These days, if you hit the right sale, it’s possible to buy a year’s supply of ramen noodle soup for approximately $6.56 (only a slight exaggeration). But if you want a couple bunches of kale and some almonds to make something a bit more nutritious, you’ll end up with sticker shock.
Given the cost of healthy food, it’s no wonder we’re tempted to purchase the poorer quality, but far less expensive stuff. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to eat well—even on a budget.
- Shop generic and store brands. Most of the time, store brands have comparable taste and quality to the more expensive brands. This is particularly true for staples like flour, sugar, and some cereals.
- Avoid packaged and processed foods. Convenience foods are usually less nutritious and more expensive. Try getting up 15 minutes earlier to make your own lunch, rather than buying packaged meals.
- Plan well. Sit down at your kitchen table, plan your meals and snacks for the week, and build your shopping list from that plan. When you go to the store, buy those items and only those items.
- Look for coupons/specials. As you’re planning your meals, have your grocery store’s newspaper ad or app handy. See how many deals you can take advantage of each week.
- Eat before you go to the store. Never, ever, ever go to the market on an empty stomach. You’ll throw all kinds of garbage in your cart, and you’ll eat half of it on the way home.
- Support local growers. Farmer's markets offer amazing bargains on fruits and veggies.
- Pay attention to the season. Only buy produce that’s in season; otherwise, you’ll pay a premium for it.
- Use your calculator. If you’re really concerned about staying on budget, keep a tally on a calculator as you go through the store. If you get to the end and you know you have only $3 left in your budget, you’re less likely to add that tub of ice cream.
- Take advantage of sales. When you see items on sale, snatch them up and store/freeze them for later. By saving $5 here and there, you’ll be able to afford splurging on healthier, but more expensive items.
- Buy whole chickens. Rather than purchasing only breasts or only thighs, get an entire chicken and cut it up yourself.
- Get creative with leftovers. When you plan your meals for the week, think about how you’ll be using any leftovers. For example, if you roast a chicken on Monday, use the leftover meat for chicken noodle soup on Tuesday and for enchiladas on Wednesday.
- Buy frozen veggies. If you get motivated to eat healthily and fill your cart in the produce section, only to throw it all away five days later, that’s not helping anyone. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious and have a month-long shelf life.
- Limit meals out. It’s always less expensive to cook for yourself, so limit how often you go out to eat. It’s probably not reasonable to think you’ll never eat out, so include a couple of restaurant meals in your budget.
- Buy in bulk. If you have the storage space, buy staples in bulk. It’s nearly always less expensive, by weight, to buy large quantities.
- Eat less—or less-expensive—meat. Sure, the bacon-wrapped filet mignon looks great, but for that price, you can buy a lot more of something else.
Don’t let your budget keep you from eating healthy foods. And don’t neglect your beverage choices. It’s far less expensive to stir a PureLyft into a bottle of water than it is to buy that massive coffee or sugar-filled energy drink! For more tips check out Backyard Boss.