Making the choice to eat healthy can feel difficult enough, but then there’s another pesky factor that complicates things further: money. Sigh. Unfortunately, with a budget being a fact of life for most of us, it’s something we have to learn to work within. We put together some tips will make eating healthy on a budget within reach and painless!
- Outline your budget before shopping
First things first. I would start by looking at your monthly earnings, other expenses, and amount you plan to put away in savings, and figure out how much you realistically could, and would spend a month on groceries. Then, divide it by four, see how it works for the first week, and adjust accordingly. I also like to look at my cost per different meals, to avoid eating too many of the more pricey recipes.
- Shop at discount grocery chains
A sneaky element that drives up grocery costs is where you shop. It may seem inconsequential, but a dollar, or even fifty cents more for every product purchased ends up being more than you think. Thinking about this extra amount over the course of a year helps to put things in perspective, and that saved money will allow you to spend more on healthier options. My favorite discount stores are Winco and Grocery Outlet, although I have found that Grocery Outlet tends to have better variety as far as healthy options go.
- Make a schedule around expiration dates
Speaking of Grocery Outlet…Always check those expiration dates before purchasing, and plan your meals around when they expire. You won’t be eating healthy or saving money if they go bad. Set up a reminder on your notes or calendar app to ensure no food gets left behind in the fridge. This is especially important for fresh produce, as it spoils more quickly and is vital for a healthy diet. Luckily, lots of healthy foods can be purchased frozen, or frozen before it expires, such as fruits, most vegetables, chicken, fish, and whole wheat bread.
- Buy non-organic for the “Clean Fifteen”
Sadly, organic foods tend to be more expensive. When it comes to the “Clean Fifteen“, otherwise known as produce with the least likelihood to have pesticide residue, it’s not as necessary to purchase organic, which should save you some money.
- Purchase versatile ingredients
The more meals it can be used in, the less likely it is to spoil, and the more likely it is you’ll consume more of it. Plus, you can purchase it in larger quantities, which means it’ll be cheaper. Some of my favorite adaptable and affordable healthy foods are sweet potatoes, chicken, beans, tomatoes, quinoa, and chickpeas. And of course, coconut oil! It can be used in cooking and baking, both sweet and savory, and can also be used for beauty purposes. It also helps that ours is on sale right now on Amazon (free shipping, too!).
- Make and grow from scratch as much as possible
I’m not saying you need to grow corn in your backyard. You can take baby steps, like growing herbs in the kitchen, fermenting vegetables, or making your own hummus. Dough bases and sauces are often healthier and cheaper when made from scratch. Plus, it saves you a trip to the store!
- Go for cheap protein sources
Protein is usually the most expensive part of the meal, as well as the most essential. It keeps us feeling full, builds muscle, grows our hair and nails, and allows our bodies to grow and function normally. Not only are many sources of protein healthy in themselves, but since they’re so filling, they prevent the consumption of the less nutritious parts of the meal. Now, healthy proteins don’t have to be expensive if you shop smart. Cheap, healthy sources of protein include black beans, chickpeas, natural peanut butter, edamame, canned or frozen chicken, eggs, canned tuna, nuts, plain greek yogurt, lentils, and pumpkin seeds.
- Buy what you can in bulk
If you live in a single person household like myself, some bulk foods are unrealistic. However, the plethora of frozen, dried, and canned bulk foods is in reach. Take advantage of the bulk foods section and get the best price for healthy foods like dried fruits, whole grain rice, and nuts.
- Avoid convenience food
Part of why healthy foods have the reputation of being more expensive is that some have a convenience tax. This can take the form of pre-cut fruits and vegetables, parfaits, pre-made salads, guacamole, pico de gallo, other dips, wraps, and deli food. It will take a little more time and effort to prepare the food yourself, but the money saved will certainly be worth it.
- Don’t forget to treat yourself!
[Almost] No one sticks to their budget, or diet, 100% of the time. And that’s okay. If it takes going out to not-so-healthy restaurant once a week to keep the rest of your weekly spending and eating in check, so be it. Keep in mind that it’s probably going to take some time to get used to eating healthy and sticking to a budget, too. Practice self-control, but also be patient with yourself, and financial and physical success will be yours!