a few ideas for budgeting while being an intuitive eater.

How to approach intuitive eating while budgeting has been a highly requested post for years. Recently Andrew and I have made changes to how we allocate our money. For us, part of that has been having a budget for eating out. Since doing this I’ve been thinking about how intuitive eating pairs with being wise financially. So, I’m sharing a couple ideas I have on budgeting + being an intuitive eater and sharing several of the ideas I received on the topic when I asked you guys on Insta.

Now, before we get into this post I want to say…for where I’m at in my time away/healing from my eating disorder, having a food budget doesn’t harm my ED recovery. It may harm yours. How your family allocates money will need to be discussed based on your unique situation. I’ve found that how someone interacts with money can be similar to how someone interacts with food. You can get in the mentality of less (spending or food intake) is the goal which can lead to unnecessary deprivation. A better goal is to set a sustainable budget based on your needs and adhere to it. A budget can become a means to restrict. If that is you, it’s likely not time to set a food budget and there are non-food related areas of your life where you can set a budget. Be wise and thoughtful on if/how it’s appropriate to apply this post to your life.

Jeni’s date with Jojo.

My ideas for budgeting while intuitively eating:

1. Finding crave-worthy, filling, and satisfying recipes you enjoy and can make at home.

If you have a strict grocery shopping budget, this may be difficult for you. Most of our efforts at the moment are going towards reducing meals eaten out. For me, this week’s satisfying meals are the best baked oatmeal, canned cinnamon rolls, pulled pork tacos, a lasagna served with the dreamy toasted almond salad, and cosmic brownies.

2. Figuring out what meals/snacks out you’d feel deprived without.

I love having a latte + breakfast out 1-2 times a week, then takeout for dinner at least one night, and the odd ice cream date because Jeni’s opened in Houston and I’m so happy about it! All other meals and snacks I’m fine just cooking at home. There are plenty of times I feel annoyed with the budget and have to have the conversation in my head of, “we have food at home.” See below haha:

Now, I’m not speaking for everyone here. An important part of everyone’s ED recovery is permission to eat all foods. In certain stages of recovery, if able, having more money to allocate to eating out makes a lot of sense.

If you’re in Houston, I now give the coveted title of “best breakfast taco in Houston” to Tout Suite. It was formerly held by Paper Co., but the last few times I’ve gone they’d made some budget cuts or something and, unfortunately, their tacos had gone to crap.

Your ideas for budgeting while intuitively eating:

Crystal recommended, “Aldi. Inexpensive + good chocolate, which I really like to have to feel satisfied.”

Brittany likes to double up on dishes to save. I agree! Any time we make lasagna we double the recipe and freeze one.

Kayla mentioned she likes shopping while hungry. That way she grabs what aligns with cravings. I remember my mom recommending this to me when growing up, saying that if you shop when you’re NOT hungry then you don’t get enough food. I could see how shopping while hungry allows you to get satisfying food, which prevents blowing the budget on eating out later. The typical message around this tends to be to not shop when hungry, but I don’t like that advice.

I received multiple praises for @workweeklunch on Insta as being an Intuitive Eating aligned resource with non-diet meal prep and awesome customizable recipes. I wasn’t following her, but I am now!

Hannah said she makes sure she has “sweets on deck!” Love it! I’m a big fan of this as well. Our cake stand, 99% of the time, has a sweet something on top of it!

Charlie like to keep a running list/pinterest board of the meals that really satisfied her to refer to for easier meal planning.

Kaity said that her and her husband have $40 allowances/week that can go to anything, so she chooses for that to mostly go to lattes. A woman after my own heart! Haha.

Victoria saves money by freezing a couple servings of entrees in individual containers so they are easily accessible when a craving strikes! I especially do this with leftover meat. Instead of having to thaw 3 pounds of pulled pork, you can freeze it in the amount you use for one meal for your family and just thaw that amount.

Someone mentioned buying a few more pricey ingredients that elevate otherwise boring meals! For instances, nicely aged parmesan cheese, quality chocolate, arugula, or an aged balsamic glaze can do a lot for a mundane entree.

Natalie likes to “pack extra snacks from home so [she] can honor cravings and/or more hunger than expected.” I like to have my office drawer stocked with self-stable snacks that I can grab as wanted or needed.

Kate recommended having 5-7 meal options so she has everything she needs to make several different meals. Then she can decide that day what the family wants based on cravings.

