Eating Healthy on a Budget

Breaking cancer without breaking my wallet

Shefali O'Hara
4 min readMay 29


Cauliflower bisque with wild caught shrimp

I have cancer. That means I have two requirements that create added expenses in my life, and there is nothing I can do about them.

  1. I need to pay for medical care. That means whatever insurance doesn’t cover (which in my case, is a lot) as well as co-pays, medications, and support equipment such as my rollator and my oxygen supply.
  2. I need good nutrition. This is essential if I am to survive the cancer.

There is not much I can do to cut down on treatment costs and imaging services. I started a GoFundMe that I use exclusively for out-of-pocket medical bills, which helps.

The area that I can keep my expenses under control — groceries.

I do have requirements due to my health issues that make it tricky, however, to stay on budget. But I’ve got some tricks to make it work!

When I was younger and healthy, I probably ate pretty badly a lot of the time. Looking back, this was a mistake. Part of it was my own ignorance about good nutrition. Part of it was being an engineer who often worked long hours and then just grabbed takeout or microwaved a frozen meal.

I should never have done that, and I certainly can’t afford to do that now.

Unfortunately, buying organic produce, pastured meat, and wild-caught seafood is expensive. Fortunately, I save money by mostly cooking my own meals. However, treatments like chemo sometimes make it hard for me to do this. They either sap my energy or interfere with my balance so much that I can’t stand near a stove.

Therefore, when I cook these days, I make enough food to last for several meals. I’ll then put enough in the fridge to last for 3–4 meals, and then store the rest in a couple of mason jars in the freezer.

I rotate the mason jars so that I end up having some variety in the meals I thaw out. When my health allows it, I’ll cook several meals in a row, freezing a portion of each. Right now, I have a jar of chicken soup, 2 jars of venison stew, a jar of lentil-kale soup, and 2 containers of Thai veggie curry in my freezer. Each jar makes 2–3 servings.



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.