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Most of us are aware of the benefits of eating healthy and eating less processed foods.
However, many people avoid eating healthier foods including organic items and fresh produce with the excuse that it’s too expensive.
I have a secret- it doesn’t have to be!
Eating healthy on a budget can be done with some simple hacks!
Eating Healthy On a Budget
Regardless of which dietary practice you follow, the common guidelines are to eat more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and less processed foods.
Organic and items labeled as “healthy” can cost more, but they don’t have to.
Follow along with these tips, and learn how to get started eating healthy on a budget.
Cook More at Home
The first way to save money is to cook more at home. It is almost always less expensive to buy ingredients and prepare food yourself as opposed to eating out.
Also, pre-made meals tend to cost much more than purchasing the items separately and cooking for yourself.
Set aside some time to meal prep each week and try cooking at home. If you’re new to meal prepping, try these tips to get started.
Plan out a few meals each week and see how much money you can save in your budget.
Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry
Never go to the grocery store hungry! Try to go in the morning and after you have eaten a meal.
Cravings are commonly lower in the morning. Your energy level is usually
If you shop hungry, you will be much more likely to make impulse buys and end up with processed foods and junk food that you didn’t need.
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Meal planning is one of the best ways to save money each week. Dedicate about 30 minutes once a week to plan out what you’ll eat for the upcoming week.
Make a grocery list of what you will need and stick to it.
When you go to the grocery store with a plan, you’re more likely to only buy what you need.
You’ll save money and have much less wasted food each week. For more information on getting started meal planning, read this article.
Take Inventory Before You Shop
How many times have you come home from the grocery store only to find that you already had something in your pantry?
Avoid this unnecessary spending by taking inventory prior to shopping. Review your shopping list and make sure you don’t already have any ingredients before you hit the store.
Buy What’s On Sale
Although I just mentioned sticking to a meal plan, it’s important to allow for some flexibility in your weekly shopping.
For example, if you’re planning to make smoothies or eat yogurt with berries, grab whichever produce is on sale.
Even if your recipe called for raspberries, it’s okay to grab blueberries instead if they’re on sale this week.
If there are certain ingredients you always keep on hand, such as garbanzo beans, pasta, oils, etc, stock up when it’s on sale.
This will save you money in the long run.
For more tips of essential clean eating ingredients to keep on hand, grab my free printable below.
These ingredients will help you stay organized, eat healthy, and cook more at home.
Eat Less Meat
Organic or regular meat is expensive. A pound of chicken breasts typically ranges from $4-10 depending on where you shop
Garbanzo beans, black beans, or even tofu are only a fraction of the cost. You don’t have to go completely vegan, but try to skip meat when you can.
Skipping meat doesn’t mean you’ll go hungry. Instead, try some plant-based protein options to keep you full and satisfied.
Shop What’s In Season
When you’re buying fresh produce, try to stick with produce that is currently in season.
During the summertime, you’ll find lots of sales on berries, cucumbers, lettuce, squash, and other local produce.
During the fall, apples, squash, kale, and brussels sprouts are usually less expensive.
Depending on where you live, the seasonal produce will vary slightly. Learn what is in season and adapt your shopping around that.
If you have any extras, you can freeze it for the wintertime when there are not as many in-season options.
Buy Frozen Vegetables
During the winter when most vegetables are not in season, stock up on frozen vegetables. These are so easy to add to soups, curries, pasta, or any cooked meal.
Buy in bulk and just use a cup or two at a time.
This will save you a lot of money on produce and virtually eliminates waste since what you don’t use at the time will keep in the freezer until you are ready for it.
Join a CSA
CSA’s (Community-Supported Agriculture) are available in many cities across the country and becoming more popular. If you are not familiar with them, CSAs are partnerships with local farms in which you receive in-season produce all season long.
Typically you sign up at the beginning of the season and receive deliveries once per week.
These programs provide you with fresh local produce at a discounted price. Also, they force you to try new vegetables and eat more produce.
Additionally, when you join a CSA you are supporting your local economy. This is a win-win for all.
Learn When to Eat Organic and When Not To
In an ideal world, everything we eat would be organic, non-GMO, and healthy. However, when we are sticking to a budget, we have to somehow make choices.
My favorite resource for deciding what should be organic and what does not need to be is the EWG’s Dirty Dozen/ Clean 15 list.
The Dirty Dozen reviews the “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables. The produce items on this list have the highest concentration of harmful pesticides. These are the items that you definitely will want to purchase organic if possible.
Alternatively, The Clean Fifteen items are foods that do not need to be organic. Most items on this list have a thick outer layer and therefore don’t absorb pesticides as easily. These include avocados, melons, or pineapple.
Review these lists and save some money on regular produce for items on the Clean Fifteen List.
Buy and Cook In Bulk
Although this might get boring, if you’re truly sticking to a budget, try to cook in bulk.
This way you’ll be buying fewer unique ingredients and using everything you buy.
For example, it’s less expensive to buy one large package of quinoa or rice and use it multiple times than buy pasta, quinoa, rice, and potatoes.
While you’re making your weekly meal plan, plan to make extras for lunches or reuse ingredients when possible.
Also, buy in bulk when possible to save extra money. Typically, larger packages cost less than single servings or smaller packages.
Value Your Health
I am aware that many families do not have extra spending money each month.
However, I frequently see people who say they cannot afford to eat healthy, but spend a lot on clothes and shoes regularly.
Clothes come and go, but we only get one body.
It is important to prioritize your health and pay attention to what you are fueling your body with.
It may not be as fun to spend money on produce instead of new gadgets, but it is worthwhile.
The more you invest in your health now, the less you will need to spend on medications or hospital bills in the future!
If you are ready to take control of your health, start with these tips on clean eating for beginners.
You are worth the time and investment. No matter where your starting point is, change is possible, and you can live a healthier life.
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