how to lower cholesterol with your diet on budget with Dr Cliona Murphy

Lower cholesterol and improve your heart health on a budget (Updated November 2022)

Updated 15th November 2022.

Start your cholesterol lowering journey on a budget!

Once you know your cholesterol levels, you can make changes to your diet and lifestyle for long-term benefits! To learn more about that, check out this post!

Plan ahead

From week to week, most people have a general idea of what they eat, but as soon as we go shopping, we end up buying things we may not need! Some of this food spoils and ends up in the trash or in the press (cupboard for those outside Ireland!) where we find it two years after its “best before” date. You don’t need to be Monica Geller-level organised; just have an idea of what your weekly menu will be!

Begin keeping a food diary!

With cholesterol lowering and diet planning in mind, a food diary can be beneficial. A food diary can paint a picture of our eating patterns and highlight foods that might increase cholesterol. Then you might be able to figure out what’s causing your cholesterol to rise. Make sure to include sauces, biscuits, and liquid calories, i.e., booze! For a look at the top foods that raise cholesterol, check out our recent blog.

A food diary can help identify foods that are contributing to high cholesterol levels

Consider cutting down on the following types of foods:

  • Processes meats and foods
  • Biscuits, pastries etc 

This is because they contain saturated fats, including heavily saturated fats such as palm oils, and possibly trans fats, which actively raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower your good cholesterol (HDL). 

And then increase the following:

  • good fats such as unsaturated fats that are contained in fatty fish, avocados, nuts
  • fibre – oats (porridge, Cholestero-Low), beans/lentils.
  • fruits and vegetables- they contain polyphenols which have been shown to lower cholesterol.

Try buying in bulk!

Bulk purchasing, when done correctly, can save time, money, and prevent waste. In the interest of obtaining both value and health benefits from bulk buying, it is of the essence to shop smart. Shopping smartly can take a little bit of planning. But planning allows us, for example, to consider what foods can be bought canned, dried, or frozen versus fresh or organic.

Examples of shopping items that should be on a cholesterol-lowering shopping list, have a long shelf life, and can can be bought in bulk include:

  • Brown rice, olives, lentils, chickpeas, olive oil, couscous, and oats.
Cholesterol lowering foods that can be bought in bulk and have a long shelf life. Examples include lentils, prunes, goji berries.

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

The more fruit and vegetables you eat, the lower your cholesterol. Here’s a link to one of Dr. Murphy’s earliest vlogs briefly discussing this. She cringes when looking back at these old videos! Contrary to popular belief, frozen fruit and vegetables have similar levels of vitamins and minerals when compared to refrigerated ones.

 A study from 2018 compared those who ate frozen fruit and vegetables with those who did not.  Interestingly, the study showed, that intake of important nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and vitamin D was significantly higher among those who consumed frozen fruit and vegetables versus those who did not.

What the study also highlighted, was that for those who did not consume frozen fruit and vegetables, the gap was not filled by other forms of fruit or vegetables, such as fresh, canned, or dried.

So, If it’s a case of frozen fruit and vegetables or none, go with frozen! 

Frozen fruit and vegetables contain equivalent levels of most nutrients. They can be bought in bulk, and are cheaper.  Fruit and vegetables help lower cholesterol.

Cutting down on subscriptions?

In the current climate, we are all looking for cost-cutting measures. Rather than cutting out exercise, look for subscription-free ways to get your heart pumping and muscles building!

  • Free step-counting apps are standard now. And to put step counting in context, if you hit 10,000 steps a day, it generally equates to burning 400–500 calories a day.

Detour off the beaten track to farmers markets or your local ethnic store!

Farmers Markets & Market Stalls 

Support your local growers and farmers! More often than not, you will find local, seasonal fresh produce at local prices.

At a farmers market, you can get fresh local produce at local prices.

Ethnic Shops

Roaming through these exciting and inspiring local shops, you might find some exotic foods or herbs, that can add some sparkle to your daily meals.

Some examples of items I have bought in my local ethnic shop:

  • Fresh turmeric 
  • Dragon fruit
  • Fresh ginger
  • Large tubs of olives! 
  • Almonds (bulk)
  • Lentils, chickpeas (bulk)

Cook in bulk

  • Make enough for lunch the next day. 
  • Have it for dinner later in the week when you are tight for time
  • Freshen it up with some salad, cous-cous salad or fancy bread roll!


If you buy lentils in bulk,  then you need to soak them before you cook them. The first few times I did this, there was a trail of lentils, either soaked beyond recognition, or half cooked as I had’t timed the cooking aspect right. 

Beginners mistake(well, what I used do):

  1. Soaking the lentils or chickpeas and then forgetting about them! (Then finding them a few days later!) 
  2. Thinking you can cook the soaked lentils in 5 minutes. 

What I do now, is I pop them in a bowl with water, overnight or in the morning, generally not on the day I want to use them. I then cook them alongside my dinner, and then pop into the fridge. THEN they are ready for your 5 minute meal, salad or lunch! 

I’ll use them in stir fries, salads, pies like shepherd’s pie, and so on throughout the week. 


Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to spend lots of money every week. There are many ways to eat well on a budget.

how to lower cholesterol with your diet on budget with Dr Cliona Murphy
How to lower cholesterol with your diet and lifestyle on budget with Dr Cliona Murphy.
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