Eating healthy and balanced meals is one of the best things you can do for both your mind and body. It allows you to feel more energetic and sleep better all while lowering your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
One of the most common reasons that people will choose processed foods over clean, fresh food is that it can be more expensive and requires more time. Many packaged and processed foods are cheaper to buy, however they are not beneficial to the body and may result in a hefty healthcare bill later on in life.
Did you know that people will consume about 20% fewer calories when they choose to eat in vs. out?
Today, I am here to tell you that healthy eating does not have to break the bank! With some effective planning and cooking at home well balanced meals can actually be super easy and cost-effective.
Top 11 Hacks To Eating Healthy On a Budget
1. Create A Monthly Grocery Budget
Knowing how much you can spend every week or every month on food items can help to save money in the long run. Shopping aimlessly without a budget in mind will often rack up that grocery bill at check-out. An example of a budget would be $50-100 per person a week
2. Plan To Shop Once A Week
Today’s culture encourages us to shop on impulse whether it be clothes or foods. Impulse shopping can make us splurge on things we normally would not splurge on. Plan to shop once a week and make it consistent. This will have you conserve groceries and money until you know you have to go shopping again! The less time you spend in grocery stores the less money you will be spending overall. Just keep an ongoing list of things that need to be purchased on a daily basis.
3. Plan Weekly Meals Around On-Sale Items
Who doesn’t get frustrated coming up with new meals every week? Shopping based on sales can narrow down your choices. Coming up with recipes depending what is on sale that week saves you a heck of a lot of money. Check out coupons, mobile apps, like flipp while sitting down to make your grocery list for the week!
4. Create A Meal Plan
Planning ahead is the key to making healthy eating affordable. Sunday meal prep can go a long way to making busy weekdays easier and less stressful when it comes to cooking. Often times after coming home from a long day of work, if there is no healthy alternative ready it is easy to reach for the quick, unhealthy which include expensive take out meals. Try to also include recipes with similar ingredients so as to prevent wastage!
5. Walk Into The Grocery Store With A Shopping List In Hand And Stick To This List At All Costs
A shopping list is a MUST everytime you walk into the grocery store. This helps to only buy ingredients that you know will be needed for the upcoming week and will eliminate unnecessary purchases. How many times have you come out of the grocery store with a laundry list of items that you had no intention of buying? Going into the store with a list helps to cut down on impulsive buys which will ALWAYS bring the grocery bill down. An added tip is to have a healthy snack before you go shopping. Shopping on an empty stomach is the worst thing you can do!
6. Shop By Aisle
Shopping aisle to aisle can help to avoid unhealthy processed foods (always in the middle aisles) and prevents us from making poor dietary choices and often times it's the packaged foods that can add up in terms of cost.
Here is an example of aisle by aisle shopping:
- Produce section - Buy a ton of veggies, fruits, kale, spinach, broccoli, apples and avocados
- Fresh fish section
- Meat counter
- Natural food section (nut butters, rice crackers, raw nuts, seeds, quinoa pasta, brown rice)
- Frozen section for frozen fruit and veggies (Buy these when they are out of season!)
- Avoid the bakery section as well as the packaged snacks aisle - out of sight out of mind!
7. Shop For The Season
Fresh vegetables and fruits are usually less expensive when they are in season. Also focus on economical fruits and vegetables. Examples include, bananas, apples, cabbage, sweet potatoes, peppers, and dark leafy vegetables. When you eat for the season you gain the full nutrient potential of all the foods and can help you expand the variety of foods you are eating on an everyday basis.
8. Stock Up On Staples When They Go On Sale
Buying foods in bulk can help save you money, especially if they are on sale. Some of the most common items include, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, quinoa, brown rice, olive oil, nuts and spices.
9. Shop At Different Grocery Stores
We all have our “go to” grocery stores as a result of convenience. However, if you want to find clean produce and other food items that are budget friendly, rotate through different local farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Grocery stores tend to rotate sale items every week - if you are lucky enough you will be able to find items that are on sale every week just by switching where you shop at. Map out 2-3 grocery stores in your area and check flipp for weekly deals! When possible go to the farmer’s market and get fresh fruits and vegetables as they are almost always cheaper than at your local supermarket
10. Grow An Organic Garden
One of the least expensive ways to eat fresh produce is to grow your own organic garden! This actually gives you the most control over your diet and allows you to be selective with the foods you grow and therefore eat. If you don’t have a backyard check out smart indoor gardening options!
11. Don’t Shop For Convenience
You can often save money if you are willing to do a little more work. For example, buying whole chickens that are already seasoned and cut into parts will cost more than buying a whole unprepared and uncooked chicken in which all you need to do is season and pop in the oven! Cheese that is shred and grated will often cost more than a block of cheese and bagged salad mixes will cost more than a head of lettuce. So, often for a little more work to save some money. Aim to marinate your own meats, cut up your own vegetables and cut your own cheese!
Eating healthy does not have to be more expensive. It is not about always shopping in the natural or organic food aisles. Oftentimes, simple things like planning your meals ahead of time, budgeting for groceries, putting in a little extra time and effort for meal prepping and switching grocery stores can help save you a lot of money while trying to eat healthy.
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND | 2016