It takes a bit of thoughtful planning, but the good news is that eating healthy on a budget is eminently achievable and totally worth it, for your health and for your pocketbook. Keep reading to see how.
Budget for Groceries
- Decide in advance how much you’ll spend on groceries; make a list and then stick to it like glue.
- Most professional budget planners recommend allowing somewhere between 10-15% of your entire budget for groceries, depending on the size of your family and other factors.
- Compare this against what you typically spend to get a realistic starting point, and then see where you can cut back if need be.
- Keep in mind that this number will vary on occasion due to things like guests, vacations, and holidays. Just remember if this figure changes, you will need to adjust an amount in another category to even things out.
- Decide beforehand that you will stick to your list, no matter what. To avoid additional temptation, arrange your list according to aisle contents. This will keep you on course and avoid zigzagging, one of the best ways to get sidetracked and “notice”
- Keep your grocery budget separate from eating out. Create a separate category in your budget for restaurants. Consider eating out as an occasional treat, or even as a reward for sticking to your budget. You will save money and enjoy it more when you do eat out.
Plan Your Meals
- Take inventory of your refrigerator and pantry to see what you have on hand. Match that up with some recipes that come close and make a list of any missing ingredients.
- You will also want to see what’s on sale locally as part of your planning strategy.
- Keep it simple, you may get overwhelmed if you try to make several complicated meals. Stick to meals you know you and your family enjoy, and that are reasonably quick and easy to prepare. There is nothing wrong with soup and salad, or a crockpot meal with healthy ingredients.
Planning is key! Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Shop Sales and Discounts
Use coupons, apps, and sales ads.
- Coupons are often still available in paper form, but also online in many instances with grocery store apps. Make sure you don’t get something just because you have a coupon. Oftentimes it may not be part of your meal plan, and it may still not be as good a deal as the generic equivalent.
- Check out sales ads from stores at which you may not typically shop, when it comes to saving habits aren’t always a good thing. Ask friends where they shop and how they consider their store’s prices. This one can get a little tricky because stores tend to change their pricing periodically, but since you’re planning your list for the week to come, it is often easier to compare prices.
One category to watch is the fresh veggies and fruits section. You can easily out swap something you had in mind if something else is on sale, and it won’t totally alter the meal.
You may also be able to save money buying certain products online. For example, if you’re a salad fanatic who loves blue cheese dressing (and who doesn’t), you may find better deals shopping the web for these products with longer shelf lives.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can be tempting and cost-effective, but isn’t always the best choice. Consider first:
- Is the price per ounce cheaper?
- Will I really use it all?
- Do I have space to store it?
- Can I eat it before it goes bad?
There’s no point in buying a whole lot of something to save a few dollars if it is going to go to waste, or if you don’t have the room to store it. But if it’s something you use often, it can be a great money saver.
Grocery stores are making it easier for consumers to buy their groceries online, saving you time, money, and preventing possible impulse buying.
You will then have the option of picking up your order, or having it delivered to your home. Not all stores charge for their delivery service, but even if they do, compare the time and money spent on gas for you to shop and bring it home yourself. You may be surprised.
It’s also much easier to track your spending when putting items into your online cart from the comfort of your home, adjusting items as necessary to hit your target budget.
Avoid name brands that may be unnecessarily expensive. Consider their generic equivalent, as many times the only difference is in the marketing design of the product.
You don’t have to give up your all favorite name brands if there’s something you really like, but it is worth trying the generic equivalent if it will save you money.
A note about organic food: Unless your dietary needs require it, don’t worry about getting everything labeled organic; just watch out for the “Dirty Dozen” non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Don’t Shop Hungry
Remember the Golden Rule for grocery shopping: Never shop for groceries when hungry. That is unquestionably the worst time to shop for food, as it leads to impulse buying. Cravings for sweet and salty are especially likely to come out when you’re hungry, and can easily derail your best intentions.
A great idea is to have a healthy snack before leaving for the store. You won’t be as likely to give in to temptation if you’re not hungry, and you can instead stick to your list.
Eat Your Leftovers
- Make extra of a meal so you can either enjoy the leftovers the following day, or freeze them for another quick and healthy meal in the future.
- Add the leftovers to tomorrow’s dish. For example, leftover vegetables can become part of tomorrow’s stir-fry, be added to a soup, or served over a bed of rice.
- Portion leftovers into reusable containers to supply lunches.
Having healthy, tasty food on hand will not only keep your budget on target, but it will also free up your time.
You can enjoy healthy eating, even on a budget. Get into the habit of planning the following week’s menu, shop accordingly, and stay strong.