How to Follow the Mediterranean Diet on a Budget

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The Mediterranean diet consistently ranks as one of the best diets to follow. It encourages the consumption of lots of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

However, following a diet that is high in those foods may be a little more expensive, particularly if you’re used to buying ready meals and cheaper quality ingredients.

With inflation rising in many places, you may be wondering how you can still eat a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet without going over your food budget.

This article will cover the best ways to save money whilst following the diet and give a 7 day plan to follow that can be followed on a low budget.

1. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil Where It Has the Most Impact

We always recommend cooking with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – it is the least processed olive oil and contains the most nutritional benefit. However, it is the most expensive olive oil.

However, when it comes to taste, you can get far more from your EVOO by using it as finishing oil in things such as a dressing. You can then use an everyday olive oil for cooking purposes.

You do lose some of the health benefits, but you’re still cooking with an olive oil that has lots of healthy monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory properties.

2. Eat More Legumes and Beans Than Meat

Eating plant-based protein is always a great idea, but when you’re on a budget, this becomes even more important.

Meat can help play an important role in ensuring you eat sufficient protein. However, legumes and beans are also great sources, but at a cheap cost.

They can also be stored for a long time, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to throw them out at some point.

3. Eat Canned Fatty Fish Instead of Fresh

The Mediterranean diet typically recommends at least two portions of fatty fish a week.

Since fillets or buying fish at a local fishmonger can quickly add to the cost, using canned varieties can help bring the bill down. 

Canned versions of tuna, mackerel, and sardines are great choices and mean you can still get those healthy important omega-3 fatty acids that are difficult to find in other foods.  

4. Fill Up on Whole Grains

Whole grains are an essential part of the diet. It includes foods such as whole meal bread, whole grain wraps, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, and others.

These foods are very nutritious and cheap but can fill you up well, meaning you’re less likely to buy snacks you don’t need.

Refined, white foods such as white bread and rice typically have a lot of fiber removed during the refining process. Fiber is a macronutrient that helps you stay full whilst eating fewer calories.  

5. Choose Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Although the Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen varieties are just as nutritious, oftentimes more.

This is because they are picked and frozen straight away. On the other hand, fresh food can be in transit for days before reaching the supermarket shelves.

You should normally try and stay away from canned varieties though since these tend to be higher in salt and other additives.

6. Start Experimenting With Dried Spices

Spices add so much flavor and aroma to your dishes and are one of the best ways to really make your cooking stand out.

However, it can sometimes be difficult to use up all the fresh herbs you buy, causing you to waste a lot.

Dried spices, on the other hand, will keep for multiple years, meaning you can use them when you please. 

You’ll need to cook slightly differently with them, but they can bring out flavors that are just as appealing as fresh herbs.

7. Make Your Own Dressings and Dips 

If you know that you’ll be using a lot of a particular type of dressing during the week, then it makes sense to make more of it in a batch if the ingredients are cheap enough, rather than buying it at the supermarket.

If you’re following a Mediterranean diet, you’ll be using lots of different dips. Some of our favorite dips you can make cheaply are:

8. Buy in Bulk

Buying particular foods in bulk can help save money.

Grains like brown rice, barley and oats are popular foods available in bulk. They also keep for a long period if stored correctly. This is also the same as beans, lentils, nuts and dried fruits.

These are foods you’ll be using often on the diet and can be added to many dishes for a nutritious meal.

9. Plan Your Meals in Advance

If you cook meals without too much planning, it’s easy to overspend on ingredients that you won’t use again and eventually go off.

Fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs are ingredients that go off quickly, so you want to have a meal in mind that you can use them up if you have any leftovers.

There are a couple of recipes that work well with leftover veggies, such as this shakshuka or these quesadillas.

You can also try out our 7 day plan that has all the meal plans and ingredients given, so you can be confident you are buying exactly however much you need.

And also (shameless plug!), here’s one of our clients who finished the plan and saved $100 on her grocery bill!

What Next?

If you’re looking to get more resources for the Mediterranean diet, check out the options below:

  1. Find more Mediterranean-style recipes on our website.
  2. Try our free 7-day Mediterranean diet plan with 20 recipes.
  3. Get our 4-week Mediterranean diet plan, Med in 28 plan, that makes following the Mediterranean diet a breeze!