Tired of spending half of your paycheck on going out to eat? Want to eat healthy, but are afraid that it will be too expensive? Learn how to stretch the food dollar with healthy eating on a budget!
The key to healthy eating on a budget is to have a game plan. First, develop a meal plan based on the size of your family and the number of days you plan to eat at home. To help you save money at the store, see what items you already have on hand in your refrigerator, pantry and freezer. Plan meals based on the ingredients that you have at home. Also, plan meals with overlapping ingredients and limit meals that call for multiple ingredients to 1-2 times per week.
Then, based off of your meal plan, create a grocery list. Creating a grocery list helps to prevent impulse purchases when at the store and also helps you to stick to your plan for healthy eating.
When at the store, use coupons and rewards cards and purchase store brand items. Consider going to multiple grocery stores based on special deals and sales. Buy meat when it is on sale and freeze it for later use.
Do not pay for packaging! Pre-portion food items on your own once you get home from the store. When you buy pre-portioned products (100 calorie packs, individualized yogurt cups, etc.) you are paying for the packaging. Try not to purchase pre-washed and chopped items. You will save money by washing and cutting the items on your own once at home.
Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season. Produce that is not in season is usually more expensive. Decide if and where you are willing to spend a little extra money (ex. organic versus conventional). If you want to purchase organic produce, but want to stay within your budget, then only choose organic when you will be consuming the peel or skin of that food item such as an apple. If you will be peeling the item before eating it, such as a banana, then save money by not purchasing organic.
Try to purchase fresh or frozen produce to use as your side items at most meals. Examples include broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, asparagus, zucchini and squash. This is a way to incorporate more whole foods into your diet. If you have some staple seasonings at home, then preparing these items will call for minimal ingredients, time and money. For example, consider slicing an onion and red skin potato and sautéing them in a skillet with olive oil and pepper. Try chopping a zucchini or squash and baking in the oven with an Italian dressing glaze.
Consider joining a local co-op, visiting a farmer’s market or growing a small garden at home as ways to eat healthier and save money.
Eating healthy can be tasty, rewarding and inexpensive. Remember that they key is to have a game plan from both a nutrition and a budget standpoint. Then you will have food on the table and money in your pocket. And your pocket might just be a size smaller too!