Eating Healthy on a Budget
“How do you maintain a healthy diet on a budget? Spending $200 a week on groceries is exhausting (worth it but not everyone can afford that).”
Packaged, processed, and highly refined foods are often subsidized by the federal government, thereby bringing prices down. Meanwhile, whole foods are not subsidized and so are more expensive.
For those looking to balance their budget while eating healthy, this can be a challenge. Here are some tips and tricks:
1. Check the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists for items that are critical to purchase organic and those that can be purchased conventional, respectively. For those that are critical to purchase organic due to heavy pesticide load, omit these items when not in season. Trucking in produce from far distances when it is out of season, demand is high, and availability is low, raises food prices (and also reduces quality/nutrients of the food).
3. Consider entering into a bulk buy with some friends to pay lower overall prices. Sometimes grocery stores will provide a case discount, or you might be able to find a farmer that will do animal shares, and you just freeze the excess meat for later.
4. Speaking of farmers, some may sell excess produce for less. Contact local farmers to see if they can hook you up.
5. There are many CSAs and co-ops springing up across the country. Compare the cost per pound of their produce versus what you are paying in the store to see if it makes sense to join one.
6. Rice and beans are inexpensive, and particularly if you are soaking and cooking them yourself, can be a healthy addition to many meals throughout the week.
7. Look into new subscription services or stores that sell “imperfect” food that would have otherwise been thrown out. Americans expect perfectly round tomatoes and uniformly red apples; those foods that don’t meet the criteria are often thrown out, so a new industry has sprung up reselling these imperfect foods at lower prices. Check out imperfectproduce.com as an example.
8. The tougher cuts of meat at grocery stores are often less expensive; consider purchasing those and cooking them for longer to have a very tasty meal for less. Eggs are also less expensive per serving than meats and fish, so consider having eggs on a regular basis.
9. Consider using stores that private label their healthy foods, like Aldi and Trader Joe’s. Brandless and Thrive Market (affiliate link) are other (mailorder) options that sell healthy foods for less.
10. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often less expensive. However, folate is lost in the freezing process, and produce is a main source of folate. Take advantage of the price point, but be sure to be mixing in fresh produce as well.
11. Consider planting a garden if you are able to. I like to plant what we spend the most on at the grocery store during the summer – artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, herbs, zucchini, and greens for my family. Some of these can even be grown in containers on a patio! The herbs can be dried. I have also found less expensive bulk herbs at Natural Grocers, if this store is in your area.
12. Stock up on sales for items that you use frequently! Packets of bacon and cold cuts can be frozen, as can fresh, never-been-frozen meats, poultry, and fish, while cans of wild salmon, jars of organic tomato sauce, and other pantry items will withstand hanging out on your shelves until you are ready for them.
13. Spend more time in the kitchen. Purchasing whole items, such as whole carrots as opposed to pre-chopped, will be less expensive. Batch cooking and repurposing leftovers during the week requires planning ahead, but can save you money later. And making a variety of foods from scratch will cost less than purchasing them pre-packaged, such as salad dressing and hummus, even after accounting for just a few minutes of your time with the blender.
Hopefully these suggestions will give you some ideas to save some serious money on your groceries!
What other ideas do you all have to save money on your groceries each month? Share your tips below!