Any other budgeting tips you’d recommend? Do you find anything problematic come up when combining budgeting + Intuitive Eating? Let me know in the comments.


  1. For budgeting/life purposes, we’ve found that buying ingredients for 4 meals/week works for us. Then we eat leftovers/takeout on other nights. That leaves us the freedom to get takeout or go out when meals we’ve planned don’t sound appealing. Also, I try to make sure I have ingredients for one baked treat a week; cookies, muffins, etc. because those make me happy

  2. A very wonderful topic and post! Having a homemade snack to look forward to plus different produce, carb options, and protein on hand helps when we need to throw together a quick meal. I like that idea of shopping while hungry because it is hard to be excited about food when you’re full. I need to add some more snacks to my work desk drawer because some days my hunger is greater. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  3. Good post! There can be a decent amount of privilege in the IE world that isn’t discussed frequently enough IMO. I’ve noticed that meal prepping can at times be seen as something ‘bad’ because you aren’t always necessarily/always following your day-to-day cravings…but for many people, meal prepping is a required aspect of life, and can be the difference between paying your rent/utility bills on time or not.

    The privilege gap in the IE community gets even smaller when looking at populations of people on food stamps, living near the poverty line, etc. It’s definitely a nuanced and at times complicated thing to address. This post does a good job at skimming the surface for people who need to work around budgeting issues while also continuing to eat intuitively. <3

    • yep. It’s a complicated topic for the reasons you listed, which is one of the reasons I’ve put off writing the post for years.

    • Really appreciate your comment, Lauren! For me, a lot of the tension I personally feel in the IE space stems from a place of working with limitations (i.e., budget, time, familial/community care, etc.) while honoring my hunger. Talia (from Work Week Lunch) did a good post on this a while ago and I’d love to find more IE practitioners who focus on lower SES constraints.

      • This is a really interesting discussion! For me intuitive eating didn’t mean I automatically had a budget for eating out, buying fancy or expensive food, or necessarily spending more in the food category if it didn’t balance with our other goals. But I didn’t view this as restriction either. These were simply our parameters. In terms of low SES, we need systemic change that allows people access to a variety of healthy and fun foods or alleviates other burdens that allow more financial flexibility with food. I think overall though, we can’t conflate the permission to eat anything you want with the MEANS to eat anything you want. I still have to, and can, practice Intuitive Eating within my financial parameters. But again, ALL people deserve access to a variety of foods and to be free from food scarcity. I’m not sure if Intuitive Eating is realistic for those with food insecurity or SES that doesn’t allow them flexibility with food choices. 

        • I agree with the point on not conflating the permission to eat anything you want with the MEANS to eat anything you want. That’s a good point. Our reason for budgeting is to be able to financially give differently to organizations that support those who haven’t had the same opportunities my husband and I have been given the opportunities to work for. If you want (or if another reader would like to weigh in here!), could you elaborate more on the systemic changes you’d like to see as a solution to what you mentioned in your comment?

        • I completely agree with what you are saying, Shana. I think the beautiful thing about IE is that it’s flexible, therefore taking a different shape in each person’s life for a variety of reasons. I do believe, though, that there are aspects of IE that people can incorporate into their lives within different life/financial/etc constraints. I’m an eating disorders therapist, and when IE does come up with my clients, we address the ways to make IE work for THEM, in their life, in their budget. It’s never a simple conversation and SES is an unavoidable factor into people’s nutrition, but ALL people deserve access to a variety of foods.

        • Thanks for sharing, Meagan! I’m enjoying this discussion!

        • Shana and Meagan, that’s so well said and appreciate you taking the time to articulate that so well.

          In respsonse to these comment and Kylie’s IG story today, I had a few tangential thoughts about injustice and systemic changes. To clarify, these are NOT solutions and this is a bit of my story and not meant as commentary on anyone else… truly just some food for thought that I thought my be helpful to share.

          Something that I’ve realized as I’ve dug deeper into the ways diet culture has infiltrated my thinking of food and eating (and all that comes with that) is seeing the racist/classist roots of diet culture (Christy Harrison has a terrific podcast on this!).

