One of the reasons that some people struggle to eat healthy is because of the cost. It is true that to buy all your produce organic, have a big stock of all the specialty fruits and veggies that aren’t in season and have a pantry full of high end seasonings, condiments and spices, you would likely be struggling to meet your weekly budget requirements. But if you are willing to stock your pantry with some basics, consume products that are on sale or in season and don’t buy all the most expensive condiments, eating healthy and buying clean, basic ingredients can actually be cheaper than buying premade packaged food. Here’s how you can eat healthy, feel satisfied and still shop within your means:
1. Create a budget
Figure out a reasonable amount to spend on groceries and allot it carefully. Consider where you typically shop and decide how much is reasonable to allot to each location, and whether you perhaps need to spend more at budget friendly stores. For example, I spend half my weekly budget at the grocery store and the other half split over the market, health food store, and any other specialty stores like the Asian grocer. Most of it is spent at the grocery store because I am usually able to find sales and deals there, followed closely by the market to purchase local and in season produce. These places allow me to get all my staples and basics for the week. If there is money leftover in the weekly budget, I spend it at the health food store or other specialty stores.
2. Shop in bulk once a month
Every month I do a bulk shop of things that I use regularly that are cheaper to buy in larger quantities than individually each week. This includes things like flour, chia seeds, dates, superfood powder, nutritional yeast and cacao powder. I purchase these from the health food store, bulk food store and online. Find a place that allows you to make bulk purchases and then assess what you are purchasing weekly that would be cheaper to buy in larger quantities. Even if you end up spending more on that one week per month, the savings over the other three will make it totally worth it.
3. Go homemade!
Consider making things like peanut butter, hummus, BBQ sauce and other nut butters and dips at home! Most times it is cheaper to buy the raw ingredients yourself and make it than to buy the premade versions. It also ensures you know exactly what’s in it and that there aren’t any unnecessary preservatives, additives or processed ingredients in anything you are eating.
4. Find the sales and bargains
Most of my shopping happens at 3 different grocery stores. Each week, I look at the sales fliers to see which one has the best deals and where I will be able to buy most of my items for the best price. I also regularly shop on the discount racks at these stores, picking up some overripe fruit to juice, or some too soft avocados which I can turn into avocado mousse. Often stores will markdown bananas or other overripe fruit, but they are still great for smoothies or baking – just bring them home and freeze them and then you can use them whenever you want!
5. Don’t be afraid to try new things!
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring, or the same thing all the time. Take advantage of new and unusual ingredients on sale and use it as a chance to try something new. Whether it be a new cooking method, or a new recipe, not only will you be saving money, but you may find your new favourite food! There are so many plants for you to try, so mix things up and keep them exciting.
6. Cook with what you have, not with what you need
How often do you go to the grocery store and buy a lot of great ingredients and fresh produce, only to find it in the fridge rotten a couple weeks later because you didn’t use it in time. It’s a waste of food and money! Instead, buy your groceries within your budget each week, finding the good sales and bargains, and then plan your weekly meals around what you have in the fridge. Don’t choose recipes that contain hardly any ingredients that you have on hand so you have to go buy more, and instead make substitutions with what you have or choose a more appropriate recipe for your pantry!
7. Shop in season
One of the things you probably end up spending excessively on is produce that is not in season: those strawberries that are $6 per pint and the cauliflower that is $5.99 a head. Choose produce in the grocery store that is in season, or local, and it is typically lower priced and better quality. This may mean sometimes you go without a few of the things you would normally buy, like avocadoes, or certain kinds of fruits, but you can stock up when they’re in season and be much happier in terms of the quality and your bank account balance!
8. Buy the no-name alternative
If you compare the ingredients between a no-name product and it’s higher priced brand alternative, you will probably find that the contents of both are nearly the same. This week when you go for groceries, buy the no-name option of some items you would usually buy from a specific brand and see if there is a taste or quality difference. If not, consider making the swap permanent and saving yourself some money each week. Some things that I buy no-name, with no noticeable taste or quality difference include canned beans and legumes, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.
This week when you go for groceries take a look at how you are spending your money. Assess the ways in which you could save some extra dollars, then make a weekly budget and put these tips to work!