JUST VISIT YOUR LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE, AND THE PROSPECT OF EATING HEALTHIER MAY SEEM WAY, WAY, WAY OUT OF YOUR BUDGET.
And, at times, it can be. If you trade your favorite packaged foods for healthier versions, you could see your grocery budget go up by at least a 1/3 (it might even double). You can’t stop paying rent, mortgage or bills just so you can eat exotic foods found in the health food store (or I would not suggest you do)…so that dietary change you’re aching to do (and your body might be hurting for it too…) might seem utterly impossible. To start making dietary changes (healthy changes) on a minimal food budget, begin by slowly removing packaged and processed foods from your daily food regimen, and as your willpower and budget allow, incorporate more whole, fresh foods. Before you know it, your grocery cart will be filled to the brim with healthy, whole foods and you will see that the dietary change you were aching to do, has come true!
Yes, in a perfect world this may happen, but then you wake up from your dream and remember that money doesn’t grow on trees! For a majority of us, we have to live on a budget. Sometimes that budget grows and sometimes, well, it shrinks. Just remember not to continue shopping with the “growing budget” when you are on the “shrinking budget” and drain your bank account. So, when you’re not dreaming, and in the real world, how do you eat healthy while on a teeny weeny budget? Is it possible to buy enough groceries to feed two people for a week for less than $20? If you are conservative enough, then yes, it is, and if you do it for long enough where it becomes a skill when you do get that “dream” budget, you will (or hopefully) continue to shop as you did on the “shrinking budget.” So, what are the frugal ways to eat healthier?
1. Make a grocery list.
This simple task can really help reduce a lot of extraneous spending throughout the week. One missing ingredient or staple can mean a few more take-out lunches or dinners. So make it as easy as possible, and have a notepad on your fridge. As soon as you notice a staple is running low (less than a week left), add it to the list. Therefore, when it’s grocery-time, you don’t have to search through the fridge and cupboards to find what’s needed. You will more than likely only need to add some fresh produce and voila, your list is made.
2. Have important staples on hand.
Meal planning can be challenging. You may do great at planning out the first few days only to find yourself throwing something together by the end of the week, with what’s left in the fridge. And this can work, why? Because you already have certain staples on hand, such as:
- Good oils: Extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, and sesame oil
- Frozen veggies: They fill in the gaps if you’re running low at the end of the week
- Beans: Dried or canned
- Canned tuna or canned wild salmon
- Whole grains: Rice, oats, quinoa
- Condiments: Mustard, soy sauce (low sodium), balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, miso
- Nut butter’s and hummus (excellent protein options)
Many lovely dinners can be made from these ingredients. So if these are not common staples, you may consider adding them to your new healthy diet repertoire.
3. Buy Seasonally.
A $6 container of strawberries in January or $4/lb for apples in June is not budget friendly. Buying “in season” can really reduce your grocery bill and your body will love it. Buy berries and tomatoes in the summer and freeze for use all year long.
4. Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat.
This will really stretch your budget, and it might also allow you to buy organic or free-range instead of conventionally grown meats. Buy bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or legs instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Buy stewing beef instead of tenderloin and pull out your crockpot that’s collecting dust (or find one at a thrift shop). It will make that tougher cut absolutely delicious.
5. Enjoy More Vegetarian Meals.
This one step can save you SO much money, and it can be better for the planet! Beans and lentils are significantly cheaper sources of protein than meat. If you’re a heavy meat eater, try just 1 or 2 vegetarian lunches or dinners and watch your grocery bill go down!
6. Buy Whole Foods.
Instead of packaged or processed “healthy” foods. The most expensive meals at health food stores are the healthier versions of packaged foods (cereal, mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, veggie burgers, etc.). Buy whole foods and try some new recipes. Use these packaged foods as an occasional treat.
7. Buy Grains and Beans in Bulk.
Bulk stores or bulk sections at your favorite health food store is a great place to save lots of money on your grocery bill. This is especially true for the more expensive grains like quinoa. Organic spices are also a great find in a bulk section; organic quality for the price of conventional.
8. Cook at Home.
If you’re currently eating out or even just buying coffee a few times per week, keep track of how much you’re spending. $10 here and $30 there can add up over a month, and this extra cash can really go far at the grocery store. Once you know how much you’re spending, you can budget for take-out or coffee treats you really want and put the rest into your grocery budget. If your favorite treat is wine (then we really need to get together for a glass!), enjoy a few glasses a week but ensure to spend any extra money on food quality first, then the booze. Your body undoubtedly prefers a good breakfast omelet over a hangover. And once you have high-quality foods and there is still some “bucks” left, then go ahead and buy that extra bottle!
If YOU have additional tips and tricks on how to stretch your grocery budget, please send me your ideas and share them in the comments! Happy food budgeting.
Adapted from: Lisa Kilgour, nutritionist
Make it easy! Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table or countertop. It makes it easier to choose a healthy snack when it’s in plain sight!
Picayune: A small coin of little value, especially a 5-cent piece.
“This path entails uncovering three qualities of being human, three basic qualities that have always been with us but perhaps have gotten buried and been almost forgotten. These qualities are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. If we are not obscuring our intelligence with anger, self-pity or craving, we know what will help and what will make things worse. Natural warmth is our shared capacity to love, to have empathy, to have a sense of humor. It is also our capacity to feel gratitude and appreciation and tenderness. The third quality of basic goodness is natural openness, the spaciousness of our skylike minds. We can connect with that openness at any time. For instance, right now, for three seconds, just stop reading and pause.”