh, flavorful dishes without spending more money. McDowell recommends buying local from your farmers market when possible to find great deals while also supporting local businesses.

2. Go for the Legumes

A healthy Mediterranean diet doesn't always have to revolve around expensive cuts of fish. Beans and legumes are "a cheap and cheerful protein that costs pennies in comparison to meat and fish," says Melanie Lionello, nutritionist and author of Frugal Mediterranean Cooking ($22, Amazon). Make big batches of dried beans whenever possible to get more bang for your buck.

3. Grow Your Own Herbs

Have you ever found a recipe you wanted to try but didn't want to shell out $5 for a whole bunch of fresh rosemary when you needed just a single sprig? Lionello suggests planting your own herb garden or keeping a small indoor herb garden. This way, you can just snip off the exact amount you requireto infuse your dishes with fresh herbs whenever you need.

Mediterranean Salmon Wrap
Andy Lyons

4. Canned Food Is Your Friend

Canned or frozen vegetables and beans are excellent pantry staples for adding nutrients and fiber to quick weeknight meals. This is especially cost-effective when the vegetables you want aren't in season or are on sale. Canned seafood—such as tuna or salmon—is also a handy budget-friendly ingredient to add to your pantry for simple lunches and dinners. "Not only are they pretty inexpensive but a great way to get your recommended two servings of heart-healthy seafood each week," says McDowell.

5. Plan Ahead

Both McDowell and Lionello say one of your best bets for following a budget-friendly Mediterranean diet plan is planning your meals. This doesn't have to be a full, written menu that's set in stone. By creating a general meal plan, you can avoid impulse buys and utilize weekly ads to determine what ingredients are on sale while building your weekly menu. For example, McDowell says if you need half a bag of spinach for a recipe (bonus if it's on sale), add another spinach recipe to your weekly plan, so the other half of the bag doesn't go to waste.

6. Utilize Leftovers

When busy days are on the horizon, take advantage the time you are already cooking to make extra portions for easy lunches and cut down on food waste. You don’t need to eat the same dish day after day. Instead, use a leftover ingredient—such as roasted chicken from dinner—and give it new life the next day as a salad or soup.

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Sources
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  1. Hinzey, Elaine. "Mediterranean Diet." U.S. News and World Report.

  2. "Diet Review: Mediterranean Diet." The Nutrition Source, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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