We live in a time where if you see something on Facebook, it has to be true, right?
“Ketogenic diet for immediate weight loss“, “Drink this to lose 20 lbs in 1 week”, “Cleanse your body with this magic drink” … There are SO many and it’s hard to tell fact from fake.
In the midst of that, there is a common misconception that eating healthy is “too expensive” so people tend to fall for the fad diets. Luckily, I’m here with great news!! Eating healthy does NOT have to cost any more than buying junk food, it just takes a little bit of time and preparation.
Trust me when I say it is not expensive to eat healthy. I am in a 9 month dietetic internship that is UNPAID! No income for 9 months.. So all you budgeters out there, I totally feel you – and I’m still surviving, eating healthy for every meal! (Shoutout to my parents and boyfriend who I literally couldn’t survive without <3 )
The first thing I want to ask people who tell me eating healthy is “too expensive” is how many junk food snacks do you consume in one day and what is the nutrition content in each snack? How often do you have no energy or are sick? Did you know the fiber from fruits and vegetables keep you fuller longer? Not to mention the health benefits and vitamins/minerals you get from them! Did you know there are stores you can get bananas for $0.43 a pound??
Here are my top tips on eating healthy on a budget:
- Make a grocery list…
And stick to it!! There are so many temptations in a grocery store. The ‘Buy one, get one free” advertisements, the “$1.00 off” savings – not to mention kids who want everything they see. It’s hard to not grab a box of cookies that are on sale and throw it in your cart. But, if you make a list based off of the meals you’re going to prepare that week, you’ll save money. And to help with the kids, have them originally help you create the week’s grocery list and they’ll feel like they’re getting the foods they want. (Trick those little minds 🙂 )
- Buy frozen fruits and vegetables
Not only are frozen fruits and vegetables packaged and frozen at their prime ripeness, they also don’t lose nutrition content this way. AND if you don’t end up eating that broccoli you promised yourself you would, you’re not throwing away a $3 head of broccoli because it went bad. The frozen broccoli will still be in your freezer for you to eat next week.
- Buy meat when it’s on sale
If your grocery store is running a special on any type of meat, buy extra (if your budget allows) and put it in your freezer to eat later on. This way, you’ll save money AND, by having extra meat on hand, you can always throw together a dinner quickly without having to go to the grocery store just to get chicken. (Time saver!)
- Experiment with vegetarian dishes
Because meat can get costly, experiment with vegetarian dishes. Beans, lentils, nut butters, cottage cheese and eggs are all great protein options that are cheaper than chicken, beef, and pork. Other cheaper protein options, although not vegetarian, are canned tuna, chicken, salmon and frozen meats.
- Use reusable shopping bags
Not only is this better for the environment, at most stores you can save anywhere from $0.02 – $0.05 per bag. Now, that might not seem like much but if you go to the grocery store 4 times a month and each time you have 7-10 bags, you could possibly save up to $24 a year just by reusing your bags! And you’re helping the environment (win-win!)
I’m not a huge coupon queen but every once in awhile I actually remember I have them and use them and then wonder why I don’t use them every time I go shopping! Coupons can save a lot of money!
I understand this is a touchy subject BUT… if you’re struggling to pay for groceries in general and you want to eat healthy, absolutely do not worry about buying organic. Contrary to popular belief, there is a certified list of chemicals that are used in organic production. So regardless, you should wash any fruit or vegetable, whether it’s organic or not, to get foreign substances off.
- Portion out your own snacks
I found this trail mix I really like. The first time I got it at Walmart and the only option was the prepackaged box (of only 5 packages) which cost about $4.96. When I went to Publix, I noticed they had a bag of it for $5.85. Sometimes at the grocery store you can do a little simple math and figure out which is a better savings. The bag of trail mix was $0.42 per ounce, and the prepackaged box was $0.66 an ounce. It took me 2 minutes to portion individual portions of the trial mix myself! Personally, I’d rather give up a couple minutes than spend more money.
- Buy the store brand option
Typically, generic/store brand names are produced in the same facility as the name brand product, they just put a different label on it and charge twice as much.
- Eat out less often
There is no doubt that eating out costs more than cooking at home. It’s nice to go out occasionally but if you normally go out to eat a couple times a week, order in a couple times a week, and buying a lot of convenience packaged foods, they are all things you could cut back on or cut out and save a lot of money. You’ll also be eating better as it is very hard to control how much you eat when you’re eating out. A tip for when you go out to eat: ask for a box when your food first comes out and put half of it in the box. Chances are there’s 3 servings on the plate anyway so if you’re already putting half away, you’ll be less tempted to over eat and then you get two meals out of it!
- My #1 Tip: SHOP AT ALDI!
My absolute favorite grocery store is Aldi. I save so much money there. Down here in the South we have Publix (Back home, I’d compare this to a Hen House) and while I love their variety of items and speciality items, the total adds up quick. I drove to a bigger city this weekend just to see how much I saved. For me, this isn’t as practical once I accounted for the gas it took to get there (it was an hour and a half drive) but I had to go to the city anyway for other purchases so it ended up being worth it. But, if you have an Aldi in your area, it is SO worth it! They may not have absolutely everything you need there but they definitely have the basics and then some! Just so you have a visual of the amount I saved, here are two pictures; one is of my cart at Publix, the other is my cart at Aldi.
- The picture on the left is from Publix: $132.78
The picture on the right is from Aldi: $104.64 (that includes the 6 bottles of wine, please don’t judge!) Take off another $28 from the wine, so $76.64 for the food.
I even planned ahead (because I don’t typically drive 1.5 hrs to Aldi) and bought a few things I will be prepping in the weeks ahead. Their frozen salmon is so cheap! I got a 2lb bag for just a little over $7. When I bought salmon at Publix, it was $11.99 for 2 filets -side note: I did not know there were only 2 filets in the bag until I got home so I was a little ticked.
I hope these tips help!
What are your favorite money saving tips for eating healthy on a budget?
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Until next time…