I used to be like a lot of you – saying the only way I could afford to feed my family was to feed them the cheap, processed foods that unfortunately are always cheaper than fresh fruits, veggies, and lean meats. I still complain that it’s ridiculous that a double cheeseburger at the local burger joint is $1, yet a salad is $5. When you have 4-6 people to feed, you are most likely going to opt for the cheaper option (I am guilty as well!)
I started to do some research, and I have found some great ways to eat healthy on a budget. I am not going to tell you it’s cheaper than eating the processed, canned, frozen stuff. However, I have found ways to keep my cost down, and keep their bellies filled – on a budget.
- Buy from Local Farmer’s Market – Though They aren’t always cheaper, (but I have noticed most of the time they are) you get tastier & better quality food and they often give you free stuff when you buy a lot. Also, if you set up a weekly or monthly order, most farmer’s will give you a discount. Get to know your local markets, and form a relationship! You’d be surprised what they’ll do for their ‘regular’ customers.
- Buy Discounted Meat. Grocery stores often discount meats by up to 70% as they approach expiration date (I have noticed that Thursday/Friday evenings seem to be the favorite ‘mark down’ evenings). Buy several pounds and store in your freezer – or cook them up and make freezer meals (these work great for freezer crockpot meals!)
- Buy In Season Fruits & Veggies. Food grown in season tastes better and is cheaper. Root vegetables in the Winter. Apples & squash in the Fall. Broccoli & berries in the Summer. You get the picture. When you find a good deal – stock up. Can or freeze what you can for later, when the produce is more expensive because it’s not in season.
- Buy in Bulk. Especially when things are on sale! Foods like pasta, rice and oats are easy to stockpile. If they’re on sale, buy as much as you can afford & store to last you until the next sale. (Even if you aren’t much of a ‘couponer’ check for coupons when you see these types of items on sale – you can buy more to stockpile!)
- Buy Generic Items. Especially store brands. Raw foods like rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, frozen fruits/veggies taste like brand name foods (and some actually are the same as ‘named brand foods, they just switch the packaging!).
- Grow What You Can. Growing some basics like lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, even watermelon, grapes, etc. Seeds and a little tender loving care will save you quite a bit in the long run!
- Shop Aldi. I will confess, when I was a kid I wasn’t a big fan of Aldi. I always thought it was generic, processed no good stuff. (Hey, I was a teenager!) As I got older and started buying my own groceries I realized how awesome Aldi was, and how much the store helped me stay on budget! Over the years Aldi has actually became my go to store for organic and ‘healthy’ foods. I can get a cart full of groceries (see picture above) for under $100. Recently I purchased bottled water for $1.99 for a case, and 99 cents for a carton of strawberries!”.
- Avoid Impulse Buying. “Failing to plan is planning to fail” – I use that quote when talking to my clients about life insurance. It applies to a lot of different aspects in life. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to prepare yourself before you do the grocery. Make a list, and STICK to it. Plan your meals ahead, including portion size. List all foods you need for the next 7 to 14 days. Go the grocery store, get what’s on your list and get out. Always make sure you eat before you go to the grocery, this prevents buying foods not on your list because you’re hungry. Leave your kids (or your husband) at home whenever possible. Kids & husbands have a tendency to throw a lot of extra unneeded items in the grocery cart that wasn’t on the list – or in your budget!
- Check the Unit Price. But also how the big the servings are. Big packages are often, but not always cheaper than small ones. Sometimes 2 small boxes are cheaper than 1 big one although there’s more packaging.