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Tips & Tricks

Scraping the Pot (Literally): How to Eat Healthy On a Budget

Greetings everyone! I’ve been asking you all for different topics you’d like me to write about. One of my nearest and dearest friends asked me to write about eating healthy AND sticking to a budget at the same time.

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I always joke that malls are of no interest to me these days. Instead, I’d rather go to Whole Foods! But I realize that this isn’t realistic for everyone, so I’ve put together some simple and easy tips you to eat healthy while being reasonable with your expenses. Some tips are simple, some are more complicated. Try as few (or as many!) as you’d like to start saving cash ASAP.

1. Get real about what you’re spending on food. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we spend on stupid stuff at the grocery store, like an extra jar of pickles simply because it was buy-one-get-one-free (believe me, you might think it’s free, but it’s not). Hold on to receipts and add up how much you spend in one week on food. Are you eating out a ton? Are you making unnecessary trips? Evaluate your spending and make cuts accordingly.

2. Don’t buy non-food items at the grocery store. A toothbrush is one thing, but your entire bathroom toiletry collection is another. Grocery stores can be an expensive place to buy shampoo, body wash, and other products. They also make you feel like you’re spending more. Try to not buy non-food items at the grocery store. See if there is a local drugstore where items are usually priced more competitively. And remember, there’s always Amazon 🙂

3. Make one (and only one trip) a week. And write down what you’re buying beforehand. Have you ever had a week where you feel like you go to the store two, three, or even four times in one week!? Besides wasting gas (and time), you’ll also wasting money. Sit down before you go to the store for 15 minutes and figure out what you’re going to buy. Not sure what you’re going to buy? Okay, what are you planning on eating for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Snacks? Start with the ingredients you’d need for major meals and work from there.

4. Plan menus ahead of time. This tip ties in closely with tip #3. Plan 2-3 meals you’d like to make that week, and make enough for leftovers for an additional 1-2 days. Figure out what fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices you’re going to need. This way, you can reuse ingredients, avoid buying excessive ingredients, etc.

5. Get your spices (and other random food items) from non-food stores. You’ll never guess what my favorite non-grocery is to buy food. Guessing by chance? Okay, I give up. I actually really like buying certain food items at Target. Yes, Target. Why? Because many of their products are good quality and relatively inexpensive. For example, I almost always buy spices at Target. They’re much cheaper than the grocery store, and if I’m lucky sometimes I can find an organic variety. I also loveeeeee to buy frozen fruit from Target. It’s high-quality, pretty cheap, and a giant bag will only cost me about four dollars. This is key when I want to eat blueberries in November, but don’t want to pay the extra cost of off-season fruit.

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6. Buy in bulk (when you can and when it makes sense). No, you don’t need to get a membership to Costco stat (although I will say they are technically the second largest supplier of organic food in the country). But when something is on sale at the store that you use frequently, stock up! I do this with a lot of canned and jarred tomato products. I use them in a lot of my dishes, so I like to have a good supply on hand almost all the time. Whenever they’re on sale, I buy a few cans. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I buy things I don’t need just because they’re on sale. Pick products that you actually need. Don’t let a FOR SALE sign suck you into buying something you’re never going to use.

7. Haggle with the grocery store. This might sound super old school and weird, but a lot of grocery stores are willing to work with you on the price of certain items. If a sale item is no longer available, a lot of retailers will sell you their generic brand for the same sale price if it’s lower. Don’t be afraid to work with your grocer to order products you’ll actually use and keep prices in check.

8. The freezer is your BFF (on multiple levels). Sometimes, I honestly don’t know what I would do without my freezer. A freezer is great for home use, but you’ll also find good products in your grocery store’s freezer section. For starters, freeze extra food and leftovers instead of throwing it out. If you don’t like leftovers the next day, that’s fine, but don’t throw that food out! Instead, freeze it and save it for next week when you’ve pulled an all-nighter working on that crazy presentation for your boss that better get you a raise. Also don’t be shy to explore the frozen fruits and vegetable section of your freezer. Frozen fruits and veggies are frozen at the peak of ripeness, so you’re more likely to get a much better quality product. I love mixing frozen spinach into meatloaf or soup, for instance, or using frozen mango chunks instead of going through the pain of slicing a fresh mango.

9. Go meatless (it’s underrated!). I’m sure you’ve heard more than once about the perks of going meatless. And they’re true! I’m not saying you need to rid yourself of animal products and immediately become a vegetarian, but going vegetarian 1-2 days a week might actually help your wallet AND your health. Studies show the benefits of the vegetarian diet, and often vegetarian foods like grains and beans are cheaper than their meat counterparts.

10. Think about your lifestyle and what’s important to you. Am I saying you can’t have organic coffee and Netflix? Of course not. But if food really is important to you, think about what you may be willing to give up. Would you be willing to give up some of your over-priced make-up products? Subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, AND Amazon Prime? Would you be willing to clip coupons? Would you be willing to stay every once in a while instead of blowing your money at the bar? Mind you, these are just suggestions. You don’t have to give anything up if you don’t want to. However, I do want you to think long and hard about some of the financial decisions you make. We all, myself included, waste money on things we don’t need (or rather think we need, but actually don’t). Go through your latest checking account statement for the last month and figure out if there were any unneeded purchases. You might be able to cut a few corners so that you can allocate more of your budget to food!

What are some of your favorite ways to eat healthy on a budget? Comment below and let me know!

Photo Courtesy:  Metro ParentBuilt Lean

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