I often hear people say: “It is so hard to eat healthy on a budget”. “Healthy eating is so expensive”. “I don’t like to cook”. “I don’t have time to cook”. “I don’t want to cook a different meal for each family member”. The fact is though that we need to take care of our bodies as it’s the only one we were given to live our life on the wonderful earth. We are not here all that long so we need to make the best of what we have and use our resources carefully.
In order to eat healthy on a budget, we need to learn that preparation is key. I love the quote: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. So prepare we must! Make this a family affair so everyone is on board with what needs to be done for healthy eating.
Shop locally. Go to the Farmer’s Market or join a CSA. Here you will find organic foods usually less expensive than in a grocery store. There’s no middle man as you are buying directly from the grower. Eating seasonally is usually cheaper and of better quality than those foods out-of-season.
Record your food expense account. Keep track of what you spend for a few weeks to be best able to set an expense account. Once set, use that amount of money that has been set aside strictly for food purchases. Once that amount is gone, you are done for the week. With that in mind, you then need to get creative in the kitchen and experiment with what is available.
Don’t waste. Occasionally don’t grocery shop for a week and work with what you have in the kitchen making sure to use all produce that is in the refrigerator, frozen foods, and cooking/baking from total scratch. This way you use up items in your pantry and there is no waste. Plus you just saved a whole weeks’ worth of money!
Consider eating more plant-based foods. Meat can be pricey when organic, hormone and antibiotic free. Consider adopting “Meatless Monday” and possibly even another meatless day. There are a variety of alternative sources of protein including bean, eggs and whole grains plus a variety of vegetables.
Purchase in bulk. The bulk bins in either the grocery store or health food store can save you money. Typically these foods have a long shelf life so you can buy large quantities. Store your bulk purchases in glass containers so you can see when you’re running low. These foods usually contain no added preservatives or unknown ingredients.
Purchase frozen. High quality produce in winter months can sometimes be difficult to find. When this is the case, head to the frozen food section as that is your next best bet. These foods are picked at their peak and flash frozen retaining more nutrients.
Plan ahead. Pick a day to sit down and plan your meals for the week. Then head to the store and purchase only what you need to complete those meals. Consider cooking one meal that will create two or even three different meals. Get creative in the kitchen. Once you get your food items home, have a family preparation time. Cut up vegetables and bag ahead of time. Semi-prepare salads leaving the dressings for meal time.
Leftovers. Use leftovers for the next day’s lunch or spice it up for another meal during the week. This saves money instead of buying from the restaurant around the corner from the office. This also saves time and doesn’t waste food that is already prepared and ready to go.
Eat in. Have you recently checked to see how much it costs to eat out at a restaurant or order take-out? Eating in will save you money. Coffee or tea in a travel mug from home will save you money. Pure filtered water from home brought in a glass or stainless container will save you money. Snacks consisting of nuts and a piece of fruit or other snack from home will save you money when at the office.
The main message regarding eating healthy on a budget is PREPARATION!! You can do it! It may take a few weeks to get the hang of it but once you’ve got it…you’re set!