I’m talking about a food budget here because hey, we have to get our nails and hair done and that stuff costs a lot.
All joking aside, I’m here to tell you that healthy eating is not as complicated or as expensive as many diet gurus make it sound. While many of us aim to purchase the cleanest produce or most responsibly raised meat possible, there are times when our wallets disagree. Yet with a few simple adjustments and tweaks to our shopping strategy, we can buy healthier foods that fit our budget anytime of the year.
Without getting into the weeds of organic, grass-fed, vegan, paleo, low-carb and whatever other fancy terminology there is, there are a few basic principles we can all use to guide us at the grocery store. Remember first and foremost, that the best food buying choices are those that fit your lifestyle and budget. There’s no need to shop at Whole Foods and buy organic, gluten-free crackers. Not only does that make zero sense (why are they organic?!) but for $6+ a box I’d say you’re throwing your money away for very little nutritional value.
Follow these five simple commandments next time you shop and trust me, you will maintain your budget and your body’s health.
Commandment #1: Know what you want ahead of time
The art of eating healthy is knowing what you want to buy before hitting the grocery store. Make a list of everything you need before you shop so you’re not tempted to buy unnecessary items just because it’s on sale. This saves money and ensures you don’t waste food.
Commandment #2: Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk not only saves money in the long-run, it can also save you a few additional trips to the grocery store. Consider purchasing frozen vegetables, frozen lean meats, grains, oils, nut butters, eggs and even some fresh produce at your local Costco. For instance, I can buy 5 dozen eggs that last me a month for less than $6 when I buy in bulk compared to a small carton of the organic stuff at the grocery store for the same price. Now that’s savings! You pay a little more upfront but the savings over time makes it all worth it.
Commandment #3: Scan the specials
Scan the grocery store flyers that come in the mail or when you walk in the store so you know what specials are going on. Oftentimes, you can score a great deal on an item like wild caught seafood at a grocery store you rarely go to just by checking out the specials. Same goes for specials on things like oats, beans, and condiments. It takes about 2-3 extra minutes of your time to peek through these flyers but it can save you $10-20 from your grocery bill if you do.
Commandment #4: Buy in-season
We all have our staples when it comes to produce. Maybe it’s bananas or apples, but don’t forget about the in-season produce which tend to be marked down compared to other items. If you’re unsure about what’s in-season in your area, check our this super handy guide from Sustainable Table.
Commandment #5: Shop at farmer’s markets or join a CSA
Depending on where you live, you may have access to local farmers’ markets where you can get in-season produce or local meat, or you can join a CSA. It supports local farmers which makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, but most importantly, it gives you access to reasonably priced seasonal goods. Plus, if you go later in the day at a farmer’s market, you can also negotiate prices down with vendors who want to sell off the produce before heading home. Sounds like a deal to me.
Commandment #5 D.I.Y.
There are some things we can do ourselves in the kitchen that will not only save us money, but make us healthier. All you need to do is invest a bit of time. Now, I’m not talking about meal prep here (although that’s good, too), but if you’re someone that uses condiments like ketchup, salad dressing or broths pretty regularly, you may want to consider making these yourself. The Interwebbz is full of resources to help you make your own items at home but there are also a number of cookbooks out there to help you create these too. My favorite go-to sources include Stupid Easy Paleo, The Paleo Kitchen (cookbook), and Elana’s Pantry which cover everything from condiments to broths to grocery lists.
Sure, these commandments aren’t revolutionary but so isn’t the “Thou Shalt Not Kill Thy Neighbor” commandment. These stand the test of time. Coming from a formerly broke college student who lived off Ramen noodles and beer to now self-employed business woman, I’ve learned a thing or two about saving money on food. Compromising our health or our bodies to eat on the cheap is not a good investment. You are worth so much more than that! Treat yourself, and your wallet with respect and it’ll come back to you in a positive way!