Have you ever looked at a health guru and asked how on earth they can afford all that healthy food? Or maybe you've already tried several times to start eating healthy only to find the $600 monthly budget overwhelming? If you're anything like me, you know exactly what I'm talking about! I absolutely understand the nagging feeling of looking back at a grocery budget and finding you've arrived at what you want. And besides, it can be hard to justify buying a tiny $5 bag of carrot chips while a mound of $1 chips sits nearby. My husband and I recently stumbled upon this struggle. We got married last year and soon found ourselves trying to find a balance between 12 hour work days in order to keep our relationship strong and trying to keep our personal businesses afloat. Agreed, our budget was one thing that took a hit! Once we started tracking our expenses, we were shocked to see that we were spending over $1000 a month on food alone! A bit of scheduling is taken off that straight. So, how to eat healthy on a budget? Here are the top tips I learned that helped us shave $600 a month off our family budget so we could reinvest in the areas that really matter to us!
1. Meal Plan
You've probably heard the saying "don't plan, plan to fail", right? Well, that saying couldn't be more true than in the realm of healthy budgeting! The fact is, the healthiest foods don't actually cost that much… ready to save time, do nothing! If you go about creating a healthy eating plan within your budget, you could easily cut your costs down to the same price you pay for junk food. Meal planning is as easy as working on the food you already have in your fridge/freezer, adding in some simple ingredients and seasonal vegetables, and breaking it down on your shopping list. Often, finding multiple meals in large batches will help you save more money in the long run, which brings me to my next point.
2. Chef in bulk
Not only will cooking in bulk save you a lot of time, it will save you a lot of money too! Believe it or not, if you find meals to make with similar ingredients, you can easily save more money than when you ate unhealthy. Don't believe me? Just look at the $4 frozen pasta dinner. Now, sub with a vegetarian pasta dinner. 5 zuchinni ($3), pasta sauces ($2.50), and chicken ($5) can last you the whole 5 course, which adds up to a whopping total of just over $1 per meal! It's not even digging in for all the money you'll save from fast food. Trust me, a little $10 spent here and there add up! You'll save a whopping amount from all the cooking of your meals you'll be doing!
3. Cook all meals in one day
Science behind it 2 times. Number one, if you have plenty of food to grab and go, you'll be much less likely to binge on expensive foods when you're hungry. Let's be real, you're not going to spend 1 hour cooking when hub-n-grub is on your bacon-call! Number 2, cooking ahead of time will help you stick to your meal plan better when you're not in the mood. Let's face it, we all go to eat days when protein and vegetables are not appealing. But, if you have a full meal that's quick to grab in the fridge, it will be easier for you to fill up on the good stuff rather than spending money on things you don't really need.
4. Cut back on appetizers and signature items
I can almost hear you through the screen. "But, I thought the snacks were good for me!" Here's the thing: Snacks are expensive! And healthy snacks, my God, say goodbye to your paycheck! Look, I'm definitely not saying healthy snacks are bad. Frankly, I'd rather have you chow down on Halo Top than triple-candy-ice cream. It's just…healthy snacks, why healthy eating gets a bad rap for being expensive. Look at it this way: You can either buy a week's worth of groceries full of chicken, fish, legumes, vegetables and fruit for $30. Or, you can spend $30 on six snacks that will leave you hungry more. What's more, the ingredients for gluten-free baked goods, free sweeteners, or protein powders alone will add up to your meal budget to spend an entire week in one sitting. By all means, if you want to work out some delicious stuff within your budget, let's do it! But don't confuse an extra $300 monthly deli as a must. Your body and budget thank you!
5. Satisfy yourself with your favorite Subs
We all have an emotional attachment to food. Maybe pasta reminds you of home! Or maybe a freshly baked pizza that gives you a sense of comfort. Whatever your favorite food, find a way to work it into your budget in the best possible way. We are only human, and depriving ourselves of what we love will never end. More often than not, it ends up being takeaway or expensive-ready replacements. Instead of finding yourself in this situation, find a way to make your favorite products fit your budget. Zuchinni pasta noodles can just give you that feeling of home without breaking the bank. Or maybe you could google the healthy pizza alternative you want that you could make at home. Often, something similar to your desire will be enough to give you a sense of fulfillment. Or immediately buy your cheat dish and save it for a special day. That's okay too!
6. Stick to cheaper proteins
Okay, I know we all love steaks. Unfortunately, buying pre-cooked or expensive cuts of meat is one of the easiest ways to blow your budget. Instead of buying those, try buying frozen chicken or eggs. A 5 pound bag of frozen chicken meat can be as cheap as $5 and you can buy an entire week's worth of eggs for just over $1. You can even try vegetarian on a few dishes if you really want to cut costs!
7. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables
I know we all love our fresh fruits and vegetables! However, sometimes frozen can be the way to go if you are looking to cut costs! Fruits and vegetables are easy to ship frozen, making them a much cheaper option. Contrary to popular belief, scientists have indeed discovered that frozen may be better for you!((Whitney E. RD: frozen fruits + vegetables and fresh - Is there a difference in nutrition?)) The reason is that frozen food is collected at the peak and shipped immediately. Fresh fruit is usually picked much earlier, so it will ripen in transit. Not only does this make it less nutrient dense, but sometimes the fruit is actually infused with artificial flavors to make up for the lack of real nutrients. While I'm all for fresh fruits and vegetables, don't feel guilty if you opt for frozen food, off the budget.
8. Raised calories with rice and beans
The problem for some people when trying to eat healthy is that it can be difficult to get the amount of calories you need without relying on expensive "brand" items. Instead of stocking up on expensive gluten-free breads and pasta, I say stick to plain rice and beans as the bulk of the meal. Brown rice is very cheap and easy to use as a base for bowls and dishes. In addition, beans can add some fiber, making you feel full and satisfied without having to spend a lot of money. If you're trying to cut down on body fat, use extra vegetables as the main part of your meal and add rice and beans as a filler.
9. Try Acai Bowls
Acai bowls can be a very cheap and satisfying meal, as long as you do it right. You can find cheap fruit in most stores or just freeze fresh fruit before it goes bad. Making your own muesli can save you a lot of money. The total cost of this delicious dish only needs to add a few more dollars compared to triple the price if you decide to buy one ready made.
10. Make Your Own Food Sets
Do you love freshly prepared food? Sending food kits to your home is an easy way to blow your budget. Instead, try making your takeaway! It's not only fun, you'll easily get a delicious taste. Just find some simple food cards or print out and fill a bag of ingredients for each specific day. Don't know what recipe to make? Another option is to order one month meal kits and recycle the recipe in Ingredients for the coming months with the ingredients you picked up at the store.
11. Don't drink calories
A few dollars spent here and there can really add up! Just like branded goods, healthy drinks might be the files for you. An energy drink and kombucha and coffee every day can easily make you spend an extra $300 every month! I really need a special drink to fix, try making your favorite at home. Bring coffee, make kombucha, or even try making stevia lemonade or healthy soda. You'll be surprised what a big difference such small changes can make on your budget!
12. Buy Cheap Online
Just like everything else, it pays to be prepared. Buying groceries from online stores can be a very affordable way to save money for as long as you're willing. Plan ahead for the more expensive special items you can't live without. This will help you save a ton of money compared to having to buy food from the store.
13. Don't worry about cleanliness fifteen
One of the great things that can mess with a budget person is eating organic. For the record, I 110% eat everything organic whenever you can. However, for some people, it can be difficult to make organic food fit into the budget. Instead of chasing healthy food for a smaller budget, try to buy meat and the Dirty Dozen organic, and don't go crazy about relaxing. Pure fifteen fifteen safe products to buy that are not natural! Meanwhile, the Dirty Dozen is the most appropriate to avoid. According to produce retailers, these dirty tens are:
14. Pay attention to storage
Keeping the food you have is just as important as how much food comes first. Try to stay on top of how many products you can use before it goes bad. It may not be a bad idea to pencil in an extra mid-week shopping trip to keep your food fresh. Investing in good food storage containers can go a long way in savings in the long run.
15. Freezing food before it goes bad
Instead of getting mad at yourself at the end of the week for all the wilted food you have to throw away, try freezing it before you get to that point. Most frozen vegetables will be delicious in mixed potatoes and soups. You can freeze fruit to make a sorbet or smoothie. Frozen greens can be chopped up and thrown in just about anything for a nutrient boost!
16. Consider Ditching Most Supplements and Powders
I have nothing against superfood powders and supplements. However, if your budget is limited, it may be difficult to match supplements and powders. Instead of being added to powders, extra nutrients are added to get you a meal. Add plenty of greens and vegetables to your meals to meet your nutritional needs. If you need a specific supplement, you can find the best deals online. How good!
17. Use of Budgetary Funds Appendix
There are so many great apps that you can download for free. One of my current favorites honeydue because you can track your budget easily with your spouse. There are many options available, just find what you are most likely to use. The ones that download your spending automatically are often the easiest and will give you a more accurate figure. My husband and I use the same apps but have a separate budget for each of our weekly meal plans and for our extra snacks. Keeping things separate can often be helpful to know exactly where your money is going. Plus, it can help hold you accountable if you have a half that you share money with.
18. Use what you have
Most people have unused proteins lying around in their cupboards. Instead of going to waste, work them into your meal plan. Protein powders can make amazing donuts, pastries, pancakes!
19. Enjoy the process!
Finding ways to enjoy your new lifestyle will be beneficial to stick with it in the long run. Find pleasure in how much you can save each month. Have a competition with someone to see who can stick to the lowest budget and create something fun to make for the winner with some money saved! Blast some music in the kitchen while preparing your new recipes. Budgeting and health should not be a hindrance. Make it fun and you will enjoy your new lifestyle long term!