Eating healthy on a budget can seem like an impossible task. Healthier foods do tend to be more expensive than processed foods, but with a few simple changes to how you think about eating and shopping, you can provide healthy meals for your family without going over budget.
What is Your Budget?
One of the first things that you need to do is figure out what your food budget is. You can do this by going back about 3 months in your check register or bank account and figuring out what you are spending on average on groceries and eating out now.
Plan Your Meals and Snacks
Planning your meals ahead of time can help you to lower food costs, and cut down on the amount of food that is wasted in your home. Sit down with the grocery ad or look online to see what is on sale right now that your family likes to eat that you can prepare healthy meals with. By planning out your meals in advance you already know what you need to get at the grocery store, and you are less likely to spend money going out because you don’t have a dinner plan. Planning ahead also gives you a glance of meals for the week so that you can see where substitutions might be made for healthier choices, like using brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice as a side dish for a stir fry, or as a replacement in a casserole.
Make sure that you also plan on what snacks that you would like to have around for yourself and the family this can help prevent quick runs to the convenience store or fast food restaurant that can blow your budget. Keep some healthy, non-perishable snacks in your car or purse like nuts, or protein bars to keep hunger at bay until you get home.
Make Your List
Now that you have your meals planned out it is time to make your grocery list. If you are the type of person who comes home from the grocery store with a lot of items that weren’t on your list, you may want to consider using a grocery pick-up or delivery service. While many of these services have fees, the fee will still generally be less than the unnecessary items that find their way into your cart. This can also be a way to save yourself some time.
Don’t Shop Hungry
Don’t shop for groceries when you are hungry, and this includes ordering your groceries online. There have been countless studies over the years that have proven you are likely to overspend, and not necessarily on healthy choices if you shop when you are hungry. Have a snack or a meal before you head out to the store or sit down to place your order.
Buy Frozen Produce
Fresh produce is great, but it can often be quite expensive especially for produce that might not be currently in season. Frozen vegetables and fruits are a budget-friendly and healthy alternative, and you don’t have to worry about them going bad in your refrigerator or sitting on your counter.
When you are making a casserole, soup, stew, or other meal that you already know is a winner for your family go ahead and make a double recipe or more. Not only can you save some money by purchasing the ingredients in bulk, but you will also have a meal to put away in the freezer. This is an easy and nutritious meal that you can pull out on a busy night, or when you don’t feel like cooking.
Plan for Leftovers
Leftovers from last night’s dinner can become lunch a day or two down the road. You can also re-purpose leftovers into completely different meals. For example, leftover grilled chicken can be placed in a salad or wrapped up in a tortilla for a different meal. Leftover meats and veggies can also be re-purposed into vegetable soup or stew with your favorite seasonings.
These are just a few ways that you can reduce your grocery costs, while still feeding your family healthy foods each day. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be super expensive if you make a plan ahead of time, and stick to your list and budget.