          As I’ve been working to disentangle diet culture and embrace IE over the past two-ish years, I’ve noticed two things and how it’s benefited my grocery budget and my life and work as a white, middle-class woman in a poorer community. Because of IE, I’ve been able to say incorporate so many budget-friendly foods that I never ate into my meal plans but that I love (pasta, beans, white bread, sandwiches, rice, etc.). I avoided these foods because of B.S. diets that mongered my fears and I avoided them because I had the resources to avoid them. I think one small, small way to begin to dismantle food injustice is to dismantle diet culture in the spaces we find ourselves.

          Also, because of IE, I’ve been able to say “yes” without an ounce of angst when I’m in a social situations (especially thinking of community events here) where “no-no foods” are served and I’ve been able to make and serve those foods with pleasure and joy because they’re delicious and I know those foods will be enjoyed!

          My first “aha” moment that something might be problematic with my diet-culture diet and lifestyle was when I looked at what I was eating and realized my literal neighbors would not be able to prepare this food because of budgetary and lifestyle constraints. I also started to see the sham that diet culture is when I felt the pressure to always have a food item that diet culture deemed “healthy” at a community/neighboring event even though I knew no one would really care and that item would deplete my energy and budget.

          All that said, figuring out how IE fits in my household’s grocery budget has been a tremendous learning curve and I’ve seen my privilege on full-display in the process. But dismantling diet culture in my life and embracing IE has also been a means of loving my neighbors better and enjoying the goodness of food, eating and community in deeper ways.

        • Also, here’s the post from Talia that I mentioned above about IE + limitations:

        • Thanks! Appreciate the comments from all of ya’ll and apologize if I came off as ‘passive aggressive’ (was a little surprised to see that – curious as to how so?) as I was just speaking from my own experience. I appreciate anyone touching upon this and I mean that sincerely, as it’s just a fact that it’s a topic not addressed enough in the community. I’m grateful for anyone who wants to talk about money and access in the IE world, as it’s a real thing. And with that said I definitely don’t expect any person(s) to have all the answers to this issue either, since as we’ve mentioned it’s complicated and nuanced. My comment was written as someone who was on SNAP + living in a food desert and simultaneously grappling with a disordered/recovery mindset a few years ago. Attempting to shop for foods I might enjoy on like $9/day while wondering if I the IE community was realistic for someone like me, was a tough thing to grapple with. But I also agree with everyone else here that with enough effort/creativity, you can still make food fun and interesting even while on a tight budget and meal prepping everything (just wish I knew that a few years ago! Heh…) 

          ^^ Talia’s account is super awesome and a good example of this, as it’s refreshing for those who want to see the financial breakdown while also keeping the food fun and interesting! Thanks for linking. 

          **Abigail I also love your correlation to certain food staples (i.e rice, which I still eat every day!) and not allowing diet culture to influence these choices just because they’re seen as more budget friendly for certain communities. And perhaps recognizing our privilege when we were able to consciously avoid them. Such a great point.<3 

        • I should also correct myself that $9-$10/day is what I live on *now* and definitely feel lucky for that. When I was on snap it was more like $3/day. But numbers aside I’m sure you understand what I meant lol. :) I personally don’t think there’s anything weird with me having brought up the outward privilege that can seem to exist in the IE world…it’s not a bad thing so long as we’re conscious of it and trying to address it more. Food is, for better or worse, intersectional to so many other things in our society.


        • I thought the last sentence of the original comment felt a bit patronizing and passive aggressive.

          I agree that money and access in the IE community is a topic that could be discussed more.

          The rest of this comment isn’t directed at you, Lauren…just putting it out there to see other’s (or your) opinion on this. I feel like the majority of non-diet clinicians (or at least the leaders in the social media world) discuss privilege quite a bit. Something I’m still grappling with is what awareness of privilege does. Does it drive change? Does it empower those who’ve had more opportunities to want to support others? Does it empower those who’ve had fewer opportunities? Does is create a more just and better world (I guess it depends on one’s worldview and their definition of just and better)?

          To come back to the original topic, would talking about how to pursue IE on a budget be a more effective way of supporting those who have less financially than talking about privilege would? I don’t feel like talking about privilege is an action, and that is one thing that can bother me about it.

        • Discussion of privilege isn’t the end goal. That said, I believe acknowledging privilege is a necessary act of truth telling to ourselves and our communities so that when we share our stories and offer solutions we can understand those stories and solutions in the context they come from. Examining, understanding and interrogating our privilege also helps us assess the cultural/social landscapes we’re in and make sense all the factors that contribute to injustice, and drive change that actually helps long term instead of offering band-aids that perpetuate lifestyles and systems of injustice.

