Eating Healthy On a Budget
"I want to eat healthy, but it's so expensive".
"I bought all organic food this week and my grocery bill doubled".
I hear the above from my friends and family ALL the time. And I get it. I really do. Eating well is expensive. High-quality food is more costly to make/ produce, and on top of that, companies take advantage of our desire to eat better and up their margin on products that are organic, non-GMO or "natural".
I'm writing this assuming that you understand the benefits of eating organically grown, clean, natural, and minimally processed food. And I'm also assuming that you work hard for your money and don't want it to go to waste. I think of eating healthy as an investment for my future self, and by eating well I'm saving a lot of money on future healthcare bills. Because ultimately, you either pay for your health now or pay for it later.
I'm going to say that again so it really sinks in.
You either pay for your health now or pay for it later.
That being said, it definitely doesn't hurt to implement some cost-cutting techniques so you get the most bang for your buck! I've luckily made every mistake in the book when it comes to grocery shopping and have probably flushed thousands of dollars down the drain, but you don't have to! Read on for my top money-saving tips when grocery shopping for clean food. Don't forget your reusable shopping bags!
1. Make a List
Make a grocery list. This simple fix helps me to stay organized when shopping, because I know what items I’m going to buy, and where. “Winging it” at the grocery store is a recipe for disaster. You’ll end up buying things you don’t need, or buying a bunch of things that don’t go together which will ultimately go to waste. Plan your meals in advance, and then make your list from there. I promise you that taking 10 minutes to survey your kitchen, plan a few meals and make a list will make a world of difference!
2. Fill The Freezer
Once I started paying attention to my grocery bill, I realized the problem was not how much I was spending- it was how much I was wasting!!
I used to throw out approximately 25-30% of my groceries every week. Think about it- if you spend $100 on groceries per week, that’s $30 per week. Over the course of a year, that’s over $1500! In. My. Trash. Can.
Now, I freeze everything. Think about the things that go bad quickly in your household. Bread, bananas, meat, fish. I freeze them all.
Bread- freeze it and just pull out the slices you need- ideally let them thaw but if it’s last-minute you can thaw in the microwave or oven!
Bananas- I use them for smoothies, so if I have some bananas going bad I will peel, chop and freeze them so I can just throw them into a blender for a smoothie!
Meat- Any time organic and/or pastured meat is on sale, I’ll buy more than I need and freeze the rest.
Fish- Same as above. Wild-caught fish is very expensive, so when it’s on sale I’ll ask the fishmonger to filet a few extra pieces of salmon (or whatever I’m getting that day) and throw it in the freezer immediately when I get home.
Also, buying pre-frozen items is a great way to save money! I buy a lot of my organic produce frozen and it’s about 30% less expensive. It’s also great because I cook for one and produce goes bad quickly, so you’re not wasting any money by buying frozen and just using as much as you need. Plus, frozen produce is usually picked at the peak of ripeness so it is tastier and more nutritious. You can buy frozen berries for smoothies, or frozen veggies to steam or bake for a quick dinner. My favorite things to buy frozen are organic blueberries, organic cherries, organic green beans, organic broccoli, organic sweet potatoes and organic cauliflower. You can even buy frozen organic meat at some stores- just make sure there’s no added preservatives or weird sauces.
3. Shop Locally and Seasonally
Certain fruits and vegetables grow better in different climates and in different regions. Buying produce grown in your city/county at the right time of year is less expensive because it’s abundant and not difficult for farmers to grow. Buying items out of season is expensive because it’s harder to grow, and it must be shipped across the country. If you’re not sure what is in-season in your location, visit this website for a guide:
4. Get Creative With Proteins
Most Americans eat way too much meat. Meat and fish are expensive. Pastured meat/poultry and wild-caught fish are even more expensive! Try to get your protein from plant-based sources. It's less expensive and less harmful to the environment. I eat a high-protein diet (80+ grams per day), however, I aim for one serving of fish or meat per day (usually at lunch or dinner). My other proteins come from vegetarian or vegan sources. Some of my favorite ways to get protein are:
Vegan Protein Powder (use it in smoothies, baking, oatmeal, etc)
Chia Seeds (high in brain-boosting Omegas-3's! Check out my Instagram for my fave Overnight Chia Seeds breakfast recipe)
Chickpeas (Falafel, anyone?)
Quinoa (great substitute for rice)
Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans or Cashews make a great 3pm snack!)
And there are animal by-products that are high in protein- yogurt and eggs are two things I eat regularly.
5. Shop Online for Non-Perishables
Amazon, Thrive Market and even Walmart are great places to buy organic non-perishables because you can compare prices online and even buy in bulk to save a lot of money. I buy organic nut butters, organic pastas, organic spices, and more on Amazon Prime. A lot of these websites have auto-ship options too, so if you use them frequently you can set that up and never run out.
6. Visit Multiple Stores
I visit 2 grocery stores per week, plus the farmer’s market on Saturdays. it’s more time-consuming but saves me a lot of money because I can compare prices and I have also learned which stores have the best prices on certain items over time.
For example, I usually buy all of my wild-caught fish from Whole Foods because they have high quality standards, but every now and then Central Market has a great sale on wild-caught fish so I stock up and freeze a few filets.
7. Use The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
Each year, the Environmental Working Group releases their Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The "Dirty Dozen" are the 12 fruits/vegetables that test highest in pesticides, and should always be purchased organic. The "Clean 15" are reflective of their name as well- these are the cleanest fruits/vegetables that you don't need to purchase organic because they tested low in pesticide residue.
If you can't afford to buy all organic items, use these as a guide! Eventually, you'll memorize them but feel free to save these images to your phone and glance at them while shopping.
8. Buy REAL FOOD
Fruits and vegetables aren't expensive. A pack of organic, gluten-free, non-GMO gourmet energy bars sprinkled with coconut chips and Mayan chocolate plucked from the wings of an angel in heaven ARE expensive! (Okay, that's not a thing, but you get my point right?)
Just limit your purchases of foods that come in a package and you'll save a lot of money. Shop the edges of the grocery store, and limit your purchases from the aisles. Easy peasy!
That goes for drinks, too- just drink water. There's so many fancy drinks out there like coffee drinks, kombucha, etc and they are $3+ each. That can add up quick. Just drink water and flavor it with lemon or another fruit. Save the sparkling water or bottled tea as an occasional treat.
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