Research suggests that eating fruits and vegetables can help to lower the risk for many chronic diseases such as heart disease, and may protect against certain types of cancer. But for many dancers, income is limited, and knowing how to incorporate these nutrient-dense options without breaking the bank can be challenging. But all dancers can support their performance goals without straining their wallets.
I’ve previously discussed intuitive eating can arguably appear as a privilege (especially with how it’s depicted on social media). It’s important to remember that intuitive eating is possible on a budget.
How to practice intuitive eating on a budget
- Prevent waste: practice preparing smaller meals so you don’t throw out food (especially If you often eat less than the amount you make).
- Remember leftovers: you can even repurpose them for meals the next day in different ways. For example, if you had dinner for dinner, then add it to a salad for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Utilize your freezer: If your leftovers won’t get used right away, or if you’re not in the mood for them, pop ’em in the freezer for next week… you may want them!
- Respect your body: you’re not a human garbage disposal. If you’re feeling full and still have food left on your plate, make space for some mental discomfort. Yes, the temptation to clean your plate is very understandable when considering a budget. But also, you deserve to prioritize your physical comfort as well. This doesn’t make you a bad person not wasteful.
This article will provide ten actionable tips for dancers wanting to support a balanced diet (and healthy relationship with food) while sticking to a budget.
#1: Shop in season
From winter squash to summer berries, most fruits and veggies are more economical when purchased in their season of growth. Here’s a quick list of versatile options that can be stocked up in their respective seasons:
- In the springtime, you’ll find great deals on broccoli, carrots, peas, asparagus, artichokes, celery, and collard greens.
- During the summer, opt for recipes that incorporate berries, green beans, okra, bell peppers, cucumbers, corn, lima beans, celery, carrots, and tomatoes.
- Autumn is a perfect time to trial swiss chard, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, bell peppers, carrots, cabbage, celery, lettuce, onions, and potatoes.
- Economically-priced produce is more limited during the winter months, especially for dancers living in colder climates. But carrots, cabbage, kale, onions, Brussel sprouts, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are ones to consider.
For produce that’s not in season, consider buying them frozen. From tropical fruits and berries to spinach, peas, and carrots, frozen varieties are an economical and convenient way to pack in abundance and variety, two considerations for planning their meals and snacks. Another bonus: frozen produce is just as nutritious as its fresh counterparts. You can also purchase them in bulk without the worry of spoilage.
#2: Swap your proteins
Lesser expensive cuts of meat and poultry include pork shoulder, chuck roast, chicken thighs, and chicken legs. These are often more economical when compared to expensive cuts (boneless chicken breasts). Eggs are also a high-quality protein that can often be found on sale. Plant-based proteins can be purchased in bulk and include dried beans and lentils, sunflower feeds, canned chickpeas, and frozen edamame.
#3: Stock up on low-cost starches
Freeze loaves of bread to extend their shelf-life (pop ’em into your toaster prior to serving). Grains, like quinoa, oats, rice, corn, and barley are less expensive and can be bought in bulk. All can be stored in a dry place for up to 2 years. The same goes for dry pasta, which can be stored for up to 2 years. These complex carbs supply the energy needed to make up nearly 55-60% of a dancer’s overall diet.
#4: Look for coupons
Your local grocery store may offer a savings card so be sure to sign up. Consider ordering packaged food online. Walmart.com and Target.com are great websites for ordering dried goods like beans, quinoa, breakfast cereals, and condiments. Coupons are often available for items with shorter shelf lives. Think dairy (milk, yogurt, butter, and cottage cheese) often go on sale as BOGO (buy one get one free) opportunities.
#5: Change your cooking method
Invest in a crock-pot. Slow-cookers help to make large batches of meals using those lesser expensive ingredients like dried beans, whole grains, and tougher cuts of meat.
#6: Meal prep
Whether it’s tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, prepping food in advance is a good way to make sure you’re eating what’s in the fridge, and minimize waste. You can learn more about meal prep in this article. Another benefit of meal prep is the ability to plan for leftovers. Repurposing your leftovers is an awesome way to spread your meals throughout the week. So when planning your week’s meals, consider options that can be made into sandwiches or salads (ie. poached chicken, meatballs).
#7: Stock up on non-perishables
Fill your fridge and pantry with items that will stay fresh long enough to be used for several meals and snacks. These items can also be purchased online and in bulk. Beans, peanut butter, canned tuna, oats, pasta, rice, flour, flax, and cooking oils are examples.
#8: Try meatless mondays
Bulk, plant-based foods like lentils, beans, nuts, and whole grains (like rice) are adequate not only for a budget-friendly menu but also, for a balanced diet. These options offer a spectrum of nutrients (specifically carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) that can provide a dancer’s body with the energy and nutrients needed.
#9: Don’t be fooled by the “dirty dozen”
Every year, the Environmental Workin Group (EWG) compiles a list of foods that are meant to identify those most contaminated with pesticides. The EWG is an activist group funded by large organic farms and has been under scrutiny for their exagerrated approach (AKA “cancer-causing chemicals”) in attempts to blacklist many conventionally-grown (non-organic) foods.
According to, The Unbiased Science Podcast, “the EWG takes the USDA annual residue report, which actually documents the safety of conventional produce, and manipulates it.” Not only does the EWG fail to recognize that even organic produce contains pesticide residue, but also, that conventionally grown produce (including those listed on the “Dirty Dozen” list) does not “exceed pesticide thresholds that are set, tested for, and rigorously monitored.” The bottom line: conventionally-grown produce is just as safe (and as healthy) as their more expensive organic counterparts.
#10: Generic is totally fine
Most large grocery stores now carry their own, less expensive brands. Pantry staples (like nut butter and spreads) and dairy foods (like yogurt, milk, and cheese) are comparable to brand-name items (you can check the ingredients).
20 Budget-Friendly Healthy Groceries for Dancers
- Frozen berries
- Frozen spinach
- Fresh apples, oranges, and bananas
- Raisins (in bulk)
- Canned tuna
- Black beans
- Chickpeas (canned and rinsed)
- Peanut butter
- Yogurt (generic brand)
- Sunflower seeds
- Cheese (block or wedge)