[The following is a guest post by No Debt MBA, who is trying to pay for a top-5 business school education in cash and has a tiny grocery budget to get there]
9 Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, though many news outlets tout it to be so. Our grocery budget for two is $25 a week and we eat meals packed with produce and protein.
Here are nine tactics to cut your grocery bill without compromising your diet:
Eat Healthy On A Budget By Buying In Season
For produce nothing beats vegetables or fruit fresh off the farm. Not only do they taste better, meaning you’re more likely to actually eat them, but in season produce also tends to be significantly cheaper.
Sometimes you have to compare apples and oranges. If you want to increase the amount of produce in your diet or reduce the cost you might want to look at swaps you can make to reduce your bill. For example, it’s going to be cheaper to put strawberries or, more so, bananas on your cereal than blueberries. If you’re going to cook with them, go with whole carrots instead of baby.
Try kale instead of baby spinach. Make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your produce buck. Similarly, consider going generic for your pantry goods. Do a blind taste test and I bet you won’t notice the difference. If you are able to replace many of your expensive brand-name items with generics, you will be able to save at the supermarket!
Find An Affordable Place To Shop
We noticed that the cost of a can of beans varied by more than 50% in our area and yogurt 30% depending on the store you went to. Think about what your grocery shopping staples are (particularly the healthy ones) and comparison shop stores in your area. I’m betting you’ll find a winner.
Meat is expensive and high-quality, organic meat even more so. Beans, however, are one of the best foods for you, dirt cheap and a great source of protein.
Cook From Scratch
Many prepackaged foods are consistently high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium, things that taste great but may not always be the healthiest choices. By making your own meals, from scratch you can control exactly what goes into your food and make better decisions about what you eat.
Cooking from scratch is also a lot cheaper than buying pre-made. Our dinners average around $1 per person. Also, avoid those bagged veggie mixes, the ones with tiny broccoli or cauliflower crowns mixed with baby carrots, or any pre sliced or diced produce that costs more (mushrooms seem to be the one exception). How much time does that actually save you and is it worth paying twice as much?
Make Your Own Dressing Or Sauce
I am consistently amazed at how much prepackaged seasonings, sauces and the like cost at the store. Plus, most of the ingredients you need to make a good salad dressing or sauce store well so there’s no harm in buying in bulk if you’ll use it.
These can also be hidden sources of sodium and fat, just like prepackaged foods. get some basic ingredients like olive oil and vinegar, mix with spices and start making your own.
If you’re looking for specialty foods or live in a very high cost of living area like New York City you may have some luck looking for groceries online if you buy in bulk and look for free shipping offers. The internet is also an amazing resource for recipes and cooking techniques.
Focus on the ingredients you have on hand and adapt the recipe instead of buying ingredients for a recipe to get the cheapest results.
Find A Local Source
From organic produce to free-range meat, you may be able to find what you need from a local farmer or market particularly if you live in a more rural or mild climate. Community supported agriculture (CSA) shares can help you get a variety of produce, usually organic, for a reasonable price.
Some even offer non-produce items like eggs, cheese, bread and meat. You-pick farms can also be a great source of produce on the cheap.
Start A Garden
A garden is a lot of work, but if you find you enjoy gardening it can be a great way to get the vegetables you want at a great price. You could also plant a fruit tree which would likely only need maintenance a few times a year to produce a bumper crop of fruit.
We use these tricks and more to keep our grocery budget super low. By trying a few new things from this list you should be able to cut your budget in a way that fits your lifestyle and diet.
[Fat Guy Here: This is another reason why I can’t wait to get back on our meal plan! It will be great to save money and lose weight once again.]
photo by Boaz Yiftach
What’s your biggest healthy eating expense?
What are your tricks for stretching your budget to buy healthier foods?
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