          I also don’t think it needs to be either/or. Is it more effective to offer a practical solution to a problem OR do we talk about privilege? They go hand-in-hand from where I literally and philosophically sit. We acknowledge our privilege, and that contributes to creating a space where we can effectively and empathetically help and move toward solutions.

          (My postlude: These are my cards… I’m a Christian; I love Jesus and the church which is part of the reason I so appreciate this blog. I’m living/working/volunteering in a lower SES community, passionate about incarnational theology, theology of the body, and neighboring. My career = working in communications in agricultural, racial justice and faith contexts. Suffice it to say, these types conversations bring out my passion. I’m tapping out after this comment but looking forward to reading other responses and happy to chat more via email, Kylie, if these are issues you’re interested in chatting more about. I have a lot to learn and am thankful for conversations like these.)

        • Thanks for the comment, Abigail!

  4. I’m a huge fan of leftovers, especially leftover chili, pasta, soup and curry.  That definitely helps with budgeting because I’m not making a million different meals each week. This post reminded me that I was craving blueberry muffins this week, and as luck would have it, fresh blueberries were on sale at my local grocery store.  I took it as a sign that the muffins were meant to be lol. They were budget friendly and they satisfied my craving. I could have used frozen blueberries, but fresh berries are so much better in baked goods. As an aside, I highly recommend the Smitten Kitchen Everyday cookbook. Her blueberry muffin recipe is amazing!  

  5. Something that’s worked well for my family and I is doing a weekly grocery pick-up at Wal-Mart for our staples, then reserving a portion of the budget to go to a “fun” to me store (usually Aldi, Trader Joe’s or Costco, ha) to choose one fun dinner and snacks/treats for the week. This is helping keep our budget pretty consistent while allowing for variety.

    I’m also a BIG fan of The Lazy Genius and all her meal planning ideas on her podcast.

  6. For us, the formula that works is one soup/”scoopable” item as you’d say for lunches (I can eat soup year round, and I like something easy to pack in one dish for work lunch.) Usually from We used to make 2-3 big meals every weekend to eat during the week but that was before having a baby. Now I count it as a win to prep one of these. :) Then 3 other meals for “dinner” (but usually provides leftovers for lunch the next day.) We have fallen back on Trader Joes meals a lot for dinners, either frozen foods or something from the fresh section combined with frozen veggies. My husband enjoys eating out for lunches a couple of days during the week so we budget for that since it’s a social aspect for him. I’d rather stay at the office for lunch in order to get home earlier. :) And then a rotation of snacks! In this pregnancy, sweets don’t appeal to me nearly as much as savory foods so granola bars and things aren’t usually appealing. I’ve often been bringing smaller portions of dinner leftovers as an afternoon snack/second lunch haha along with some fruit. Whatever works!

    One thing I’d like to get better at is freezer meals, particularly in preparation for my second maternity leave this summer. I didn’t do any prep for the last maternity leave, and was starving but too exhausted to make any decisions about food. I’d just tell my husband “I couldn’t care less what it is, just put some food in front of me!” and we spent SO MUCH money on eating out for those few months.

    • Yes, I remember that phase of pregnancy/postpartum where I was like just put some food in front of me and then I couldn’t get it in my mouth fast enough because I was hungry on a cellular level. It’s a crazy time.

  7. I love meal planning for broad ideas like tacos/pizza/lasagna etc, and then shopping what’s on sale and/or using up things in the house to make the specific version of each meal. So, if we’re having tacos that week I won’t know til I get to the grocery store what kind of tacos we’re going to have, but I make sure to pick up tortillas, cheese, some sort of protein + crunchy veg to go on top and then the specifics are flexible. It can be a little chaotic but we like it that way. Also 100% agree that sauces/extras make a meal much more enjoyable, so even if we’re buying somewhat boring/very affordable meal options, a flavorful sauce can make all the difference! 

  8. I like to plan my meals, but make at least one of them a “backup” using foods that can last me into the following week (like pasta, frozen veggies, hummus- things that won’t spoil). This has taken a lot of stress out of eating out, since I used to feel guilty for letting food go to waste (and wasting money). Now if I Want to eat out I can just save that food for a meal the following week.

