Even if you’re on a tight budget, healthy eating can still be possible. Stay mindful with these shopping and kitchen tips to keep your wallet in check.
Often times, ‘eating well’ conjures up an image of specialty products kombucha, cold-pressed juice, chia seeds, along with more produce and less processed food. There’s light frozen meals or other healthified version of convenience foods, and “Primal” or Paleo style staples like grass-fed meats, wild fish, and ghee. There are labels touting products as vegan, organic, gluten-free, and GMO-free.
Sounds expensive, right?
As you can see, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. And if you were to say that it’s hard to eat satisfying and nutritious food on a budget, you’re right. It does take some time and planning to make it happen. However, eating healthy doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to taste good. Here’s how you can get it done efficiently.
1. MAKE A PLAN
First and foremost, if your goal is to save some money on groceries, you absolutely must make a plan. It can be as simple as writing down what you need on scratch paper, or super structured through a meal planning app. Whatever you do, having a plan can help prevent aimless wandering and grabbing things that don’t work together.
Plan some overlap of ingredients that can be used in multiple meals so your produce doesn’t go to waste. Don’t forget to plan in breakfasts, lunches and snacks too – this will help limit the need to grab something expensive from a coffee shop, convenience store or vending machine because you need something in a pinch.
2. SHOP STORE BRANDS AND SALES
Grocery stores sell store brands that are basically the same as their more high-end brand counterparts, just with no frills packaging. In fact, most store brand items are actually manufactured by those higher end names. Perform a quick scan of the ingredients to make sure there aren’t any unneeded additives.
When products you buy often are on sale, stock up on those and consider buying more than one if they aren’t perishable. Think nut butter, canned foods, and your favorite cereals.
3. GO MORE PLANT-BASED
Meat and poultry are typically the most expensive items on your grocery list. On the other hand, beans, lentils, tofu, and whole grains are super inexpensive and can be incredibly delicious if you take the time to learn new ways to prepare them.
While there’s no need to go full-on plant-based or vegan, you may want to consider making meat more of an accompaniment on your plate rather than the main attraction. For example, you can flavor an entire pot of soup with a couple of slices of bacon, or make burgers 3-4 oz instead of 8. Use half the meat in spaghetti sauce and bulk it up with some diced mushrooms. You’ll still get the full flavor without buying quite so much.
Many foods in the produce section do wonders when it comes to flavor. Fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley are great and cost less than a dollar per bunch. Citrus and aromatics like onion, garlic, ginger, chiles and chives can add that flavor punch and are all inexpensive.
4. SCOPE OUT THE BULK BINS AND COMPARE PRICES
Remember, the bulk bins are your friends. Nuts, seeds or dried fruit are typically less expensive in the bulk bins than if you were to buy a whole package. This also allows you to purchase the amount you need rather than a large amount of something expensive that will be used less often.
5. MAKE YOUR OWN SNACKS
Pre-made bars are a great on-the-go snack option. However, these bars typically contain commonly-found ingredients that are not expensive when compared to a homemade version and takes less than an hour to make. Throw together a hearty muffin, bar, cookie or something similar on Sunday so you still have something to grab all week.
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Leanne Ray, MS, RDN is a Denver-based Registered Dietitian empowering women to sustain healthy lifestyles that are practical and realistic. By helping others find happiness and joy through delicious foods that don’t involve guilt or stress, she shares how healthy eating can involve satisfaction instead of boring, low-calorie diets. Visit her site to read more from Leanne.