Being on a budget doesn't mean you have to compromise your health. I will never cut corners when it comes to being healthy, however, I've got a few tips and tricks up my sleeve that helps me keep my health and my money!
There is a lot to consider when preparing to head to the grocery store. Below you'll find the steps to help you become more efficient in your efforts to eat healthy and save money at the store!
First and foremost, you must understand that meal planning will most certainly have to take place. If you don't currently do this, I'd suggest reading this post on Meal Planning and downloading my free meal planner and grocery list PDF!
Before you go start planning your meals, there's a few things you should consider...
Make sure to check your pantry before you begin. Ideally, you want to use up whatever is left over from the previous week. If you have a lot of rice, quinoa, etc.. search for recipes that use those ingredients and incorporate them into the upcoming week's meals. I always start here.... the simple and easiest way to get your grocery bill down is by simply not having to buy as much!
BUY IN SEASON
When shopping for produce, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season (make sure to include this into your meal plan). Fruits and vegetables in season contain more of their nutrients, are more fresh and cheaper than fruits and vegetables not in season (due to their availability and the environment at which they grow in). There's really no reason why you shouldn't focus on seasonal foods! If you're unsure of what foods are in season simply search google and you'll get a plethora of answers!
Left overs should become your best friend.
- Cook in bulk- make enough of a specific recipe to eat for lunch all week long. Last week I enjoyed this Citrus Summer Salad Monday-Friday!
- Make enough servings at dinner to stretch it out to another nights' meal. My current favorite meal is this Healthy Pesto Pizza that I made last week. I made a double batch and have the other wrapped up in the freezer for an easy dinner night for this week! One less meal I have to buy and prepare for!
Meats are expensive. Like really expensive. Not to mention, meats should be bought grass-fed, cage-free, all natural, no added hormones or antibiotics, wild caught, etc. So be choosey.
- Chicken, pork and turkey tend to be cheaper than most red meat.
- Buy your fish frozen.
- Buy in bulk and freeze the remaining to use for the following week.
- Don't make meat the star of the show... (there are plenty of tasty side dishes you can make and other ways to add protein to your diet!)
- Also, while I do suggest getting protein at every meal, it doesn't necessarily have to come from meat! Get creative!
Double and triple check your calendar to avoid wasting food. If you have a dinner party to attend on Thursday, no need for planning a meal that night! There's nothing worse than planning out your meals only to throw away half of the ingredients because you ended up going out to eat instead.
Now that you know a few basics to keep in mind while planning out your week, it's time to.... MEAL PLAN!
This is by far the most important and also most time consuming. If you want a more details post on this.. go to my My Planning post.
Here are a few things to keep in mind and a guide to get your started!
- Have a good understanding of how many breakfasts, lunches and dinners you will need.
- Have a few select (healthy!) snacks on hand (check out Greek Yogurt Blueberry Parfait for an idea!)
- Use similar ingredients for your meals (example: If I'm making a chicken and rice dish... I will make something else during the week that has rice or chicken in it). The less ingredients you have to buy, the more money you'll save.
- Fill out the menu plan/grocery list in its entirety and you'll be one step ahead of the game!
When possible, buy in bulk. Especially dried goods (nuts, oatmeal, coffee, etc) and meats (that you can freeze). You might spend a little more up front but will only have to buy it once a month. Buying in bulk allows you to avoid paying for the cost of packaging as well. All the pretty labels, boxes and bags that your food comes in costs money to the producer, so the more you can avoid that, the more money you will save.
I can't say that I spend a lot of time on coupons or regularly use them... I prefer the other methods listed for a few reasons:
- Using coupons can lead to buying things you don't really NEED.
- Coupons are typically for 'name brand' items. Generic brands are generally cheaper than name brand items (even with a coupon!).
However... I will occasionally search the web for very specific coupons for items that I'm not willing to go generic on. For instance, I love my hairspray. I don't care how much it costs or how much cheaper I could get it. It's here to stay. So, for something like that I might search for a coupon for a little additional savings. Same thing goes for certain brand of yogurts, milk, eggs, etc. I'm a stickler for organic on specific items so for those I will try to find coupons.
Keep in mind, eating healthy means preparing your own food and not buying prepackaged foods. For that reason you'll need plenty of containers to store your lunches and left overs in. I use all shapes and sizes and find the best deals on Amazon!
Also, if you work outside of the home, it's a good idea to invest in a good lunch box. You'll want something with plenty of compartments and the ability to keep your food cold all day long. I've fallen head over heels in love with my innovator mini bag but there's plenty of options out there!
I know this all seems daunting, but you'll get the hang of it. If you ever feel stuck or like you just aren't getting it, shoot me an e-mail and I'll help. I'm passionate about health and this is one of the best ways to ensure you're on the right track!
Search below for some Meal Ideas or head over to my On The Menu board on Pinterest to see what I've been eating lately!