  9. I love pasta and my husband doesn’t. I typically make one meal for me to eat on all week for lunch and always make something that I don’t typically make at home because my family isn’t a huge fan. I ask myself what I’m craving that week and make it. I look forward to it because it feels indulgent but is affordable and reheats well. My husband can do leftovers once and gets tired of them. So I make one extra portion at dinner and send that in his lunches. I ask my daughter and husband what they’d like to eat that week and try to plan meals that we are all craving if possible. Having food that we truly want to eat has definitely helped our budget because we aren’t going out to eat all the time. Going out is in the budget and feels like such a treat. I also try to avoid meals that don’t sound good but are diet culture friendly. You know the ones diet culture says you “should” eat but aren’t satisfying. That was before IE. Life is so much more satisfying with IE, even with budget constraints.

  10. I really like grocery shopping and finding ingredients and foods that satisfy me and my family. If I buy things I actually want to eat, then I don’t feel the need to go out so much. I’m also more inspired to bake more at home and try new recipes. Accordingly, my grocery budget tends to be a little higher than what I used to think it “should” be. I used to feel a lot of guilt about this, that I “should” be spending less and budgeting more. And I would try so hard to get down to a certain dollar amount. I realized that this was a trigger for me because it reminded me a lot of restricting my calories. So I’ve been working on giving up a strict-budgeting mindset and the guilt that goes along with spending money on groceries.

    For me, it makes more sense to try to thoughtfully plan meals by (1) keeping a balance between meat and meatless meals, (2) keeping a balance between more labor-intensive meals (which I save for the weekend) and easy weeknight meals (like breakfast for dinner or grilled cheese and soup), and (3) having a nice balance of nutrient-dense foods and fun foods to choose from so that we can be satiated for all the forms of hunger (feeding for fuel and also for what we might want/need emotionally).

    • Thanks for commenting, Lindsay! There is definitely unnecessary rigidity (as you said, having to get down to a certain dollar amount) that can come in with budgeting. Glad you’ve been able to think through this and why it isn’t good for you. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. We always have a 4 pack of italian sausages or spicy hotlinks in the fridge- slicing up 1 or 2 to add to a dish can add a little heft and a lot of satisfaction easily. We add them to rice and beans, pasta, mac n cheese, a sheet pan of leftover veggies roasted w/ a cut up potato, soup, quesadillas, whatever you can think of.
    Also developing a sense of ingredient substitutions can help save money and decrease food waste. I don’t mean diet culture-esque swaps, but knowing things that are close enough (sour cream/yogurt) or fairly interchangable (that extra chicken you froze a week ago instead of buying some pork). also reading through a recipe to make sure you don’t accidentally spend a lot of money on an optional garnish that you would have skipped if you realized.
    I also do more frequent small grocery store runs- I don’t have kids, and have the luxury of grocery shopping at 7am after my night shift ends when the store is empty, so I understand not everyone has that kinda of time and energy, but for my husband and I, it takes the pressure off of predicting what we will want to eat, and allows me to feel out what sounds good, 2 days at a time.

  12. Very grateful for Kylie and others in the intuitive eating world. I grew up in a single parent house in the post Soviet Union time in Russia and for about two years all my mom could afford to feed me and my brother was fried potatoes, pancakes and butter noodles. It was delicious))) then I got married and came to the states and everyone here making smoothies and cut sandwiches in smiley faces, and tells you, that your kids need “healthier” snacks. That “health rage” is very unhealthy actually, considering the fact that some parents can’t afford feeding their kids nothing but ramen noodles and Mac and cheese. Guilt is never ever healthy. Peace is what true health looks like in my books. Thank you, Kylie, for bringing a peace to our hearts through your work.

  13. Love this! One thing I like to do is put a little more work into things like grains, chopping my own salad, making beans or cookies myself, etc. to decrease costs in the ‘pre-made’ section and then spend a little more money on things that are more time consuming (e.g., a roast chicken) to complement the meal. It’s always a balance!

  14. Hi, Kylie! It’s been awhile since evie read the blog and boy was it needed! Its f as r too easy to fall back into body obsessed culture especially when friends go on diets. Also funny side note, we seem to have kids around the same time. I found the blog right after my first was born in March 2017 and you were pregnant with Jo and then my second was born in June of 2019 close to Ella. Not to be creepy but just thought it was funny. Anyway! I was wondering if you were ever going g to re open your shop? I’d really like to order a soft and strong shirt

  15. Pingback: A very easy soup made with enchilada sauce. – Yeah…Immaeatthat

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