How can I eat healthy on a budget? Grocery shopping on a budget is tricky enough but what about grocery shopping for healthy foods on a tight budget? Is it possible? Will I have to bury myself in hundreds of coupons and get confrontational with my cashier who will inevitably reject my coupons at check out?
Since we started paying off our student loans we have really cracked down on our grocery budget. But eating healthy is also important to us. Convenience foods have a reputation for being packed with calories, void of nutrients, and costing very little. Healthy eating on the other hand has a reputation of costing a fortune. But is this even true? Is it possible to eat healthy on a budget?
YES! It is. We are currently working on the newest addition of FinFit-30 (including a new name!), where we will show you just exactly how. But in the mean time, here is glimpse at what we do to eat healthy on a budget. And spoiler alert, it does not include burying yourself in coupons.
10 WAYS TO EAT HEALTHY ON A BUDGET
- Solidify your staples. One of the easiest ways to eat healthy on a budget is to find the right staples to keep in your fridge and on your shelves. Your staple foods should include whole grains, proteins, and fruits and vegetables. Ideally you should stay stalked up on these at all times, because we all know that when we aren’t prepared with healthy foods around, we head for cheap fast options which usually equates to fast food which is killer on the budget and on the eating healthy.
Our staples: brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, eggs, fresh fruits/vegetables in season, frozen off season
You can decide what specifically your staples are based on what is cheapest in your area and what foods you enjoy, but we have found that brown rice is our cheapest whole grain staple. Next in line is steel cut oats. When sweet potatoes go on sale in our area, we buy those too. This is our first year to grow a garden, and we are trying our hand at growing sweet potatoes. So stay tuned on that situation.
Eggs are by far our cheapest protein staple. For example, at our local Aldi this week, eggs were only 58 cents per dozen! My second favorite protein source is greek yogurt. I use it as a base for salad dressing, to replace sour cream, paired with fruit, and tossed in a smoothie to name a few of my favorite uses.
Fruits and vegetables tend to vary by season and by sale as to what is cheapest. We also hunt for cheap frozen vegetables (for example, at our local market, frozen broccoli and frozen green beans are only 98 cents per bag when we buy the store brand.)
- Shop sales. Shopping sales is KEY to eating healthy on a budget. This will also almost certainly result in eating foods that are in season so you don’t have to focus on that fact. Quickly browse your local ads and find foods that are on sale that week. Keep your eyes out for staples like whole grains, protein sources, and fruits and vegetables.
- Stock up on sales. If the price is right, stock up on what you will need for the next 6 weeks. Why 6 weeks? Store sales tend to cycle on a 6 week basis. So you want to buy enough to last you until that product goes on sale 6 weeks from now. That means you will need to freeze enough to last you for a few weeks until they Freeze protein sources and fruits and vegetables that are on sale.
This week, strawberries were on sale for 99 cents a pound. We bought enough to eat fresh this week, and freeze for the coming weeks. They go great in oatmeal or green smoothies so it made sense to stock up. In addition, chicken breasts were on sale for $1.49 a pound. In our area, that is the absolute cheapest that chicken is ever on sale, so we stocked up and froze quite a bit to last us for several weeks.
- Meal prep. Spending a little bit of time thinking about what you will eat in the coming week and not only do wonders for your waist line, but can save you a fortune. One day a week (for us it is on Sundays) take time to make some freezer meals that you can pop into your microwave. Ours usually include a protein, a carb, and vegetables.For example, last week, we made Italian chicken (easiest recipe ever– place a few chicken breasts in a crock pot with a few ounces of light Italian dressing. Let it cook on low for 4-6 hours. SO TENDER and YUMMY!) Store individual servings in small containers. We paired the chicken with sweet potatoes and broccoli. We made enough for each of us to have 4 meals. Perfect for a quick lunch at work or dinner on a night we don’t feel like cooking! We also love Erin Chase. She offers free workshops to teach you how to make DELICIOUS healthy freezer meals if you need more specific ideas.
- Pick foods packed with nutrients. Get the most bang for your buck by eating nutrient dense foods. Not all produce is created equal. This topic could yield several blog posts, so for the sake of brevity, aim to eat a couple of meals a day that include produce. Some safe bets for foods packed with nutrients are: spinach, broccoli, berries, asparagus, plain greek yogurt, eggs, and lean meats like chicken. Picking foods packed with the most nutrients is like getting more bang for your buck. That makes sense when you are trying to save money and eat healthy. We like things that make sense.
- Portion your protein. Being careful with how much meat you consume is an easy way to save money. There are alternative choices that are cheaper such as Greek yogurt and eggs. Eating less red meat is not only healthier for you, but will help reduce your spending at the grocery store. In addition, not making meat the main event at your meals so to speak will allow you to still consume meat with out paying as much for it. For example, you could have a whole grain pasta with vegetables that make up the bulk of your meal, but that still includes small pieces of meat . Some inexpensive protein choices: waiting for the meat you love to go on sale, eggs, black beans, and peanut butter. Admittedly this is not a conversation Danny and I love having because he is a true meat eater at heart and I am not. We have to make compromises and chances are you will too.
- Use apps like IBOTTA to score even more savings. One of my absolute favorite ways to save money on healthy foods is by using free apps like IBOTTA, which frequently offers rebates on produce. Extra discounts on produce are somewhat rare so that is a big win! You can find all kinds of house hold and grocery products on Ibotta, just make sure you star them before you head tot he store. More on how to use Ibotta here (it is completely free to use, and when you sign up clicking on our above links you will automatically earn $10!)
- Eat fewer treats. It probably should go without saying that if you eat less treats, you will save money and likely be healthier. Treats are expensive. A fairly obvious way to save money on groceries is to not buy products that your body frankly does not need. It is not that you have to completely expel all naughty foods from your life, but if you are like us, you can’t afford to eat them on the regular (for health and financial reasons!). So focus on buying produce, protein, and healthy carbs and your spending will naturally decline.
- Grow what you can. If you have the space, consider growing some of your own fruits and vegetables. You’ll reap the health benefits of growing food that hasn’t been saturated in pesticides and it will save you some dollars too. As mentioned above, we are excited to be starting our very first garden this year. Almost anyone can grow things at home — even if you are renting and can’t plant anything outside. Start with growing something easy inside, like peppers.
- Share your good deals (when it makes sense). Did you find an awesome deal, but you don’t need the full amount you have to buy? Do you have a roommate, neighbor, family member who could use some of what you need a little of? Ask to split the cost. Use an app like Square Cash cash to easily pay each other back for free. These days it is so easy to share because of apps like Square Cash— exchange money for free! And it makes a good deal go further when you can share with others. And that is always a good thing. (P.S. earn a free $10 when you use our link to download the app and make your first $50 exchange on the app! We’ll earn $10 too. Win win!)
If you are still a little stumped about what healthy eating on a budget might look like for you, here is an example of what we ate yesterday. It really is possible to eat healthy on a budget, and its not that hard! (other than resisting treats at all meals. I will always struggle with that:)
An example of what we eat in one day:
Breakfast: whole oats with a dash of cinnamon, almond milk, and sugar free syrup
Mid-morning snack: apple with greek yogurt
Lunch: Grilled chicken salad (romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato drizzled in light italian dressing)
Afternoon snack: protein ball (oats, peanut butter, honey (or stevia) rolled into a ball
Dinner: Sweet potato or brown rice with barbeque chicken and broccoli
Bedtime snack: Kodiak cakes pancakes
Happy healthy eating to you!
What has worked for you to stick to your budget while also eating healthy? We’d love to hear from you!
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