Eating healthy can seem impossible, especially when you are on a tight budget. But with these 6 easy ways, there’s no reason why you can’t eat food that is good for you and your wallet too.
YES, YOU CAN EAT HEALTHY WHILE ON A STRICT BUDGET
Eating healthy can seem impossible, especially when you are on a tight budget, but it doesn’t have to be. It is important to know what goes into the food you eat. Everything from the ingredients in the dish to how the items were prepared is essential information if you are trying to eat a well-balanced diet.
There is only one way to be certain of all of this: you need to cook your food!. I know it is so much easier to call or even go online and pick a delicious meal to have delivered right to your door, but this isn’t doing your body or your wallet any favors.
Cooking your food is an essential step towards eating healthy on a strict budget because:
- You can make multiple meals for the price of one
- You know everything that goes into your food
- If you shop locally, you can know exactly how your food was grown
- You will waste less food and save more money
Try any of these 6 easy ways to eat healthy on a strict budget, and you’ll never want to eat fast food again.
1 – Shop multiple stores to stretch your budget
While it can seem convenient to just go to a superstore like Wal-Mart and buy everything you need in one place, this habit can weigh down your wallet and you may not even know it. What is cheaper at one store might be more expensive at other stores. Chances are you have several different grocery shopping choices within a few miles of your home, you just have to make the most of them.
Different grocery stores have sales and get their items restocked on certain days. Take some time now to scout out your local grocery stores and get a feel for what’s going on throughout the week. Better to buy fresh bread on Tuesday that will last you well into next week than to buy bread on Monday that is going to be hard and stale in a couple of days.
Also, let’s take a minute to talk about the grocery store, Aldi. If you haven’t been to Aldi before, you are missing out hardcore. A 16oz bundle of strawberries at Aldi cost about $1.79, or you can go to Wal-Mart and spend about $2.98 on the same stuff. Shoppers found that including Aldi in their grocery shopping routine can save them up to 50% on their basic weekly shopping.
2 – Plan your meals to save time and money
Don’t wait until its 5:30 pm when you get home from work or school to start thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner. That’s when the enticingly convenient burgers from the Wendy’s drive-thru start to call your name. We may intend to make healthy choices, but when you’re hungry after a long day the last thing you feel like doing is running to the store to pick up some fresh veggies.
Instead, take an hour out of your week to sit down and think about what you’re going to be eating. Make a grocery list to plan what you are going to cook, and what you are going to need to make it. That way you can do all your pre-meal shopping beforehand and have all your ingredients ready to go in your home.
After a few weeks of doing this, you’ll never know how you functioned any other way. It’s nice during the week when you can turn your brain on auto-pilot when it comes to your food.
You can even pre-make several of your meals to make things even easier for you. You might even become a morning person when you don’t have to deal with the stress of frantically putting together things to eat throughout the day.
3 – Eat your leftovers to save more time and more money
How many times have you made a lovely meal and took out the time to put the food away in containers only to have it all sit in the back of the fridge for days … or weeks? And who can forget that fateful day when you open those containers and can’t even tell what you made because everything is covered in a layer of interestingly colored fuzz. It is estimated that 53% of American households throw away leftovers every week.
Sometimes I think we forget that if we eat our leftovers, that means we don’t have to cook because we already did! Keep your leftovers front and center on the top shelf of your fridge so they aren’t forgotten. You will be more likely to go for last night’s stir-fry if you don’t have to dig around searching for it.
Making an effort to eat your leftovers will not only save you time, it will save you some big bucks in the long run. According to the American Chemistry Council, each American household throws away $640 of food a year. You could probably gas up your car every week for months with that kind of money.
I don’t know about you but my Tupperware cabinet always looks like a tornado just blew through it. If I take out the time to journey through all of that it’s not going to be for nothing, especially when more than half a grand is on the line.
4 – Organize your shopping to fit your budget
Don’t just throw stuff in your cart and go, that’s how indulgent purchases tossed in your cart on a whim rack up your grocery bill. Carts at grocery stores are usually giant to trick you into buying more so you fill up your cart. Instead, use this gimmick to your advantage and section off specific areas for your different groceries. About 51% of American households throw away food they bought but never used. You can avoid this by knowing what you’re buying and when you plan to use it so nothing goes to waste.
Try organizing your cart like this: items that are must-haves like bread, milk, or eggs go in one section. Items that are ingredients for meals you plan to make go in another group. Items you think you might use but didn’t write down on your shopping list, go to another part. Finally, items that you just want, like that jar of Nutella, go in another section.
Once you’ve done all your shopping, go through your cart before you check out at the register. From there you can pick and choose what you will actually use and what will go bad sitting unused inside your fridge. Will you actually eat the fancy goat cheese you picked up or were you just feeling impulsive? Can you buy the Nutella and have enough for the onions you planned on using to make soup later in the week? If not, try to hold back your tears as you say goodbye to the Nutella.
5 – Use coupons to save hundreds of dollars a year
Often, it seems as if coupons get a bad rep, like using them is a shameful secret we need to hide from the world. In reality, a lot of wealthy people use coupons themselves, because saving a little money here, and a little money there, adds up in the grand scheme of things. Famous and undoubtedly rich actress Sarah Michelle Gellar said she uses coupons because “why should you pay more for something that someone else is paying less for?”
It’s literally free money. Spend a few minutes and browse through the coupons in your local paper. I guarantee you will find at least two things you need.
You don’t have to be on the kind of crazy TLC Extreme Couponing level, but if you make a habit of looking through coupon offers, you could probably save at least $5 a grocery trip. While this might not seem like a lot, a $5 savings on groceries every week is a total of $260 dollars saved every year. Again, that would be $260 of free money, because you were buying stuff you were going to get anyway.
You don’t even always need a coupon with you to get the bargain. Sometimes cashiers have a big book of coupons behind the counter, and if you simply ask if there are any offers that apply to your purchase, they can scan their coupon and give you the deal.
6 – Shop locally to help your budget, your health, and your community
Shopping locally is always a good thing because it helps the community you live in. When you shop local something called the “local multiplier effect” occurs. What happens is for every dollar you spend at a local independent merchant, like a farmer’s market, an average of $2-3.5 will go back into your local economy. That money will go on to improve your local streets, parks, events, and more. Comparatively, when you shop at a big chain like Wal-Mart, the only people who see the profits are the business headquarters in Arkansas.
When you shop locally you can have a real conversation about your food with the actual person who grew or made it. You can ask them how your food was harvested, if any chemicals or pesticides were near the growing area, what kind of soil or environment the food was planted in, and you can even ask them which specific day your food was picked, so you know exactly how fresh it is.
Also, local businesses set their own prices, which means there might be some wiggle room. Instead of getting 5 carrots, perhaps you can buy two carrots, two apples, and an onion for the same price. If you tried to do that at Wal-Mart the cashier would probably look at you like you were crazy.
It’s easy, it’s simple, and you can do it. Your body and your wallet will thank you later.