Eating healthy on a budget can be done with some planning.
Have a seat and pour yourself some coffee. Oh, and don’t forget your planner and a pen!
Healthy, budget-friendly meals do take a little time and effort to plan for, but it’s well worth it in the end.
I often hear people say that they are on a budget and cannot eat “healthy foods” because they are too expensive. This is true, to some extent.
It is true that organic foods are more expensive than non-organic and many specialty brands are quite higher than your mainstream brands. It is also, unfortunately, true that junk foods are oftentimes fairly cheap.
I would argue, however, that there are many ways to eat healthy and save money without buying “specialty” foods.
Usually, the only way to successfully eat healthy, is to plan ahead! Here are the essentials to plan on eating healthy on a budget:
- Eat seasonally. Pick fruits and vegetables that are in season. You can do this at the grocery store or at the local farmers market.
- Keep frozen vegetables on hand at all times. Frozen vegetables are relatively cheap, especially when you buy the store brand. The good news: they are sometimes even more healthy than buying fresh! They are usually frozen while still very fresh, having a higher nutrient value than many of the fresh produce that has traveled many miles to reach the grocery store.
- Check the local grocery circulars for the best deals, especially on meats. Depending on how far you would have to drive to visit more than one store, it oftentimes makes sense to go to more than just one grocery store in order to get the best deals. For example, if you see that one store has their boneless skinless chicken at a wonderful price, you may want to go ahead and stock up and freeze for later. There are also many online resources to take some of the guesswork out. (This is my favorite for the southeast region of the US!)
- Mindful shopping. I posted earlier on mindful eating. I would say the first step to really eliminate mindless eating is to start mindful shopping. This means not buying something just because it’s cheap or on sale. Couponing is a wonderful thing, but I have seen many people buy sodas just because they are so cheap. Ask yourself, do I really need to buy this food/beverage just because I can get it for pennies?
- Plan quick, easy meals for those days that you know will be crazy! If you have to take your kid to gymnastics or pick him up from football practice on certain days, plan to have a very easy meal, even if it’s just sandwiches. That may also be the perfect time to do a crock pot meal that is ready when you get home.
- Have some freezer meals ready “just in case.” Little things come up in life all the time: sick child, having to work late, getting a flat tire…the list goes on. Double up on recipes and freeze half for later so that you always have a backup. These are the days you may tend to get takeout or go out to eat and spend more money.
- Plan some meatless meals. Not every dinner needs to have a meat, contrary to what we are used to. There are many delicious meatless recipes that are very satisfying and filling. Even just incorporating one meatless meal a week can save you some money.
- Simplify your eating. Oftentimes, we think that healthy eating has to have 15 fresh ingredients, using only organic. Though this is a wonderful way to eat, you may need to simplify your diet if you want to eat healthy on a budget. For example, a healthy snack can be a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter instead of those expensive organic granola bars. Or maybe you can make your own granola bars to save some money.
The key is that everyone has to find what works for them. I am still finding what “works” for me and trying to get in a groove of planning and saving.
The most important tools you need for eating healthy on a budget: brainpower (which I know can be hard to come by at times), a little time, and pen and paper. Be patient — it’s a process!