Are you tired of spending half your paycheck on going out to eat? Maybe you want to eat healthy, but you’re feeling a little pressure to reign in your spending? Or maybe you already eat a healthy diet, but you’re just looking for ways to save money while you’re at it?
Learn how to stretch the food dollar with healthy eating on a budget!
1. Make a meal plan
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.
2. Use what you already have
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.
3. Make your grocery list
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.
4. Maximize savings
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.
5. Don’t pay for extra packaging
Buy in bulk or large portions. You can pre-portion food items on your own once you get home from the store. When you buy pre-portioned products (small packs of crackers or trail mix, individualized yogurt cups, etc.) you are paying for the packaging.
6. Wash and chop produce yourself
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.
7. Buy what’s in season
Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season. Produce that is not in season is usually more expensive.
8. Decide when buying organic matters to you
Decide if and where you are willing to spend a little extra money on organic versus conventional products. 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. You can also utilize the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists as a guide.
9. Focus on whole foods
Try to purchase fresh or frozen produce to use as your side items at most meals. Examples vary depending on what’s in season, but can include:
- Bell peppers
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.
10. Buy local
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.
Bottom line: Healthy eating on a budget is possible
With a little planning and consideration, 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 can have food on the table, money in your pocket and a little more peace of mind.
About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.
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