I don’t always feel like exercising. I don’t always feel like going to bed early. I don’t always feel like eating my vegetables. And I don’t always feel like grocery shopping. But I know that all of these things are beneficial to my health, so I do them anyway (most of the time).
In general, when you buy and cook your own food at home, your health is going to benefit. When making homemade meals with fresh and natural ingredients, you’re eliminating unnecessary chemicals and additives from your diet. You’re also decreasing the amount of sodium you’re intaking because packaged foods require lots of salt to keep them from spoiling. And you are likely consuming less calories because you’re in control of exactly what goes into your food (like the amount of oil and added sugar).
Not only is your body going to thank you for making those home cooked meals, your wallet is too. Sure you can get a cheeseburger for $1 at McDonald’s, but you could also get 8 bananas for the same price.
Yes, it takes more time to cook and you’re going to have to put in more effort than picking up take-out on the way home, but I promise your future (richer & healthier) self with thank you for creating the habit of cooking regularly at home.
If you’re just starting out trying to eat healthy on a budget, here are a few tips I recommend investing your time into mastering so that you can save money in the long run.
How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
1. Set a grocery budget.
This may seem obvious, but if you don’t know how much you’re currently spending, how will you know how much you want to save? I suggest keeping your receipts for a month, reviewing how much you spend, then making your budget from there.
2. Make a budget grocery price list.
Basically, I’ve figured out the lowest prices I can find food for in my city. I know that I can almost always get bananas for $.39/lb or less, so if they are more expensive than that this week, they aren’t making it in my grocery cart.
3. Write down what you have.
Download my free grocery list template here! I never go to the grocery store without making a list first. It stops me from buying random stuff and keeps my budget in check.
4. Check ads.
I’ve got two grocery stores right near my house, so I always check their ads before heading out to see who’s got the better deals that week. More often than not, they are advertising the same produce specials, but at different prices. Find the cheaper option!
Update: I no longer grocery shop with coupons! Here’s why.
5. Use Grocery rebate apps.
6. Be flexible.
You may have really wanted to make that cauli-mash for dinner this week, but when you get to the store, you find that cauliflower is $1.50/lb and turnips are on sale for $1/lb. Change of plans! You’re now having turnip mash. Learning easy substitutions are really helpful for sticking to your budget.
7. Avoid convenient, packaged foods.
I love Larabar Fruit & Nut Bars. My favorite flavor, Cashew Cookie, contains just two simple ingredients: dates and cashews. If you’re on the go, it’s great to have one of these in your purse. But do you know what isn’t so great? The price tag. Most stores will sell each individual bar for $1.50 or more. Do you know what’s just as convenient? Throwing an apple in your bag. Keep the convenience foods for emergencies and don’t make them a regular thing.
8. Keep it simple.
How often have you ended up ordering take-out simply because you couldn’t figure out what to make at home? Eating in is almost always going to be cheaper than eating out, and it’s typically healthier for you too since you know exactly the ingredients being used. Figure out what’s easy for you. For nights when I just don’t feel like cooking, chicken sausage and a nuked sweet potato are lifesavers.
My Favorite Grocery Store Helpers
Since moving from North Dakota to Chicago and now New York City, I’ve found that grocery shopping just isn’t the same. I no longer have a car to carry all of my good deals in, so these items have been a lifesaver!
- Reusable bags. These are my favorite. They are a bit pricey, but have lasted me over 6 years. They hold up to 40 pounds each, so I am able to carry home BIG grocery hauls! I also love that the straps are long enough to go over my shoulder so my hands don’t hurt by the time I’m in my house.
- A shopping cart. This is the one I have. If you live in a walking city (I’ve used when living in both Chicago and NYC), this is a must! Don’t let the fear of walking home carrying all your bags stop you from grocery shopping. Instead, roll those groceries!
Sample $62 Grocery Haul for Two Adults
This Week’s Grocery Haul Highlights
- Chuck Roast $4.00/lb
- Eggs $4.00/1.5 dozen or $.22/egg
- Bread, Angelic Bakehouse Sprouted Wheat $3.24/16oz loaf
- I’m so excited to find this bread! It’s made with only natural ingredients, plus all of the grains are sprouted, making it easier for your body to digest!
- Corn Tortillas, El Milagro $.39/dozen
- Look for corn tortillas with just three ingredients: corn, oil, salt.
- Cauliflower $1.25/lb
- Spaghetti Squash $.85/lb
- Sweet Potatoes $.65/lb
Total Spent: $62.20
Meal Planning Ideas
Last week we ended up going out to eat two nights and had lots of leftovers, so we have food carrying over to this week.
- Greek Yogurt with Strawberries and Honey (from pantry)
- Foolproof Hard Boiled Eggs
- Toast with Bread, Banana, and Peanut Butter (from pantry)
- Leftovers! Anything left from dinners throughout the week plus an Apple or Banana.
- Salad made with Lettuce, Chicken, Carrots, Strawberries, Green Onion, Avocado and dressed with a squirt of Lime and a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from pantry)
- Slow Cooker Chuck Roast with Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
- Tacos made with Corn Tortillas, Ground Beef, Lettuce, Avocado, Salsa, and my Homemade Taco Seasoning (from pantry)
- Bunless Burgers with Ground Beef wrapped in Lettuce and topped with Tomato, Mushrooms, and Avocado served with a side of Baked Sweet Potato Chips
- Slow Cooker Chicken & Salsa Soup made with Chicken Thighs, Salsa, Carrots, Sweet Potato, and Garlic
- Simple Slow Cooker Chili made with Ground Beef, Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce, Tomato Paste, Carrots, and Garlic
- Spaghetti Squash & Meat Ragu made with Spaghetti Squash, Ground Beef, Tomato Sauce, Mushrooms, and Garlic
Note: I’ve always got leftover food from week to week! For breakfast, I’ll also be eating Overnight Oats with oats, milk, and honey which I previously bought. I also always have oils and spices on hand in my pantry to amp up the flavors in my dishes!
This post was originally published on October 5, 2015.
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