Eating Healthy on a Budget
I'll start right off by giving it to you straight: it can be expensive eating healthy foods. However, there really are ways it can be done without hurting TOO much.
Here are 12 suggestions for eating healthy on a budget:
- Figure out what your family eats the most of and start with that. For us a big one used to be peanut butter, so I went to all organic. (These days it's much easier because the organic peanut butters are awesome – smooth and yummy, but when I began eating healthier they were all still that hard stuff that you broke your arm trying to stir it before you could get a knife in. I still got my kids to eat it, but it wasn't easy. I had to start by sneaking half a jar of the healthy peanut butter into half a jar of the nasty stuff that still had trans fats in it.) Slowly start adding other products as you can. I just look around and if there’s an organic, local, or from-the-farm alternative to something we eat a lot of, I start getting it.
- Remember, often food from a local farm is cheaper than the grocery store. Anytime we can decrease the distance and the number of steps from the food source to our table, this not only is more beneficial for our bodies and for our environment, it is often easier on the checkbook, too.
- Keep in mind you can only do what you can do. Try to make the best choices whenever you can, but if you can't afford all organic or to go totally natural, just make it a goal to add more when the budget allows. There's still a lot we could/”should” be doing at our house too, but it isn't always feasible. For example, I do try to use organic as much as possible (local organic is best) – especially if I'm looking at an item with an ingredient label that has high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, MSG, or other long words listed that I have no idea what they are – this usually means it has some funky chemicals/preservatives in it. But sometimes you'll see a non-organic ingredient list that isn't TOO long or TOO full of junk. So if it is an item with an organic version that is much more expensive, I'll go with the non-organic one to save money. Just don't beat yourself up over it, do the best you can and make the best choices with what you've got.
- Remember that you will be saving money on the junk you won't be buying anymore! This is huge when you think about how much “sugar bomb” boxed cereals cost, how quickly you can burn through money on eating out/fast food and how much other packaged/processed/junk foods are!
- Plant a garden. We spend a LOT of money at our farm market every Saturday in the summer. Eventually we'll plant a garden. My brother, Doug, insists it is very easy, very cheap, doesn't take much time (until it's time to can, freeze or do something with all the leftover veggies at the end of the season!), and he loves how good it feels to be self-sufficient in that way and how delicious everything is. He also was able to grow it all organically! (He gave me some cherry tomatoes that I made some yummy pizza sauce with last summer – and my kids were popping them like candy, they were so sweet. There's nothing like the taste of veggies that haven't traveled thousands of miles to get to you, that were grown in healthy soil, and when you know who grew them and when they were picked.)
- Buy in bulk when you can through a local buying club (ask at your health food store where to find one) or an Amish store or other bulk foods store. (I go in with friends and we'll split boxes of various foods that we wouldn't go through a whole case of.) Be careful though, for some things Meijer (a local grocery store) is still cheaper than the buying club, it's great how they're getting more and more organics – see the note on this in the next paragraph though.
- Buy whatever organics you can find at Sam's Club or Costco. They are hit and miss on items, but have GREAT deals when you can find them. I'm sure some of their organics are probably not as high quality as others (there IS a difference – this applies to the Meijer organic brands or other store brands too), and if money weren't an issue, I'd get ALL of the best stuff, but that's not the case!
- If at all possible, don't skimp on meats. (But you could make a more budget-friendly meatless meal now and then — here are some great meatless/vegetarian meal ideas.) This is one thing that is very tempting to buy cheap because it is so costly, but personally, that's something we don't do, unless we're buying ribeyes or something very expensive (and we very rarely buy those type of cuts anyway – only for special occasions.) Here's more on why it's so important, what to look for: see this movie on conventional meats. Here's a good source for safe meat if you don't have a good local source.
- Do some meal planning/make detailed grocery lists. Try to sit down once every couple weeks and get a general idea/plan for what you'll be making for meals, then make a detailed grocery list. The less I go to the store, the less I spend, and if I have a good list, it really does cut down on the impulse buys. (My mind is so “list driven” that I rarely stray off of it!) Here is the BEST, easiest, and most affordable meal planning program.
- Keep your kitchen well-stocked. I'm a freak about always having extra of almost everything on hand, that way I don't have to do last minute trips to the store, then spend more money. Also, I'm not this anal with every SINGLE thing in my life (most things, but not all!), but I also keep a “freezer inventory” list on the frig telling what I currently have on hand. This is great when I'm trying to figure out what to make for dinner, or so I can see when we'll need to make another meat run to the farm.
- Make your own healthy bread. You can save a lot this way.
No matter how you're able to incorporate healthier eating habits into your home, just that you're thinking about these things shows your much further along in your journey toward good health than most people. I hope you'll keep reading for more tips as new posts are added!
If you have more tips for eating healthy on a budget, share with us in the comments!
More you might like:
- Read this article from Anne, Eating Healthy Shouldn't Cost You An Arm & A Leg
- Another article on eating healthy less expensively
- How to vacation for FREE!
- Dieting/my “food conversion”
- Easy Meatless/Vegetarian/Lenten Meal Ideas
- A label can say “trans fat free” and still have plenty in there!
- Stew recipe with info on adapting recipes, on no-flavor coconut oil, and where to get good quality meats or other healthy local foods.
- Excellent Popcorn recipe – it blows microwaved popcorn away!
- Eating healthy, without sacrifices