You CAN Eat Healthy on a Budget

by Tracy · 2 comments

Healthy eating should be one of your top priorities. Even though the cost of food is skyrocketing, it’s still cheaper in the long term to give your body the fuel and nutrition it needs. Trying to save money by eating a diet full of the cheapest processed foods is a one way ticket to poor health and less than optimum mental and physical functioning.

That said, there is no reason to feel like you have to spend hundreds of dollars every week to eat a healthful diet. Good, nourishing food can fit comfortably into almost any budget as long as you educate yourself and put for the effort to make it happen.

Before You go to the Grocery Store

Going to the supermarket without a plan is just asking for trouble. Not only will your bill likely balloon, but you might very well come home with lots of food but nothing to eat! Take the time before you shop to come up with a plan.

Start by going through the weekly sales flyers for all of the grocery stores in your area. Most stores now publish these online along with sending them via bulk mail to your house .These ads will allow you to plan your menu for the next week or so based on what’s on sale.

Bonus: most of the produce on sale is more likely to be in season and perhaps even locally grown, which is not only good for your wallet, but will probably also be fresher and more nutritious.

Feel free to search online and through your cookbooks for new recipes, but be aware that new herbs and spices and other ingredients can really bulk up your total. Balance new with tried and true and always look for ways to use up new ingredients in the coming weeks before they go to waste.

The second step is to make a list. Look through your meal plans and write down each ingredient you’ll need to prepare them. Then, go through your cabinets, fridge and freezers and cross off every item that you already have. Be sure to add staples that you are running low on. Once you’ve written the list, make a promise to yourself that you’ll keep it!

Couponing can be an excellent way to save money, but only clip those coupons for items that you really need. Don’t just buy things because they have a coupon, especially nutrient poor junk food.

Plan your grocery trips for right after meals. Your willpower flags when you are hungry and it also makes it more likely that you’ll rush through and not take the time to make the best choices. If you can’t eat at home right before shopping, try to at least bring a snack to tide you over and help you avoid hunger-driven impulse buys.

Choose foods that are less processed. Manufacturers realize that there is a limit to how much food one person can eat, so they try to increase profits by processing the food so that they can charge more. The very cheapest processed foods might seem like a deal, but they are often low on high quality ingredients, high on filler and preservatives and cheap salt and high fructose corn syrup. Higher quality processed foods might not be such a nutritional disaster but they are generally magnitudes more expensive than choosing to cook whole foods from scratch.

Pay close attention to the unit sizes and bring a calculator with you if you do not have a cell phone with that function. Don’t always assume that buying in bulk is cheaper! Sometimes the per unit cost is higher on larger packages. It’s also a waste to buy in bulk if there is no way you can use all of the product.

Store brands and generic products can also be money savers and usually are the same quality as name brand products. Many stores have a money back guarantee on their store brands, leaving you nothing to lose if you try then and decide they weren’t for you.

More Tips to Fit Healthy Living Into Your Budget

Brown bag snacks and lunches as much as possible. Not only will you save money, you and your family will be able to enjoy healthier choices.

Resist the temptation to eat out. Restaurant meals are expensive and often serve up a massive amount of calories. Have a few meals in your arsenal that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen or quickly thrown together from pantry staples to help you cope on especially busy days.

Don’t drink your calories! Even 100% fruit juice has more sugar and calories than most people need. Water is your cheapest choice, followed by tea. If you don’t care for the taste of your tap water, try using a filter. If you must buy water, look for grocery stores that will allow you to refill a large container rather than buying individual sized bottles.

These tips will help you save money without sacrificing your health. Food is one area where being penny wise and pound foolish can have devastating effects in the long run.

Bonus Tip:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann November 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

You forgot the best tip for eating healthy on a budget – don’t use so much meat! A small amount of meat can flavor a dish (stirfry, casserole, pasta dish, etc.) while less expensive and lighter food fills up your plate. And, of course, the occasional meat-free meal can be interesting and delicious, as well as cheap.

Priswell August 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Learn to cook things from scratch. It’s implied in this article that everyone would already know how to do that, but sometimes we could save a lot of money by learning new cooking skills to augment what we already know.

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