Today I want to bust the myth that eating healthy cannot be done affordably or on a budget. Perhaps much to your surprise (and against popular opinion), you do not need to spend your ‘whole paycheck’ in order to eat and maintain a healthy diet. Don’t get me wrong, healthy food can be expensive and eating a healthy diet can and likely will require some sacrifices in your life, but it can be done on a budget and it truly can become a lifestyle for you and your family.
Here are 10 tips to eat healthy on a budget
Buy in Bulk- Buying certain foods in bulk can save you a significant amount. Items like oats, rice, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils, and beans are all great options for buying in bulk. Simply keep them in airtight containers in your pantry and they will last several months. These food items are also great staples to have on hand and can be used for a variety of meals and recipes. If you are able to front load your grocery money, shopping at wholesale club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco is another great way to save money by buying in bulk. It takes money on the front end, but you will save in the long run especially if you focus on buying staples like olive oil, nuts, dried fruit, meat, and frozen fruit/vegetables. This is truly the way to go when buying staple items that get used up quickly. Buying these items at a conventional grocery store can sometimes be close to double the price than at a wholesale store.
Buy Online- One of my favorite online grocery retailers to shop and save money is Thrive Market. Think Whole Foods meets Costco. Thrive Market carries a variety of healthy pantry items along with other household, beauty, and pet products that are all clean, eco-friendly, and mostly organic. Thrive Market has their own brand of items if you want to get an even better deal. Thrive carries some of the EXACT same brands and items as Whole Foods for less.
Eat Seasonally- Buying produce that is in season is a great way to save money while eating healthy. It is also a great way to enjoy the best of the season and support local farmers. Seasonal produce is not only cheaper, but it is at its peak for freshness offering better nutrients and taste.
Maintain an Organized Refrigerator/Pantry- Knowing what you have can save you a lot of money and decrease food waste. Be sure to take inventory before heading to the grocery store so you don’t find yourself questioning if you have that item at home while standing in the grocery store just to find out you already have two at home. I think we’ve all done that before…Toss any expired foods before grocery shopping as well. Speaking of tossing expired foods, along with maintaining an organized refrigerator and pantry, knowing how to store food is also important. Take some time to educate yourself on how to store fresh produce and pantry items so that you aren’t wasting precious food and money. Here is another blog post I wrote on organizing your refrigerator and pantry.
Coupon & Check Sales- Take some time and look through the paper for sales at your local grocery store. If you live near a Sprouts Farmers Market you can take advantage of their double ad Wednesdays where you can shop the sales from that week’s ad as well as the previous week’s ad. There are several grocery savings apps out there so no need to clip paper coupons if that isn’t your thing. Check out Ibotta, Checkout 51, Rakuten, and Coupons.com just to name a few. If I see a favorite pantry staple item such as Banza chickpea pasta on sale, I always take advantage of the sale and stock up on a few. This is a great way to save money in the long run and you’re always sure to have your favorite items on hand.
Buy Off Brand- Nowadays the store brand is just as good as the name brand as far as quality but for a fraction of the cost. Try shopping at a specialty grocery store like Trader Joe’s or Aldi whose entire store is dedicated to their own brand. These stores have become very popular among those looking to cut down on their grocery bill. Most big box chain grocery stores also have their own brand that is more cost effective than the name brands.
Meal Plan- One of the easiest and most effective ways to save money at the grocery store and on your monthly grocery bill is to meal plan. Going into the store with a game plan and a specific list of items needed will help you from buying unnecessary items or over buying. Speaking of grocery shopping….also avoid grocery shopping when you are hungry. Back to meal planning…I like to sit down one day a week (typically on the weekends) and plan my meals for the week. I use this time and take inventory of my refrigerator and pantry and figure out what items we need. I like to choose 4 meals per week to cook but that will depend on the size of your family, how much you eat out, and how often you want to cook. Once I decide my meals and I know what I have and don’t have, I make my very detailed grocery shopping list. I always like to meal plan BEFORE going to the store but some people like to shop the sales at the grocery store or shop at a farmers market and then plan their meals afterwards depending on what fresh items they purchased. This can be an effective technique but does take more of a knowledge of what to cook and what to pair together versus following more exact recipes. The main goal is to take some time to plan and know what you plan to cook so you don’t overbuy and waste and to ensure you are buying what you need and not adding extras to your cart and your grocery bill.
Know What/What Not to Buy Organic- While buying organic is a great thing to do, if you are trying to eat healthy on a budget it isn’t necessary to buy everything organic. There are some items that are more important than others to buy organic. EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen is a great place to start when determining what to buy organic and what can be purchased conventionally. Check out the lists here.
Cut Down on Snack Foods- I think you’d be surprised at how expensive crackers, cookies, and other prepackaged foods are considering the low nutritional value they offer. By skipping out on the snack and junk foods, you can reallocate that money to fresh, whole foods that are better for you! Oftentimes, fresh, whole foods are just as affordable if not cheaper than prepackaged, processed foods but it takes a shift in our mentality.
Go Meat Free Once a Week- No need to go full on vegetarian but opting to do a meat free meal once a week (maybe Meatless Monday) is one way to cut down on your grocery bill because meat can tend to be expensive, especially quality organic, grass-fed meat. This is also an effective way to expand your palette and cooking repertoire by trying other healthy foods and finding different protein sources from things like beans and lentils. You don’t have to sacrifice protein just because you eat meat free…I think you’d be surprised by the amount of yummy vegan/vegetarian options out there now.
I hope these tips will help you the next time you step foot in the grocery store and empower you to reach for the healthy items!