Healthy eating on a budget is easier than it might look.

It’s a common perception that eating healthy is expensive. But that simply isn’t true.

It’s been proven that a convenience food diet costs 24% more than a healthy diet. So yes, you can actually save money by eating healthy.

If you’re looking for quick advice, here’s a few principles for how to eat healthy on a budget:

  • don’t buy packaged convenience foods
  • cook from scratch
  • buy produce, meats, and unprocessed grains.

Need a little more info than that? Perfect. You’re in the right place. It is totally possible to eat healthy on a budget and all you need is a little time and planning to make it happen.

 

Here’s how to eat healthy on a budget

a little background…

It is a fact that many “health” foods are expensive. If you’ve ever looked at kombucha, anything organic, or otherwise healthy or diet related, you know that there’s a price hike associated with it. That’s because people who are investing in their health, even if they’re uneducated about what is healthy, are willing to spend more for those perceived health benefits.

The fact of the matter is, you don’t need to buy those items marketed as healthy. In fact, if your trying to eat healthy on a budget, it’s best not to. Companies make a lot of money selling “healthier” products. Kraft alone has introduced 5,000 “healthier” products since 2005.

You just need to buy the basics: meat and produce. Sure, it’s a bit harder sometimes to get food prepared, but it really isn’t that complicated. A lot of times, the hesitation to start lies in the unknown.

I’ve never made that before.

What if I don’t have any snacks on hand? What will I eat?

What if it takes too long?

First, you won’t starve. Sure, you might be hungry while you’re preparing something since it takes a bit longer than opening up a wrapper, but you won’t starve. It’s assumed that you’ll exercise self-control and refrain from eating something unhealthy.

Second, you’ll find something new to eat. Look up a few ideas, write them down, and tape it to the inside of your cabinet. Instead of reaching for a granola bar, look at your new list of snacks that include fruits and vegetables.

Third, after you make something once, it takes much less effort (and time) to make it again. Why do you usually make the same meals over and over? Because it’s easy, you like it, and you know how to do it. The same goes with healthy eating and preparing healthy recipes. It’s like your normal foods. Once you make something once or twice, it really doesn’t take that much time anymore when compared to your normal routine.

Last, buying meats and fruits and vegetables is much cheaper than pre-packaged foods. Just because a product is labeled, “less fat”, “gluten-free”, “organic” or “natural” does not mean that it’s healthy. Did you know that a lot of those natural brands are actually owned by large corporations?

  • Larabar, Cascadian Farm, and Muir Glen are owned by General Mills.
  • Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, and Gardenburger are owned by Kellogg’s.
  • Boca meatless products, Back to Nature, and South Beach meal replacement bars are owned by Kraft.
  • TAZO and Naked are owned by Pepsi.
  • Honest Tea and Odwalla are owned by the Coca-Cola Company.
  • Dagoba Chocolate is owned by Hershey.

The point is that you don’t need to buy these products to be healthy. You can save money by making your own meals and snacks from meat, produce, and minimally processed ingredients.

What we’re doing is removing an excuse for you to say that eating healthy is too expensive. It really isn’t. It just requires a little planning and a little effort.

So here’s really how to eat healthy on a budget

applicable steps included…

1. Take a look at the coupons and deals. Are tomatoes, zucchini, chicken thighs, and stew meat on sale? Think about how you can make a few meals around sale items.

Grocery deals usually come out on Tuesday and are effective Wednesday through the following Tuesday. There’s also a few apps you can use to get discounts or credits.

2. Plan out your meals for the week. The less you go to the grocery store, the less you’ll spend. Write out your meals, all the ingredients you need (make sure to examine what you have first!) and any items you’ll need for snacks.

When it comes to deciding what you’ll make versus buy, convenience foods and snack items are usually where you’ll save the most money. An 18ct pack of Larabars at Costco is around $16. If you buy them in smaller quantities or per bar, you’re spending $1.25 per bar. However if you make them, it’ll only cost you between $.37-$.59 per bar. Your savings adds up quickly. This blogger saved over $400 a year when she started making homemade Larabars rather than buying them.

As a general rule, the more food you prepare at home, the more money you’ll save. Sure, you’ll save money by making your own tortillas instead of buying them, but is $1.79 worth it?

3. Double check your calendar. Have any commitments? Need to provide snacks? Going out on Friday? Factor all these events  in to your shopping list.

4. Shop smart. When you’re at the store, choose generic items when you can. They’re often cheaper than name brand, yet are manufactured and white-labeled by name brand factories.

Examine the price per ounce section of the tag. When it’s something that you use a lot of (flour, milk, nuts, frozen chicken etc) get the item that’s cheaper. If it’s a one-time purchase for a recipe, like chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, you don’t need to spend more money to get the cheaper cost per ounce. You probably won’t use it unless it’s for the recipe anyways, so choose the lower absolute price.

5. Prepare. When you get home, it’s helpful to chop up your vegetables, make your snacks and do any other preparations that will save you time during the week.

If you’re beat after grocery shopping on a Monday night, split up your tasks through the week. If you’re chopping bell pepper for your dinner on Tuesday, why not cut up the zucchini, onion, tomatoes and cucumber for Wednesday and Thursday’s meals? Little efficiencies such as these lower the obstacles to preparing dinner, making it easier on you.

 

Discuss:

How do you save money on your food bill?

What expensive items do you buy? What do you make from scratch?

 

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