One of the many hurdles people face when trying to eat healthy is finding affordable wholesome foods. It’s a struggle that can be a major deterrence to those with already tight budgets or busy schedules. In the past, I’ve even wondered if shopping healthy on a budget was worth it. Don’t be discouraged if you feel the same way! Eating healthy cheap is absolutely possible. If you follow these tips, you may even cut your bills in half!
Interested in paying less and having a kitchen stocked with the goods? Eating healthy cheap is a lot easier than you may think…
My Top 9 Tips for Eating Healthy Cheap
1 – Have a List Ready Before You Go to the Grocery Store
This isn’t difficult and only takes a few minutes. Figure out 2-3 lunches you can rotate for the week, then 2-3 dinners you can make and eat left-overs for the week. Add in a few snacks and…ta-dah! You’re done. Making your list in advance (and sticking to that list) will help ensure you don’t spend more than you plan to.
2 – Go for Off Brands
Who ever said you needed the top brand, most-expensive food? No one!
Most of the time the cheaper kinds taste very similar, if not the same. This holds especially true for boxed foods you can find in the middle aisles of the store (cereals, crackers, condiments, etc…).
Worried about fresh veggies? Try cheaper grocery stores like Walmart and Aldi. If you have a Costco membership, then use it. Most of the difficulty lies in switching up your schedule if you’re not a regular customer to these places. What have you got to lose though? If it saves you money it’s worth going out of your way a little.
3 – Buy in Bulk
Sometimes paying that extra dollar or two might pay off in the long run when it comes to price per pound. Instead of looking at the total cost, focus more on the price per ounce as that more accurately reflects how much you’re paying for the product.
Even though it may not seem like you’re saving a lot, I promise it pays off in the long run!
4 – Eat at Home More
This one is HUGE in terms of saving you money. Even though it can be slightly more of a hassle to implement because of our “fast food” society, I cannot stress doing this enough. Right after we got married, my husband and I managed to save anywhere between $220-245 per month by buying all our food and cooking it at home.
It’s a step that, alone, can save you hundreds.
5 – Stock Your Freezer With Frozen Foods
Bagged foods on the frozen isle like frozen veggies, healthy stir fries and frozen fruit are always a good option when you’re eating healthy cheap. A bag of stir-fry for $5 easily feeds my husband and I (plus we have leftovers to take to work the next day). Compare that to eating out where we might spend anywhere from $7-12 per person for a meal…not a bad deal if you ask me. Plus there is usually a wide variety of healthy options to choose from in store.
6- Take Advantage of Sales
Ever come across coupons or BOGO (buy one get one) sales? This is a good time to stock up. I personally use this opportunity to search the store for sale priced items that I can fill my pantry with. You don’t have to be a coupon guru for this! Just pay attention to when your grocery store has sales. You may want to pick up their flier or sign up with their email list. So long as you know when to take advantage of their sales!
7 – Pay Attention to Your Body
Yes, you heard me correctly. This is also a very important step. Pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. This is important because certain moods are going to affect the way you shop. Going into a grocery store when you are hungry and expecting to only buy healthy foods is like a lion going into a heard of sheep and not expecting to devour every single one of them.
It’s a TERRIBLE idea.
I understand there are sometimes where you can’t avoid it, but if all possible don’t enter a store knowing good and well you will be tempted to stock up on junk. The same goes for if you are having a bad day. Sometimes the temptation to buy that pint of Ben and Jerry’s can be overwhelming if you’ve had a rough day at work. I am guilty of this so please be mindful! If you listen to your body, your health (and your wallet) will thank you.
Read Finding Happiness – Unlock Your Inner Magic for tips on how to be happy while paying attention to your body.
8 – Keep Track of What You Spend Per Week
Seriously! Try making a spreadsheet or list of what all you spend on food. If you use a debit or credit card, it can be as simple as looking up the transactions on your mobile app and totaling it up. I do this every week because it helps me realize how much of my income is going toward food. Usually it fluctuates between $100-120/week for my husband and I, however not every week is the same. The bottom line is that by making a spreadsheet for the total cost of food/week, I am reminded how much I’m spending.
TIP: try doing this for EVERYTHING you spend your money on. Not just food.
9 – Don’t Underestimate the Value of Meal Prep
There are dozens of reason why people eating healthy cheap prepare their weekly food in advance. Cost is the main kicker! By preparing your food for the week, it not only makes it easier to grab something quick if you’re hungry but it also costs less than eating out. By buying your foods in bulk and portion controlling it, you are also making it easier to resist the temptation to munch on junk. Why? Because the food is already prepared and waiting for you in the fridge.
Let’s say I wanted to put together my lunches for the week. If I was going to prepare a chicken sandwich, salad, and yogurt, I could do this one of two ways.
Option #1: I could buy prepackaged salad bowls, yogurt cups and sub sandwiches
Option #2: I could grill my own chicken, make my own salads from value-sized containers and portion control yogurt from a value-sized container into Pyrex dishes.
Initially, which choice sounds more appealing? Option #1 of course! All you have to do is grab the food and go…but is it really the cheapest (or healthiest) option? Don’t think I’m against anyone choosing Option #1 (in fact half the time I’m a mixture of Options #1 and #2). A good majority of the time, however, Option #2 is going to be healthier and cheaper.
Because if you look closely at the price per ounce in store, the value-sized options are going cheaper. They will often have healthier options to choose from as well. Just something to keep in mind…
Conclusion – Is Eating Healthy Cheap Really Doable?
In conclusion, you don’t have to be broke or miserable to eat healthy. All you need is a little determination and planning to get started. And hey! Even if you end up buying that pint of Ben and Jerry’s, it’s not the end of the world. You can still enjoy that special dinner out or splurge on that take-out pizza. Life is meant to be enjoyed! Just make sure you balance out the unhealthy with the healthy. Your body and wallet will thank you.
What are some hacks that you find particularly helpful when trying to eat healthy on a budget? Comment below with what’s worked for you!