Eating Healthier on a Budget
Eating healthy and adhering to a strict budget is not easy, but these little changes made a huge impact on my checkbook. Tasked with following a budget AND buying healthier foods at the same time was a struggle. The following were the biggest takaways from my experience:
Do not compromise on health. For the longest time I had the mindset of "we can't afford to eat healthy" so I never even tried. Set your goal high, and don't give up and buy crap food just because it is easier. You will figure out healthier alternatives if you are determined enough.
Only go shopping when you are motivated to stick to the list. You have to be accountable to yourself for what you buy.
Purchase the cheaper healthy things. For example, fruit like bananas tend to be less expensive than grapes or raspberries. If certain items are on sale, I prioritize buying those and stocking up while they are at a good price. This can also be done when it comes to protein. Adding more eggs to your diet or swapping out a steak for a pork chop will positively affect your monthly budget without negatively affecting your health.
Buy frozen instead of fresh. Frozen is usually far more cost effective. There is also good evidence to support frozen produce being more nutrient dense than the "fresh" fruit that is picked prematurely and ripened in transit to the store.
Buy more nutritionally dense foods and/or eat a little less. I have found my kids eat less for lunch when they have a healthy whole wheat bread sandwich instead of one made with nutritionally void white bread. Buying the more expensive heartier goods may end up being close to the same cost because of the reduced amount consumed. You may not need to consume as much food as you think either, and if you’re looking to lose weight this is a win-win solution. I often forego breakfast and/or lunch. (Intermittent fasting)
Spend time comparing prices to find the cheapest ways to get the products you use. Buying in bulk is usually the way to go, and there are many places (including online) to shop around at. Not everything sold at a wholesale club is actually cheaper, so be fully aware of the price per unit to be sure you are spending your money as wisely as possible.
Stop buying pre-packaged snacks. Items like fruit leather rolls and low calorie sodas are huge ad-ons in a budget and are highly unnecessary. Cutting a few of these products will free up your food budget. (Try these no-bake bars for a substitute for pre-packaged granola bars. Or check out these refillable snack pouches.) I do still buy a small quantity of prepackaged snacks for convenience just for my kids. The rule is I only use these snacks when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, I make my own snacks for my kids when I'm home.
Make plans to use up remnants or foods going bad shortly instead of getting to the point you have to discard them. I try not to waste any food. Getting creative with what you have on hand is often necessary. I find myself making small substitutions in recipes just to use ingredients up. (If you have just a little bit of heavy whipping cream left, try modifying the ratios of my two-ingredient strawberry fluff dessert that I created to use up heavy cream that was going bad soon.)
Make more goods at home. While if you add monetary value to the time spent making your own bread, tortillas, yogurt, dressings, granola, and the like, it may not save anything. However, if you find you have time as a homemaker, making things yourself is a good way to save money. (And make healthier foods for your family too!) Start with the easy stuff like Allison's no-knead bread or Mary's homemade pizza dough.) Buying whole ingredients and putting them together yourself saves money.
Live a little. This might sound counterproductive, but in order to not be stressed and uptight, treat yourself from time to time. This might be a frozen dinner or carry out food for relief from making a home cooked meal, or a bag of chocolate covered pretzels or freeze dried strawberries for a no-effort dessert. Yes, these luxuries might be expensive, but rewarding yourself for your efforts goes a long way. Overall, this will help keep you from getting burnt out.
If you set your mind to it, feeding your family healthier foods is possible. Willingness to make changes and making more homemade goods made the biggest impact for me. I hope this article motivates you to try to work better groceries into your budget.