6 Ways You Can Eat Healthy on a Budget
“How do I eat healthy on a budget?” This is one of the most common questions I get among my clients and readers. It is a very important question and one I have had to answer for my own family.
Today I wanted to share a few ways that you can make eating healthy possible while staying within your budget. I hope it will begin to help you experience that you CAN eat healthy and not break the bank.
1. Meal plan and stick to your grocery list
Making time, even 15 mins, to sit down and plan out your meals for the week (or even 3 days) is so important. It allows you to plan ahead which will keep you from bending to quick fast and processed foods on the go. You will want to meal plan for all of your meals and snacks. I usually do this on Sunday before the week begins and use a meal plan template from my computer that I print out.
Look at what is leftover in your fridge or pantry and start there with meals for the week. Consider your week and what you are truly capable of doing and what is not going to be possible. Plan for “on the go”. Consider the time to prep foods (soaking, bulk cooking, chopping and cooking) as you decide what to put on your menu. Use your meal plan as a help for the following week. Did your meals change? Was one meal more taxing than you expected? Did you throw produce away? Write these observations on your meal plan so that it can inform your next week of planning.
Make your grocery list from your meal plan always! Stick with your list! Grocery sales can be helpful, as long as you plan your meals and grocery list with them. You will be going to the store every few days or week and most sales last at least a week. If there are foods you see that are not on your list, make a note of the sale and item and plan for that meal next trip. Don’t assume that all sale items should be what you buy. Decide if you are going to plan for the whole week or smaller amount of days. If you are just beginning a meal plan strategy, it may be helpful to plan for only 3-4 days and then plan again mid-week. For more meal planning tips, see here.
2. Eat Plant based Foods More Than Animal Products
If you are just starting the switch back to real food, you may want to consider eating a plant-based diet for the first month to keep your budget costs low. Making batches of quinoa, sprouted rice or gluten free pasta will help make your meals spread and still give you the nutrients you need. Choose from all the colorful fruits and veggies and you will be impressed with the boost of energy you find!
Make a pot of beans or lentils to last you all week and you will save so much money on your protein source! As you get rid of pantry items and turn to a plant-based diet, you will find your budget go down significantly. On the weeks I need to purchase bulk items, I will plan more plant-based meals to give room in our budget. To learn more about plant-based diets, see here.
3. Buy from the Bulk Section and in Bulk
Buying foods in bulk can feel expensive, but it will truly save you time and money. Purchasing nonperishable items like beans, lentils, rice, nuts, seeds will allow you to purchase just what you need or stock up for use over many weeks. The bulk section is often slightly less expensive than the prepackaged dry goods.
Also consider shopping at places like Costco to stock up on canned goods like tomatoes and fish. You can purchase sweeteners like maple syrup, raw honey or nut butters to use throughout the month and save money overall. You can freeze organic meats, butter or cheeses when you buy them in bulk or split the cost with a friend. You can also purchase your healthy fats in bulk like coconut oil and real butter. As you meal plan, plan to purchase bulk for items that you often eat, those that will last a longer time and those that will bring variety to your meals.
4. Purchase dark meat, frozen meat and spread out the portions
When I purchase chicken and beef, we purchase organic and grass-fed. That can get expensive, but if you purchase meat cuts with the bone in if can be less expensive. Purchasing organic chicken thighs and legs in bulk will bring your cost down significantly. We also purchase meat to be used within a meal, not to “be the meal”. We will take our bulk items like rice or quinoa and put small amount of ground beef or chicken thighs to create the meal. You can make stir-fry’s with more veggies than meat and still enjoy some protein.
You can cook a whole chicken and use the bones to make bone broth for an additional meal. Soups are a great way to extent your portion sizes of meat. Tacos are a huge hit in our home! I will make picadillo tacos with smaller corn tortillas which reduces the amount we eat. I use the leftover picadillo to stuff poblano peppers or mix with a salad the next day. Many smaller grocery stores will place their meat in the freezer once the date is getting close to expiration. They often reduce the price of the meats by 10 -50%. Check out your local Natural Grocer Store or Trader Joe’s to find cheaper frozen meats.
5. Purchase in season
It can often feel like produce is more expensive. But if you organize your produce purchases seasonally and even organically, you will find that they are not too expensive. When buying organically, follow the “Dirty dozen list” (adding Corn to it) for purchasing guidelines. You will find that the foods in season will always be less expensive than those that are not. Stick with those fruits and veggies that are in season. My kids love berries! But we only buy them fresh in season to save money and because they truly taste better!
You can know if produce is in season by looking at the organic section. Use the “Clean fifteen list” to purchase non-organically. (Note that sweet corn is on there but corn should be purchased organically to avoid GMO’s) These foods are not sprayed with as many toxic pesticides as the dirty dozen and are considered safe to eat non-organic per the Environmental Working Group.
You can also purchase organic produce in the freezer section during off season months. Frozen is often less expensive and you can make your food last longer that way.
6. Don’t wast anything
When you are planning your meals, consider purchasing foods that will create more than one meal for you. If you have meats with bones on them, use the bones to make bone broth. (Beef or Chicken) Plan to use your ground beef for several meals. If you have produce that is about to go bad, freeze it or use it to make a salad or veggie broth. Add veggies to all meals, including breakfast. Eggs with arugula is so delicious! Use rice and beans for several meals. Add organic potatoes to leftover meats or make a veggie hash for breakfast. Before you plan for the next week, look to see what is in your fridge and how you can utilize it for another meal. Not wasting food will save you a lot of money!
Often eating healthy on a budget simply takes time and practice of new things. When we began to eat healthy on a budget we found that our grocery store got smaller. Check out your area to find a Natural Grocer or Trader Joe’s store to eat well on a budget! If you are in Austin and interested in a free grocery tour, contact me!