A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about organic shopping for beginners. The thing is, eating whole, organic, fresh foods CAN get pretty pricey. Right now, unhealthy foods are heavily subsidized, and this creates an incentive to buy them. But we all know that this has long-term side effects, including higher health-care costs and a lower quality of life. So this week I want to share some tips with you on how to maximize your pocketbook and your health. You don’t have to give up one to have the other!
1. Shop for food rather than eating out
I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it deserves to go first. A lot of people spend $15 a day between coffee/breakfast and lunch at work, and this amounts to $75 in 5 days. There is a lot you can buy with that $75 that would cover you for the entire week!
2. Buy in bulk
This is especially viable for things like grains, legumes, and frozen foods. When you buy more, you get a better deal, and always have food on hand to cook with. Some healthy grains to add to your shopping list are quinoa, amaranth, kasha/buckwheat, and millet. They’re incredibly versatile, full of nutrients, and cheap!
3. Cook once, eat twice
Speaking of bulk grains, cooking in bulk is also a great habit to get into. Cook one pot of quinoa and use it for dinner, a breakfast cereal, and lunch the next day! You’ll cut down on food waste (how often have we all thrown out containers of plain rice?!), and all three of your meals will be inexpensive, easy to make, and nutritious.
4. Cut your own veggies
Another good tip is to get into the habit of chopping up your own fruits and veggies to have on hand. I find that especially my own generation loves the convenience of pre-cut fruits and veggies, but we don’t realize how much more we’re spending on them! A small container of pre-cut fruit can run you $7, whereas you can buy a few pounds of bulk fruit for the same amount. My advice is to buy in season and then freeze them for smoothies and other goodies throughout the year.
5. Embrace frozen veggies
While not necessarily ideal, this is a good way to still get veggies into your meal on the cheap. Just make sure the only ingredient is the vegetable itself (no salt, oils, fillers, etc). They’re easy to use in a pinch, and tend to be less expensive than their fresh counterparts.
6. Use the dirty dozen and clean fifteen
When it comes to produce, I love the fresh, organic stuff. Again, use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen cheat sheet to know when to buy organic and when it’s okay to go conventional. This is a great way to get your greens in without blowing your budget on ALL the organic foods.
7. Do the math
Sometimes we start to think “Oh man! Organic eggs are $5 for a dozen? Back in my day, they were $1!” I get it. But at the end of the day, it’s $4, and it means you’ll have a healthy breakfast all week. I’d rather give up one latte so I can have a good, nutritious meal each morning. Give up two lattes, and you can have organic spinach in your eggs all week too!
8. Save on beverages
Speaking of coffee, one pound should run you less than $10 at the grocery store. This will last weeks (if not months), so compared to paying $5 a cup at the cafe, it makes way more sense! Don’t get me wrong, I love the experience of buying a hot latte and sitting down to work, chat, or people watch, but I make it a special occasion. To save money on the regular I make my coffee and tea at home. Other beverages to drink at home include water (invest in a good filter rather than continuing to buy bottled water), and fruit and vegetable juices. There’s so much you can do with a blender or juicer!
9. Watch for sales
This is of course one of the easiest ways to save money on groceries. Check the catalogue, know when your favourite healthy items go on sale, and plan accordingly. Most products offer sales regularly so that they can attract new buyers, so take advantage of this. Stock up on your staples when they’re in season and/or offered at a discounted price. (This counts for using coupons too!)
10. Plan ahead
Probably the biggest tip I can give you is to plan ahead. My downfall has always been going too long without eating, and then just buying/eating everything in sight. This is terrible for your digestion, blood sugar, and wallet! I find that the best day to do a big grocery shop is on Sunday. It gives you time to cut up your fruits and vegetables, cook and prep meals for the week, and plan our healthy snacks to have on hand. Yes, being healthy on a budget may take a bit more planning, but once it becomes a habit, you won't have to worry about it anymore! You'll be healthy with a few extra dollars in your account before you know it.
What are some ways that you balance health and budget? I would love to hear in the comments below!