Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

I have always been aware of the cost of food and my weekly grocery bill, but I had never paid too much attention to how much I was actually spending in any given month. For the most part, I shop once per week and plan my meals/snacks which helps keep the grocery budget under control. I had the occasional Costco trip, Trader Joes run, and those last minute grab a couple of things on your way home from work trips as well.

My husband and I have recently started actually budgeting to try to reign in our frivolous spending. When we were setting our budget for groceries for the month, I was more than sure the amount we agreed on would be more than ample. Well, we are only a couple weeks into this and I have already spent more than 60% of the budget for the month…and that was with trying to be a little more cognizant of spending! I have already learned a lot in the couple weeks we have been following our new budget, and have realized that I’m going to have to get creative for the last couple of weeks of the month if I’m going to stick to this predetermined budget we set! At first I felt discouraged, but to be honest, I’m now looking at it as a challenge. I have decided I’m going to get creative and do my best to stick to our budget without relying on cheap, processed foods to get us through! I plan to do a follow up post on how I end up faring, but for now I wanted to share some of my tips for eating healthy on a budget!

  1. Eat less meat

For me, meat is usually one of the most expensive parts of our weekly grocery budget. When you incorporate some meatless meals, or rely on other sources of protein (like eggs, or beans), you can save a lot of money! Since my husband is definitely a meat and potatoes guy, this has been a little bit of an adjustment, but he hasn’t really complained. Some of my favorite meatless meals are Quinoa Fried Rice , Sweet potato/avocado/egg bowls, and Sweet potato/corn/black bean tacos!

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If you don’t think you can completely cut meat out, consider decreasing the amount of meat you put in the meal/recipe. This will keep your meat loving spouse or kids happy since they will still have the meat component, but the meat you do buy will stretch a little further. For example- in this Veggie/Sausage/Potato Hash I would normally use an entire package of chicken sausage (usually five links), sliced up. Now, I’ll use three links, and save two for another meal.

2. Go for budget friendly starches

Quinoa and faro are some of my favorite healthy starch options, but they are certainly not the most cost effective. Brown rice offers similar nutritional value at a fraction of the cost. Whole wheat pasta can also be a good alternative as well. When buying rice, choose the unprepared varieties to get the most value for your money. I had gotten accustomed to buying the 90 second packs of Uncle Bens brown rice, but soon realized I could buy an entire box for close to what one package of the 90 second rice cost. Convenience comes at a cost, but the extra 15 minutes it takes to boil some rice surely wont inconvenience you too much!

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3. Clip coupons/ Shop the sales

If you would have asked me six months ago about coupons, I would have likely said something to the effect of, “I don’t have time for that!”, or “There are never coupons for the foods I buy”.  Well, I’m now singing a different tune, and feel so accomplished when I am able to utilize the coupons I have collected.

I’m still just a novice in all of this and intend to keep my couponing simple, but there are a couple of sites I have grown to love- Coupons.com and Digital Coupons- Kroger and HEB (Kroger and HEB are the local Houston stores I primarily shop at, but many grocery chains have their own line of digital coupons that are available with a quick sign up)

Coupons.com is very user friendly, and you don’t even have to create a log in or become a member to “clip” their coupons. Simply go to the website, browse the available coupons, “clip” the ones you want, and print them out. It will generally print about four coupons per page, which you can cut to separate or leave on one page since they will just scan them at checkout and discard of them. I have already saved close to twenty bucks in just a few weeks on food items, personal care items and toiletries!

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Digital coupons are another of my favorites because there is no printing, no clipping and no keeping track of them! You simply create a free account on the website and browse the available offers. When you “clip” the coupon, it gets added to your account which is linked with your shoppers card (the one you enter your phone number at checkout). It will automatically apply any of the applicable coupons when you checkout!

As far as the selection of coupons for healthy foods, yes, there could be some improvement. Many of the coupons (digital and coupons.com) are for processed, packaged items; however, there are a handful of coupons for health foods that I have been able to use. Just recently I used one for Annie’s organic yogurt cups, Lara bars, and Starbucks K cups.

Shopping the sales is another great way to save a ton of money at the store! Ill usually stick to the produce that is on sale for the week and avoid paying full price for non seasonal items. Using the sale ad to help meal plan is another great way to save money. I’ll usually first check to see what types of meat are on sale and then plan our menu for the week from there!

4. Limit your Organic produce selection/use frozen fruits and vegetables

Be picky about what foods you are choosing to buy organic and what foods you are not. My general rule is that if it has a skin that you don’t eat, its perfectly fine to buy conventional! Next, ill use the dirty dozen list to prioritize what I buy organic vs conventional. Make sure to check the sales for this as well- sometimes you’ll find organic produce on sale for cheaper than the conventional produce! Again, stick with seasonal produce as it will be more likely to be on sale, or at least cheaper than foods that are not in-season.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are great alternatives to fresh produce and deliver equal nutrition! When the produce is harvested, it is flash frozen, allowing it to maintain most of its nutritional value. I find frozen produce to be especially helpful on busy weeks because it is easy to prepare and you don’t have to worry about getting through it before it spoils!

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5. Freeze leftovers that you wont get through that week

One of my biggest pet peeves is throwing away leftovers. I hate wasting food, but its inevitable when things get pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten! I also find that if i make a large amount of something and there are a lot of leftovers, we get burned out on it before we finish eating it, which then results in throwing the rest away. If you make a large batch of something, freeze some of it immediately. This ensures you wont be wasting any leftovers and will give you another meal for another week!

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6. Eat the same things each week for breakfasts and lunches

Monotony is not always a bad thing and can be very helpful in keeping to a budget. Buying the ingredients for one or two breakfasts and one or two lunches for the week is much more cost effective than trying to have something different each day where you will need small amounts of various ingredients. Leftovers are also a great way to cut down on the cost of lunches- many times ill plan to make a little extra of a few dinner meals so that I’ll have leftovers for lunches.

A few of my go-to healthy, budget friendly meals are overnight oats, eggs, and yogurt parfaits. Oatmeal is rich in fiber, helping to keep you full until lunch. I love overnight oats, because they can be flavored a few different ways throughout the week without having to purchase a ton of additional ingredients. Eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods available, they’re rich in protein, and can be prepared a variety of ways. I love to have a couple of scrambled eggs with a slice of toast, egg cups, or a couple of hardboiled eggs with a piece of fruit if I’m on the go! And lastly yogurt is rich in calcium and protein and when paired with a piece of fruit, makes a great healthy and budget friendly meal!

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Comments

  1. Isaac sent me the link for today’s post and said, “Hey, you do this!” 🙂 Saving money and good food-my love languages. Ha. These are great tips, and so easy to use!

    • HealthyBites says:

      So glad you liked the post Laura. Healthy eating and saving money can go together – it’s just all about the strategy behind it! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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