Inside Scoop: Get the best bang for your buck with these 10 ‘Eating Healthy On A Budget’ Tips.
We live in a world filled with kale chips, almond flour, organic meat and produce. While we do respect animals, and we do believe that supporting local, sustainable farming practices will set us up for a better and brighter future; we also have to feed our families, work full-time and budget our little butts off in order to get everything we want out of life. So, sometimes we have to compromise and buy chicken ‘super-packs’ and guess what, we shouldn’t feel guilty about it; because we do the best we can with what we’ve got.
But that’s just it though isn’t it, guilt.
Guilt is often associated with ‘clean eating’, because if we aren’t doing it properly then we are just contributing to a problem, right? If we aren’t buying all organic, or local, or sustainable, or avoiding mega companies, or even going into stores that support so-and-so then we should probably re-think the way we live, right? But how do you live your life constantly walking on eggshells around every purchase you make? Yes, we believe that there are always better choices to make when it comes to purchase decisions and health. But the question you must ask yourself is how does it fit into MY life?
Most of the time, eating healthy isn’t even about the food or the taste or even following the latest trends. Yes, fresh home-made organic food is delicious, but budget and lack of time can really explain why you purchased a 2 for 1 deal at the nearest fast food joint… because… life.
The main issue in many cases is the bottom line; it can be very expensive to try and switch to an all organic, fresh food diet. The truth is, we don’t shop organic all the time (maybe not even half of the time), and along the way we’ve learned quite a few hacks to help us eat healthy without breaking the bank.
Because we want you to eat healthy and thrive, we’ve put together our Top 10 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget:
1. Focus on the foods that matter
It’s important to spend your money where it matters most, such as pasture-raised, hormone/anti-biotic free meats and dairy products. For fruits and veggies, the Environmental Working Group has a great resource – The Shopper Guide to Pesticides in Produce (Fruits & Veggies):
- Dirty Dozen List (if you can, buy organic): Click here to view the list.
- Clean Fifteen List (save your money – no need to buy organic): Click here to view the list.
And we cannot stress this enough- if you cannot afford organic, the benefits of eating fresh foods, including fruits and veggies, outweigh any harm of pesticides. Also, remember that if you can’t afford organic, pasture raised meat, don’t feel guilty about eating the other stuff from time to time. If your meal is surrounded by whole foods then it most likely is the healthiest version that fits into your life. For a much cheaper meal plan, try meatless meals 1-2x a week, and avoid red meat as much as you can. This helps the planet, and your health in the long run.
2. Shop local and in season
Foods that are in season are generally cheaper than the foods that have to be shipped from halfway around the globe. They are better for the planet too! Also, it’s a nice feeling to meet and support your local farmers, and buy directly from the source.
We typically choose local whenever we can (even if it’s not organic).
You can check the seasonal and local foods by Province in Canada here, and by State in US here.
*Freeze: you can buy a ton of fresh berries, veggies in the summer and freeze them.
3. Buy frozen fruits and veggies
With fruits and veggies, especially when out of season, prices can be much higher. You can buy them frozen, and frozen produce is picked and packed right away so all the nutrients stay intact and it’s a great way to stay on budget.
4. Plan your meals and shop with a list
It’s always a good idea to have some sort of a plan around what you’ll be eating for the coming week, especially if you want to save money. You’ll save money by knowing what you need and save time by making less trips to the store. Plus, when you plan you know exactly what you are going to use, so you won’t end up wasting anything away.
5. Buy in bulk
If you can, purchase larger quantities, freeze and store the extra for another week. This is great for grains, beans and legumes as they last a long time…but can also be great for meats, fish, fruits and veggies.
Stores always have bigger packs that cost less per unit, or they may have something on offer. It might be worth the investment to gain a membership to stores that you can buy in bulk. The annual can end up outweighing the membership fee (ie. Costco).
6. Check-out generic brands
Many stores offer generic brands for products, and they are usually much cheaper than known brands. As with everything else, just make sure to read the ingredient list for unnecessary food additives or strange ingredients that you cannot pronounce.
7. Go meatless for a few meals each week
We mentioned this in our first tip, but if you haven’t cut down on meat in your diet yet, you can start by eliminating it from a few meals a week. Beans are cheaper than beef! Themed days are always a hit over here. We enjoy meatless Mondays and always come up with creative ways to take a traditional meat dense dish and replace it with veggies or plant based proteins. For example, you can make this Mushroom, Leek & Barley Risotto, Sun-Dried Tomato Cashew Cream Pasta, Crock Pot Sweet Potato Chili or this Veggie Curry with Brown Rice.
8. Make it from scratch, embrace leftovers and cook large batches
Cooking at home saves money over eating out any day. You can even make your own sides, mixes and condiments. This will not only save you money but you’ll also know exactly what’s in the food you’re eating. Try mastering one new dish a week, we dare you!
If you are making dishes that require some cooking and prepping, try doubling your recipe and freezing whatever you don’t eat, or eat it again a couple days down the road. If it’s delicious enough you’ll want to repeat the meal over and over. Also, leftovers are great for getting creative. Cooking extra chicken can get you a chicken salad for lunch the next day, or cooking large batch veggie chili can create loaded sweet potato fries for dinner. Pinterest is our best friend for utilizing leftovers.
9. Use discounts or coupons if you can find them
Sometimes, you can find a deal or get a coupon on healthy snacks and some of those great, organic convenience foods. Look out for coupon deals in supermarkets, sign-up for your store’s Newsletter and deals, and look for coupon sites.
10. Think where else you can save
Many of us don’t think twice about paying $5 for a coffee, or spending hundreds of dollars on branded clothes, phones, cars, gadgets…etc. But when it comes to food, the essence of what keeps us alive, we sometimes take it for granted. The reality is that good quality food, fair treated labor and ethically treated and raised animals do cost a little more than what the industrialized mass produced food has gotten us used to paying.
So, look at other areas where you can save, and invest a little bit more into your food, your health and your well-being. But another thing we can’t stress enough is don’t beat yourself up! We can tell you that unless you have a whole lot of discretionary income, changing over your eating and shopping habits doesn’t happen overnight, and you shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to purchase all organic ingredients.
Make small changes and keep looking for ways to eat healthy on your budget. It’s an investment, but we can tell you that it is one worth striving for, for yourself and your family.
Do you have any local resources to share or any tips that can help you eat healthy on a budget? Leave us a comment below.
There are some really great resources. I especially love the food lists in point one. That’s definitely something I’m going to print out for when I’m writing up my shopping list.
I always make large batches so my husband and I have leftovers. I have a huge crockpot and it makes everything so easy.
Thank you Chloe. Glad you enjoyed the post. EWG actually have an App that you can install. It’s called Dirty Dozen (and has both lists) and you can have it handy anywhere you go 🙂