10 Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
When I first started eating healthier foods, I found it difficult to stick to my budget. I was spending almost $200 on one week of groceries only for my husband and myself! Over the years, I've learned several tricks to help keep the cost down without making sacrifices with what I'm putting into my body. My weekly budget is now $100 and I'm easily able to stick to that and often stay under it (as long as the end caps and impulse buys don't snag my attention).
Want to know how I do it? Here are some of my top tips:
1. Plan your meals ahead based around what is already in your kitchen. Take a look through your pantry, freezer, and fridge to see what you've already got. Then, plan your meals based around those ingredients. Make a grocery list for the ingredients you don't have on hand, and then STICK TO YOUR LIST. I almost always go over budget if I buy things that aren't on my list.
2. Bring a calculator (hint: there's one on your phone!). This can help you stick to whatever budget you've set for yourself. You may find you need to put something back, and if you do, decide what's most important that week or what will give you the biggest "bang" for your buck.
3. Cook your own beans and grains. A one pound bag of beans costs $1-2 and will provide approximately the same amount of cooked beans as 4-5 cans! Did you know you can freeze your beans? Divide them into 1.5-cup servings and store them in freezer bags or containers with a bit of the cooking liquid. Thaw them in the fridge the day before you plan to use them.
4. Learn how to make your own dressings and condiments. Not only is this better for your wallet, but also better for your health! Many dressings and condiments contain extra unnecessary ingredients as well as sugar.
5. Buy a whole chicken and roast it. Make your own stock from the carcass. Whole chickens tend to cost less per pound than chicken parts. You can use the fattier parts for soups and stews and eat the leaner parts throughout the week. Have you been hearing all the hype about bone broth? Have you noticed how expensive it is? By using your chicken carcass, you can get all those great benefits for a much lower price!
6. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables that are not. By buying in season, you're also helping reduce emissions from the distant travel from other parts of the country (or more likely Mexico). In-season produce also tastes better and often contains more nutrients. Frozen fruits and vegetables are typically picked in season and frozen right away, preserving their nutrients. I like to stock up on them when they are on sale. Which reminds me.....
7. Stock up on sales. If you have enough space, this will cost more up front but will save you money in the long term. If you're in the Portland area, New Seasons runs many 50% off sales on weekends. I love to take advantage of these (you'll currently find about 10 bars of Theo's sea salt dark chocolate in my cupboard thanks to one of these sales).
8. Sign up for a CSA. CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." Essentially, you are purchasing a "share" in a farm and they supply you with produce and sometimes other items each week. This can be a great way to get organic produce at a lower cost than you would at a grocery store. It's also a great way to stay local and get to know your farmers!
9. Don't worry about buying only organic. Bring along the EWG's lists of the "Dirty 12" and "Clean 15" and perhaps only buy organic from the dirty dozen. If that isn't feasible for your budget, just do what you can and know that you're doing your best within your means.
10. Buy items from the bulk bins. This can save quite a bit of money over time, and if you bring your own containers this also helps minimize waste that goes into landfills!
There are many other ways you can save if you think outside the box. How do you stay within budget while eating healthier?