Eating fresh, healthy, organic, local foods sounds great! But if you’re on a budget it can seem impossible. But I promise, it’s not!
But I feel your pain, because I used to think that too. And although boxed foods can (unfortunately) be less expensive, getting healthy food can still fit within your budget and not break the bank!
There are plenty of ways to eat well and actually save money in the process.
1. Do NOT shop hungry!
How many times do you go to the grocery store after work tired, hungry, and possibly grumpy? A Cornell study shows that people who shop while hungry are more inclined to not only purchase more food, but buy more high-calorie foods. Haven’t you noticed that you crave the cookies, breads and chips when you’re starving?
My Tip: keep a piece of fruit or a small bag full of nuts in your bag to help keep your tank on medium, helping you avoid filling your cart with foods you’re craving at the moment, but would avoid getting on a full stomach.
2. Buy Produce in Season
Whether you’re going to the local farmer’s market or your favorite grocery store, load up on seasonal fruits and vegetables. In-season food isn’t just cheaper, it’s also more flavorful and nutritious. Also, your grocery store is probably stocking a lot of local produce and offering deals on it during peak times. Plus, you can when they’re on sale and freeze them for later.
3. Join a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to get high-quality, nutritious food at a cheaper price than you’d find at the grocery store. Here’s the way it work … you buy a share of a local farm’s harvest up front (usually $400 to $700 per year), and then pick up a weekly box with fresh, seasonal produce. Every week you get a box of whatever came out of the farmer’s field. Like buying in bulk at warehouse stores, this calls for some time and creativity in the kitchen.
When it comes to CSAs, you’ll only save if you actually use everything in the box. Unfortunately, if you’re cooking for one or are a picky eater, it may not be worth the investment.
My tip: if an entire box seems like too much check to see if your CSA offers half-shares. OR split a full share with a neighbor or a friend.
4. Buy Healthy Staples in Bulk.
Stocking up on canned/dry goods, healthy whole grains and frozen produce can help you create inexpensive meals on the fly. Costco, Sam’s Club or Amazon Pantry are some options for buying in bulk or having the convenience of mail delivery.
When buying in bulk at warehouses like Costco, you’re able to find fruits and veggies at ridiculously low prices! Thats ‘s you’re willing to buy, say, 15 pounds of potatoes or 8 pounds of oranges at a time. You’ll be stocked up for a while and are in for some work at home (organizing and finding space), but at those prices, who’s complaining?
5. Buy Store-Brand Organics
Whole Foods is more expensive than your general supermarket, but there are some deals with their store brand, 365 Everyday Value. In fact, this year, they’re launching affordable stores in some urban areas called 365 by Whole Foods, with plans to double them in 2017.
Many other supermarkets now have their own organic brands, like Publix Greenwise, Stop & Shop Nature’s Promise, Aldi Simply Nature, and Kroger Simple Truth.
The other thing to look for are weekly specials being advertised to get consumers in their doors. For example, Fresh Market has $2.99/lb organic chicken each and every Tuesday.
6. Buy flash-frozen fruits, vegetables, and fish.
While any processing takes away from a food’s maximum nutritional value, flash freezing is a great way to preserve vitamins and minerals when vegetables and seafood are at their freshest. Plus, the convenience factor can’t be beat – especially when you’re crunched for time.
The price? For seafood, fresh is definitely much more expensive. But that’s even if you can find it at all. If you check at your local grocer’s fish counter, you’ll actually find that much of what is being sold in the case as “fresh” has in fact been previously frozen. Next time, you’re in – ask them 😉 I learned this fact, when I was looking for freshly caught shrimp and salmon.
Produce is bit more tricky. Frozen is sometimes, but not always, cheaper than fresh, in-season, fruits and vegetables.
7. Use Meal-Planning and Grocery Apps
Meal planning is one of the simplest ways to stay on track with your nutrition AND your budget. Win-win!
Many of the major grocery chains offer apps where you can browse weekly ads and even create grocery lists. My suggestion, plan your meals based on what you already have at home ad what’s on sale at your grocery store.
Additionally, there are several meal-planning apps available where you can find recipes and build shopping lists if your local grocery store doesn’t have one (or you don’t like it).
Here are a few worth checking out:
- MealPlan Meal and Grocery Planner
Best for: Newbies ($4; iOS)
This is a great app for first-time meal planners. It’s easy-to-navigate where you can drag and drop recipes into a home screen organized by meal. It’s great for someone who’s trying to get more organized and who need something simple and quick to map out their weekly diet. Once you have your list completed, you can either email or print out the list – even have it sorted out by aisle!).
Best for: Budget-Minded Foodies ($4; iOS)
This app helps you get your budget and diet under control! The app will aggregate a grocery list that also shows you the price of ingredients if you shop at one of the stores also used in the app.
- Pepper Plate
Best for: Multi-course masters (free; iOS, Android)
Add recipes you’ve collected from the web or manually enter your own creations and this app will generate a grocery list to make shopping easy-peasy.
Best for: Busy families (free or $8 upgrade; iOS)
This is a great app that allows multiple users to add items to a singular shopping list, either manually or with the help Siri. Any updates will automatically sync to everyone’s devices, so the entire family is on the same page.
8. Stick to your list.
Now that we have a way to make our focused grocery list … don’t cave for those cookies while you’re at the grocery store. Remember you have that small piece of fruit or the bag of nuts to get you through 😉
Create your meal plan and shopping list at home – then commit sticking to it!
However, there are sometimes some exceptions. For example, sometimes a gorgeously fresh fruit or vegetable will stand out—one you hadn’t planned on. That’s ok. Or maybe you have to get a substitute brand because your favorite sold out. Build some flexibility into your list to account for these unanticipated situations.
A good rule of thumb is to stick absolutely to your list of pantry items, but give yourself some leeway with fresh, seasonal foods.
Do you have any tips to add to this list? Would love to hear them! 🙂