Eating healthy is not only a growing lifestyle trend in food these days, it’s also the right thing to do for your overall health. The problem is that eating a healthy diet can sometimes be expensive if you’re not paying attention to how you shop. Many whole food diets, for example, call for organic food or unusual items that you don’t normally have in your pantry. Therefore, when you embark on eating a fresh, healthy diet, you feel the need to spend whatever it takes to make the right choices; this can be hard on your pocketbook. However, with a little perseverance and creativity, there are many ways you can save money and still eat a healthy diet.
Let’s look at some ways you can still eat a healthy diet while staying within your budget.
1. Plan Your Meals
Planning is your first line of defense when it comes to saving money at the grocery store. If you plan your meals and make a grocery list of the things you need, you can avoid buying things you really don’t need. Take the time to sit down and plan every day of the week. Don’t forget to check your fridge and your pantry for items you need that you won’t need to buy. If you only buy what you need, you can avoid wasteful spending or wasting food by allowing it to spoil.
2. Only Buy What’s on Your Grocery List
When you’ve completed your meal plan for the week, head to grocery store, but be sure to avoid varying from your carefully planned list. If you allow yourself to stray from your planned purchases, you’ll end up spending more money than you need to. By vowing to stick to your grocery list, you can avoid those expensive impulse buys.
One way to shop that keeps you from buying unhealthy, processed foods is stay on the outside, perimeter aisles of the grocery store. This is where the majority of the fresh foods are displayed. The interior aisles are full of items you likely shouldn’t eat while on a healthy diet. Here’s a pro tip: Always scan the shelves from the top to the bottom, as the most expensive items are usually displayed at eye level.
Be sure to take advantage of the many online tools available to help you make your list. These apps can make an easy task out of a sometimes-aggravating task.
3. Don’t Eat Out
Eating out can be both expensive and unhealthy. Many times, it’s hard to know exactly what’s in the foods on a restaurant menu, making it impossible to track the calories and nutrition in the foods you eat there. Planning your meals will help you avoid eating out as often, as you’ll always have a meal ready to prepare. It’ll also help you avoid ordering expensive and unhealthy foods such as pizza and Chinese food.
Cooking at home is also a lot more economical than eating out. You can prepare a healthy meal at home for a fraction of the cost of what you’ll spend in a restaurant. In fact, you can prepare a meal for the entire family for the same amount you might spend on just yourself in a restaurant. If you can, try to prepare a few meals ahead on the weekend. This will be a big saver during the week when you’re busy with work and family needs.
4. Make Food in Bulk and Freeze Your Leftovers
Cooking in bulk not only saves you money, it can also save you lots of time. By freezing extra portions, you can have a freezer full of ready-to-eat foods to have when you don’t feel like cooking or are pressed for time. Leftovers can also be sent to school or work for lunch, which can save you lots of money. Eating lunch out can be hard on the budget; even fast food can add up to lots of money over the course of a month.
Consider making things such as soups, stews, and casseroles, as these are easy to make in bulk and easy to store and transport.
5. Don’t Go to the Grocery Store When You’re Hungry
One of the biggest ways to fail in your healthy eating endeavors is to go to the grocery store when you’re starving. You’ll likely make poor choices in the foods to buy, succumb to impulse buys, and stray from your list and food plan.
If you don’t have time to eat a meal before you head off to the grocery store, at least have a healthy snack to dampen your appetite and keep you on target with your goals.
6. Don’t Buy Processed Foods
Whole foods are generally way less expensive than processed foods and can be a lot healthier as well. One way to keep from buying foods that have been processed is to shop at stores that offer bulk foods. Many stores will give you the opportunity you to buy things such as raw nuts, grains, and beans by the pound, allowing you to make large portions at a fraction of the cost of buying them already prepared.
Processed foods such as macaroni and cheese, prepared meals from the freezer section, and boxed foods are some of the unhealthiest things you can buy and some of the most expensive on a per-portion basis. Buy whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
7. Check Prices
When you shop for your prepared list of items, be sure to check out the prices for all the different brands on offer. Sometimes, generic items are much cheaper than name brand items, but that’s not always the case. Many times, generic items may appear cheaper but in reality are actually offering a smaller portion or are depending on you to assume they’re cheaper. Always compare and find out what’s on sale. Don’t just buy the same brands repeatedly out of habit.
