Before I even get started on the list of ways you can get the most bang for your buck when you’re trying to eat a healthy diet, let me say one thing. I’m not here to pretend that eating healthy is cheap.
I hate it when I read articles that claim “eating well doesn’t have to be expensive!” Yeah, well, I’m calling your bluff, Mrs. Article Writer, whoever you are.
Without a doubt, eating a clean diet is more expensive than eating junk. There’s no way around it. I challenge any one of my readers to prove me wrong.
The month before last, my husband came to me and said that the grocery budget was out of control and I needed to figure out how to spend less. He was right. I really focused on spending less and last month I came in under our alloted food budget. These are some of the things I did to help stretch our budget without compromising my food integrity.
5 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Healthy Food Budget
#1: Utilize a meal plan.
The first few months of my pregnancy, I got away from meal planning. I was sick and tired and just didn’t have it in me. Inevitably, the amount we were spending on groceries also went up. Once I got back to planning, I was able to get the budget under control again. When you carefully plan your meals, you are more likely to only buy what you need and use what you buy.
#2: Don’t waste.
The first thing I did when I realized I needed to get the spending out of control is remember to shop from our pantry first. I made it a point to use the foods I already had on hand as much as possible rather than buying so many new ingredients all the time. I often would forget about certain things I had in my pantry or in my freezer, so making a point to really look at what I have before shopping is a huge help.
I also made sure that we were always eating up or utilizing our leftovers in some way. This takes planning, but is worth it when you are eating food rather than throwing it in the trash!
#3: Eat less meat.
When I got pregnant I also started eating more meat. Meat, especially clean, healthy meat, is expensive. I’ve forced myself, especially in the last month, to get creative and put more time into making sure I’m getting the protein and other extra nutrients I need for my pregnancy from cheaper, plant sources.
#4: Eat a lot of the least expensive healthy foods.
When I started focusing on staying within our food budget, I began relying on certain foods more. There are some nutritional superstars that also happen to be inexpensive. Here are a few examples:
- Lentils! So cheap and packed with nutrients. They’re a great source of protein, fiber, and iron.
- Beans. I stopped buying the expensive Eden Organic cans I insisted on using before and am using dried beans much more often. It takes more planning, but cooking beans is not hard. They are cheap and nutritious.
- Sweet potatoes. These babies happen to be on the Clean 15 list, so I usually go with the conventionally grown variety. They are also one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat!
- Eggs. Even though the farm-fresh eggs I buy are more expensive than most ($4.00 a dozen), these are still a cheaper protein source than meat. And they are filled with lots of nutrients!
Make these foods the stars of your meals, and you’ll be saving some dough.
#5: Shop at multiple stores.
I hate this advice. But it works. I wish I could do all my shopping at one convenient store and get everything I need at the best prices. Well, where I live that store doesn’t exist. I’ve sought out which stores have the best prices on certain things and shop, during any given 2-3 week span, at 4 different stores.
- Kroger: My local big-chain regular grocery store is where I get the bulk of my food these days. They have a good selection of organic produce at the best price in town, and better prices on things like coconut oil, organic yogurt, bread, etc.
- Dorothy Lane Market: This is the local equivalent to Whole Foods. They carry a lot of food from local farms and have a nice selection of harder-to-find items. They carry Organic Valley cheese and butter, which is my preferred brand so I get that there. They are also the only store that carries Eden Organics canned beans, so when I need canned beans I get them there. I also buy my farm-fresh eggs and local meat here. This store also happens to be closest to my home, so I wish I could do all my shopping here. When I do, my wallet feels the pain!
- Trader Joe’s: When I go here, I stock up on organic peanut butter, organic, no sugar added jelly, nuts, dried fruits, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Those are the main items I rely on TJ’s for, but I occasionally get other things from them as well.
- Health Foods, Unlimited: They have the best price on oats, so I try to get them here. I also buy our vitamins here.
Again, eating a healthy, clean diet is not cheap. I’m not trying to tell you that you’re going to spend less than your neighbor who’ll buy the less expensive, but pesticide-laden apples. With a little thoughtful planning, however, you can stretch your healthy food budget farther than you imagined.
Question: What are your tips for eating a clean, healthy diet on a budget?