Eating a healthy diet is one of the best things we can do for our body, but it isn’t always affordable. Depending on the availability of ingredients, it may be unrealistic to enjoy the nourishing and varied foods we need. So, what can you do to stretch your budget without resorting to prepackaged dinners or overly processed foods?
The first step to saving money on any groceries, healthy or not, is to plan ahead. You can do this weekly or monthly, though we wouldn’t suggest going further ahead to prevent food waste. Meal prepping allows you to weave in healthy and interesting meals throughout the week so that you don’t get bored of the same things.
Knowing your parameters, resources, and cost-cutting options is a good place to start.
More importantly, planning meals around coupons can reduce the price even further. If you find a good sale on chicken breasts, frozen vegetables, and rice, that can be the basis for several healthy meals throughout the week. A grocery list can even be supplemented by a planned budget, allowing you to know how much money you have to work with that week. Knowing your parameters, resources, and cost-cutting options is a good place to start.
While you’re planning out your meals, it’s beneficial to research the products and recipes you’ll be using. In some cases, it may be more affordable to buy frozen fruits or vegetables since they’re longer lasting than fresh ingredients and can work as healthy side dishes in a pinch. Similarly, if you’re planning to make a recipe, you can see if there are healthier ways to make that dish within your budget.
Just take a little extra time to think about the products you’ll be buying while you’re drawing up your shopping list.
It may also be important to learn different designations that can be placed on food labels at the store. Each label means something different, so knowing what they mean (if they mean anything at all) can help you decide if they’re worth the extra cost. Just take a little extra time to think about the products you’ll be buying while you’re drawing up your shopping list.
We touched on this earlier, but to really stretch your budget for healthy eating, you need to also stretch the ingredients. Now, if there’s a great deal on bulk chicken, you don’t need to have chicken with every meal. That’s a great way to get tired of it really quick. However, you can plan ahead and think of multiple ways to use the same ingredients.
Reusing ingredients all comes down to your creativity and willingness to get the most out of what you have.
Let’s say you buy a whole chicken. You can separate the pieces into breasts, tenders, thighs, wings, and drumsticks, with each portion becoming its own meal. Then, you still have the carcass to make chicken stock for soups or sauces. Even leftovers can be useful to create new and fun meals, like taking leftover mashed potatoes and making gnocchi or leftover beef brisket and making Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. It all comes down to your creativity and willingness to get the most out of your ingredients.
You’d be surprised at how much you can save by buying whole, unprocessed foods. They tend to be cheaper than their counterparts since you’re effectively paying for the convenience. Blocks of cheese tend to cheaper than bags of shredded cheese. The same is true of whole mushrooms (instead of sliced), whole heads of lettuce (compared to prepackaged bagged salads), or whole grains (instead of processed grains like white rice). It may take an extra step to break down whole ingredients, but you’ll likely be save money and get more product in the long run.
While it may not completely cover all of your grocery shopping needs, a garden can supplement your groceries with free, healthy foods. Veggies like beans, potatoes, radishes, and lettuce are all fairly easy to grow for beginner gardeners, and they are delicious and versatile as well. Once you have the hang of it, you can expand into other vegetables or even fruits depending on your climate, skill, and desire.
No matter how you choose to express your green thumb, you’ll be giving yourself healthier ingredients.
If you live in an area where space is an issue, you could try a windowsill garden for smaller vegetables or herbs. Alternatively, you could work with your neighbors to organize a community garden, where everyone pitches in and enjoys the fresh produce. No matter how you choose to express your green thumb, you’ll be giving yourself healthier ingredients.
● ● ●
It’s a shame that so many healthy options in the grocery store have become so expensive. It pushes people toward eating unhealthy foods out of convenience or financial reasons. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be overly expensive though. With the right mindset and a little extra effort, you can have a budget-friendly diet that’s better for you in the long run.