5 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget
This is part two of the May theme of living your values on a budget. Check out part one here.
I just finished my second Whole 30, and boy was it pricey. My boyfriend and I spent over two-thirds than our normal grocery budget. That’s because healthy, whole food is expensive! (It’s also because we had to eat a lot more protein than usual.) Luckily, we didn’t go out to eat at all during the month of April, so that helped us stay on track financially.
But should you have to sacrifice your health (and taste buds) in order to meet your money goals? I don’t think so.
I often hear people say that they can subsist on ramen noodles and rice if they’re on a tight budget. But should you have to sacrifice your health (and taste buds) in order to meet your money goals? I don’t think so. Here are five money-saving tips to follow while you’re trying to eat healthy and save money.
Plan your meals ahead of time
Meal planning is recommended a lot, but that’s because it works. Not only are you prepared for the week, but it’ll make it easier to shop. It will also make it less likely that you’ll buy a snack or go out to eat when you weren’t planning to. So sit down on Saturday or Sunday and plan out your meals for the coming week. If it’s easier, make a crockpot meal that can last you for several days. You can also make overnight oats to have breakfast ready every morning. I also like to make easy, healthy smoothies and salads.
Stick to your grocery list
Once you’ve planned your meals for the week, make sure to write out all of the items that you need. I like to use the app AnyList, because it lets me plug in recipes, add ingredients to a shopping list, and create a meal calendar. It also makes it impossible for me to forget my grocery list when I’m at the store, because I always have my phone. (Bonus: You can share your calendars and lists with other people to coordinate.) Whatever method you prefer, make sure to bring your list with you and stick to it. Unless it’s a necessity or staple, if it’s not on your list, you don’t need it. This will help you to spend less, and avoid unhealthy impulse purchases.
Be selective in your organic purchases
It’s a contentious topic, but not everything you eat needs to be organic. I prefer to only eat (or drink) organic animal products, because I know way too much about antibiotics and growth hormones. But besides that, I haven’t been very stringent. It’s cost prohibitive to buy everything organic, unless you have a large food budget.
The solution to this is to be more selective about what organic items you’re buying. A good guide is the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen”. Basically, you should aim to buy these items from organic sources: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes. The reason is that they’re more susceptible to the use of pesticides.
On the other hand, the clean fifteen is a group of food that is less impacted by the use of pesticides, so it’s okay to not buy organic. This includes: sweet corn, avocado, pineapple, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papaya, asparagus, mango, eggplant, honeydew, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and grapefruit.
For a wallet-sized guide to carry with you, visit the Environmental Working Group!
Buy in bulk
Some things really are cheaper when you buy them in bulk. Of course, this can mean an added expense of a Costco or BJ’s membership. So you should compare the potential savings with the costs and make sure it’s right for you. You can also share a membership with a friend, or go to the store with them and get the benefits of their membership.
I recently realized that I was spending a whole lot of money on nuts and seeds. A bag of raw almonds at Trader Joe’s is way more expensive per unit than a bag at Costco. Another item I prefer to buy in bulk is cooking oil, like olive oil and coconut oil. It’s more affordable, and lasts longer than the smaller containers at the grocery store.
Buy frozen produce
This isn’t always practical, but buying frozen can save you money for two reasons. Fresh produce goes bad faster, so you can end up wasting it if you don’t eat it in time. So not only are you wasting money, you’re also wasting food. Fresh produce can also cost more than frozen, often for a smaller amount. I typically buy frozen peas, corn, strawberries, blueberries, and broccoli. That way, they’re always on hand for an emergency smoothie or stir fry.
Do you have other ways that you eat healthy on a budget? Share in the comments!