There’s a constant debate in America right now about healthy eating. We have tons of convenience food right at our fingertips and for practically no money at all. Plenty of people make the excuse that it’s “too expensive to eat healthy,” but the fact is that if you make it a priority, you’ll get in the habit of making money-smart decisions that are easy and healthy.
Here are my top tips to eating healthy on a budget:
1. Buy what’s on sale/in season. (Oftentimes, these two correlate.) This may seem obvious, but grocery stores will do a lot to trick you into paying more for similar things. For example, Sean and I were at Publix this weekend. He wanted to get some bell peppers for tempeh tacos. When I looked at the prices, green peppers were $.60 each, while red peppers were almost $2.50 each. Ridiculous! Search out what’s less expensive, and craft your menu for the week around that or substitute in similar items in your meals.
2. Buy grains in bulk. No, you don’t have to go buy a 20# bag of rice. However, if your family (or just you) eats a lot of rice, quinoa, oats, don’t bother buying it in those little “single serve” packets. You’re just paying extra for packaging there. I know the single serve packets are helpful, but if you set aside a few hours when you have a little time off to cook your grain for the week, it’ll be like you have single serve packets, but for a lot less $$! Sean and I have been known to cook a week’s worth of oatmeal in the crockpot on Sundays (add in apples, cinnamon, & a little brown sugar–yum to the max). Then we just reheat with a little almond milk the morning we want it.
Hello, oatmeal. I love you.
3. The freezer is your friend. Let’s pause. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the Lean Cuisines of our college days. No, I mean it’s ok it buy packs of frozen vegetables and fruits, especially if it’s just you! There’s no way Sean and I can finish a whole head of broccoli, 2 bell peppers, green beans, celery, carrots, etc. in a week. We want variety in our meals, but not at the expense of letting good food go bad. Frozen veggies let you take out what you need for that meal, and put the rest back in the freezer for next week without the risk of throwing money in the trash because it went bad. Likewise, if the fresh version is cheaper, we’ll eat what we can and freeze the rest before it goes bad!
That’s right. Those peas were frozen.
You would have never known had I not told you just now…
4. Know the Clean 15. I’m not here to push an “all-organic” diet on people because I know that can be expensive and out of some people’s range. Some organic ingredients can be hard to find, too, if your grocery doesn’t have a large demand for it. The “Clean 15” are 15 fruits and veggies from the produce section that don’t need to be organic. You can make entire meals out of just some of these ingredients. Yum!
5. When all else fails, sub in beans. Coming from a vegetarian, this is rich, right? Well, beans are a cheaper alternative to more expensive protein sources (chicken, fish, tofu, etc.). Sometimes Sean and I take conventional recipes and substitute beans for the protein source, like our vegetarian sloppy Joes. Sure, it was a little messy, but that’s the point of a sloppy Joe, right? Instead of ground turkey or beef, we throw black beans into our quesadillas. Don’t balk at the beans. If you’re looking to save money, they’re the ticket in the protein department.
Refried bean quesadillas–looks bad, tastes good.
This isn’t an exhaustive list to saving money in the grocery store, but it’s some of the tips we’ve used to keep our grocery budget moderate. What tricks & tips do you use to keep your grocery budget low?