Healthy eating is important to more and more people and, if that’s the case, you can find more info here. However, while keeping a clean yet inexpensive diet is quite possible, it requires some planning ahead like designing your shopping list and stopping yourself from buying more than you need.
The choice to make
Most people try to look good because it is ingrained in our nature and it fulfills a deep desire within us. Therefore, when it comes to food, we usually feel like we have two choices: eat foods that are inexpensive and save some money or eat foods that are healthy and watch our waistline.
As it stands, it does not seem possible that you could have both things, right? You can eat like a pauper and live like a king, or eat like a king and live like a pauper. However, the good news is that you don’t have to choose! With a little know-how, you can eat healthy on a budget.
Listen, we get it. Adulting is hard and most of us have a lot on our plates without also having to balance what we actually have on the plate. To make the most of your money without sacrificing most of your food pleasures, think of creating a three-step process: planning, purchasing, and preparing.
Step 1: plan before you shop
Be mindful that you don’t skip this first step as it is very important. Every poor grocery-buying decision has always been made on an empty stomach by a shopper without a well-thought plan. Therefore, take a few minutes to do the following things before heading to the store:
Schedule your meals
If you want to save money on groceries, the key is to stop wandering the aisles aimlessly while grabbing items here and there and throwing them into the shopping cart. Instead, focus on getting your grocery priorities and schedule out your meals for the week ahead. Of course, you’ll spend a little more money, but you’ll be set when that afternoon craving hits.
Plan to buy what’s on your list and make sure to only get what’s there to cut down on waste and make sure you won’t want for anything in the week that lies ahead of you.
Consider your budget
The idea that we suggest is spending between 10% to 15% of your budget on food. You might probably wonder what that would look like. Well, let’s say you bring home $3,000 a month. What this means is that you’ll have to spend somewhere between $300 and $450 for groceries.
To make this simple, if you spend $400 per month on food and you go to the grocery store about once a week, this means you will have an average of $100 for each trip.
Keep track of your spending and make sure to keep an eye on how much money you spent last week to ensure you’ll still have some the rest of the month. Also, it’s important to focus on the task at hand : if it isn’t on the list or it does not have a place on the budget, don’t buy it!
Evaluate the store
Going to the same grocery store week after week is obviously the most convenient and comfortable alternative. You know the way it is organized and you can shop without wasting too much time. However, think about this: could you go somewhere more affordable? At the very least, document yourself about the store’s coupon policy and watch for weekly specials.
If you find deals like buy-one-get-one on healthy snacks, vegetables, or protein, stock up and make that freezer happy because they’ll be good to eat for a long time. Something that you may also try is maybe checking the dollar store every once in a while for expensive items such as spices.
Since it can be hard for some people to just stick to what’s written on their shopping list, another way to do this is ordering online. Plenty of companies will deliver your product right to your door and it’s a great way of stocking up on stuff that you need without feeling the need to buy more.
Step 2: buy groceries the smart way
Once you’re done and you’ve planned out meals that fit your budget, it’s time to go shopping and actually buying what you need. You can eat healthy on a budget as long as you follow some rules:
Buy generic brands
Generic brands have so much going for them that they allow themselves to keep smaller prices. Did you know that even chefs save money by choosing such brands for anything and everything from soups, dips, jams, jellies, condiments, etc? If it’s good enough for a professional cook, it’s going to be good enough for you!
More whole foods
Eating whole foods is better for your goal because their larger quantities offer more servings while still coming out at a lower price for each one. For example, a block of cheese is always going to be the better alternative rather than getting a bag of already-shredded cheese.
Furthermore, nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are a much better choice than cookies and crackers.
Fresh seasonal produce is also very good. These have more nutrients than foods that have been picked a while ago and are not fresh anymore. Grocery stores will sometimes have specials on local items and, if you can’t find any, there’s always the option of stopping by a farmers’ market to score the freshest fruits and veggies in town.
Stock up on canned and frozen foods
When we’re no longer in the season, canned goods will still work wonders because they will last a long time and are easy to incorporate into many meals, so go to town on them.
Keep nutritious staples close
Foods like canned beans, frozen peas, dark green leafy vegetables, garlic, onions, broccoli, are all superstars when it comes to making you feel full. Other cheap, healthy staples such as eggs, potatoes, bananas, canned tomatoes, and ground beef are also quite handy for when you want to whip up a delicious yet nutritious meal.
Be sweet in the right way
Nobody said all sweets are bad but try using the mantra ‘high quality, low quantity’. If you find yourself seeking out chocolate way too often, buy a giant bar of dark chocolate but limit yourself to one square when the craving makes you go looking for the fridge.
If you’re craving something salty, pull an old trick out of the bag and use your stovetop to make popcorn, then add salt and other flavorings with your own two hands.
Step 3: preparing the meals
You’ve invested a lot of time into planning your budget and you were careful enough to only buy the ingredients that you need and nothing beyond that. Since the kitchen is the place where it all comes together, now’s the time to prepare some healthy meals!
Since it’s likely going to be your last meal of the day, dinner does not have to be something pretentious. Try to incorporate an appropriate amount of protein, vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice or quinoa. If you complete this painting with a small serving of dairy on the side, you’re off to the races when it comes to enjoying your meal.
Use less meat
Meat can be expensive if bought in large quantities so maybe it’s time to give other sources of protein their time in the spotlight: try black bean tacos, a yummy frittata with a green salad or even some veggie soups and tell us what you think.
Go low and slow
When you do shop for meat, get the cheaper and tougher cuts. In case you’ve got a little time on your hands when cooking, the whole trick is using liquid braise. Add a few hours in the oven or slow cooker at low temperature and you’ve got yourself an amazing dish.
Stretch each meal
By adding a nutritious staple such as brown rice to chili and soups or other of your favorite foods, you will increase the amount of time it takes you to eat and will feel fuller and more satisfied.
Love the leftovers
Your leftovers can be your new best friend the next day if you use them to inspire new dishes. For instance, leftover pasta sauce can be a great base for starting a soup or stew. This is just an idea as there are tons of combinations you can try.