Food quality should also play a role in your buying decision; cheaper is not always better. Sometimes, it’s better to pay a little more to get a better quality item that’ll be healthier and, probably, better tasting.
8. Avoid the Pitfalls of Junk Food
Highly processed foods that lack any meaningful nutrition are called junk foods. Not only is junk food hard on your budget, it’s also hard on your health. Generally, these foods not only lack the proper nutrition you need, they’re also loaded with unhealthy additives such as preservatives and other chemicals.
The less refined a food is, the better it is for you, and it’s usually cheaper as well. However, don’t fall into the trap of buying from expensive markets such as Whole Foods or Fresh Market. You can get the same quality food for a lot less at discount grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s.
9. Buy What’s on Sale
Look to buy what you need on sale whenever possible. Many grocery stores will offer BOGO (buy-one-get-one) sales. If there’s something you use all the time, be sure to take advantage of the sales and stock up when the item is on sale. Check your weekly grocery store circular when you’re doing your meal planning to see how you can save money on that week’s offers.
Be careful about stocking too much of the same item. Consider the shelf life of items and calculate what you can keep on hand without wasting food through spoilage. Having to throw out food obviously counteracts the goal of saving money.
Sometimes, it helps to shop at several different stores as long as they’re geographically close to one another. Every store has its own offerings each week, so you’ll be able to buy more on sale by shopping this way, but don’t burn up all of your savings on gas.
10. Buy Produce at the Farmer’s Market
Chances are strong that you have a farmer’s market happening weekly somewhere close to you. Not only is a Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s market a fun experience, it’s also a way to buy fresh, seasonal produce and other items at pennies on the dollar. Additionally, it’s likely that these food products are fresher and more likely grown with fewer chemicals than grocery store produce is. This means they’ll be healthier and better tasting, too.
Produce isn’t the only thing you can find at the farmer’s market. Usually, you’ll find a variety of homemade or natural items for sale. This can include things such as local jars of honey, jellies, and jams; baked goods; and other items you can add to your healthy lifestyle that are delicious and unprocessed. Sometimes, there are even vendors that sell fresh local seafood or other proteins as well. These can make even normally expensive items able to fit into a budget and give you more, delicious choices.
With most of the items found at the farmer’s market, you can buy in bulk and freeze for meals later. This is especially true for local, seasonal produce and some proteins such as fish and shrimp. Just make sure you portion foods out properly before freezing.
11. Be Creative with Your Protein Choices
You don’t always have to buy beef, chicken, pork, or fish products to add a protein to every meal. You can get lots of protein from vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and eggs. Perform some research into what foods contain the highest levels of protein and substitute in a few non-meat choices each week. This will not only save you money, it’ll also be better for your health to eat less meat.
When you do choose meat, shop for what’s on sale that week, and speak to your butcher to get some ideas on what choices to make. Generally, butchers are highly skilled and knowledgeable about the best cuts to prepare certain dishes. They can also help you choose less pricey alternatives to expensive cuts.
You can also buy a large, inexpensive pot roast and make a delicious stew that’ll be great as leftovers. It’ll freeze well, too. When making soups and stews, consider using a whole chicken or large cut of meat that’ll be more economical than buying meats that have already been cut up for your convenience. In addition, never hesitate to ask the butcher to cut up a piece of meat for you. They generally welcome the interaction with customers and the chance to exhibit their butchering skills.
12. Grow Your Own Food
There’s a growing trend among consumers of growing their own food and becoming more self-sufficient. This means that with little investment and some physical labor, you can provide fresh, nutritious, and delicious food for your family at very little cost.
You can easily grow a wide variety of foods, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, onions, squash, and the like. You can also grow your own herbs to help you make your food more delicious. You can grow more than you need and preserve through canning or freezing for future use.
You also don’t need a large space to grow your own food, and you don’t need to live in the country. These days, consumers are gardening on rooftops, on balconies and decks, and on backyard patios. The advent of vertical gardening allows you to grow exponentially more food in a very small footprint. Moreover, gardening in containers on your patio not only makes for delicious meals, it also offers a visually appealing landscape.
Find Success And Eat Healthy While On A Budget
Choosing a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be a budget buster. There are many ways to increase the healthiness of your diet without overspending. Just a little discipline and effort can have you on your way to being healthy, not only physically but economically as well.