“I can’t afford to eat healthy”.
This is something I hear on a weekly basis from friends, family and/or clients. And it frustrates me.
However, I realize that for many people, especially the younger population, eating healthy on a budget is a big concern and a potential stumbling block.
By the end of this article, hopefully you’ll be armed with some tips to save you some cash on your next grocery run, without having to sacrifice food quality.
First of all, I will admit that my own food budget increased after I decided to make some lifestyle changes, including cleaning up my “diet”. But this is also because I started eating more in general (yes, more) as I realized I had previously been under eating. Plus, I never really paid attention to what I was eating or how much it cost before (see number 1 below).
The other important thing to note is that I haven’t been to the doctor or taken medication in over 3 years now, which I absolutely put down to living healthier. These saved medical expenses undoubtedly offset a slight grocery shopping premium.
How to eat healthy on a budget
1. Change your lens
Earlier I mentioned reduced medical costs being a form of saving by eating healthy, but there is another example I want to use to illustrate this point of shifting your perspective of thinking.
When we’re not worried about the foods we’re eating, we don’t really pay attention to what we’re spending on food. But when we make the shift to eating better, suddenly we begin considering the cost. For example, when you go to a fast food outlet, you’re not concerned with how much your favorite burger costs; you’re taking it home regardless. But when the price of [insert healthy food here] goes up a few Rand (or dollars, euro, pounds, etc.), suddenly eating healthy becomes too expensive for our budget. Just a thought…
2. Stick to boring
With the recent boom in the health industry, particularly in the food department, there are a whole host of new products and foods available. So much so, that it becomes pretty overwhelming to decided what to buy! My advice? Skip it.
By sticking to good old meats, veggies, fruit and healthy fats, you’ll undoubtedly save some money along the way compared to the “latest, greatest” new offering.
And make no mistake, you can still create delicious, exciting AND nutritious meals by throwing together “boring” ingredients.
3. Plan your grocery store assault
Believe it or not, making a few tweaks to HOW you shop can save you money. There are a few strategies here.
First of all, try not shop when you’re hungry, as this will almost always lead to unnecessary purchases to satisfy your hunger (guilty as charged!).
Next, try stick to the “outside” areas of the grocery store as much as possible, where you’ll find the fresh produce, meat and eggs. This will also prevent you from mindlessly wandering down the cooldrink/sweets aisles.
Finally, make a list before leaving the house so that you know exactly what you need and don’t need to “browse” anything else. I like to turn this into a game of seeing how fast I can get my shopping done.
4. Choose wisely
When it comes to cleaning up your diet, there are so many things we can all do, but often some of those aren’t feasible, or even necessary for the average Joe. For example, choosing organic meats and veggies is a great choice, but not realistic for everyone. What’s important is simply doing the best you can with what you have or what your budget allows.
While simply choosing meats and veggies over junk is a great start, there are some veggies which you should consider buying organic, and others which you don’t need to worry about. Check out the list below for more guidance.
5. Plan your meals
Just as I mentioned planning your shopping list before leaving home, I also recommend planning (at least roughly) your meals for the week, so you know exactly what you need and how much you need to budget. Also, by cooking similar meals each day or week, you save time and money. Remember to use leftovers in the next day’s meals!
6. Cook more
This last tip is one I can’t stress enough. Yes, eating healthy on a budget may seem tough at times, but buying and making your own meals is almost always cheaper than purchasing the equivalent meal at a restaurant. I’m amazed at how many people complain about groceries being expensive, but then don’t think twice before going out for dinner (often multiple times per week!). Plus, being able to cook is an awesome skill.
So there you have it; I really hope this article helped. By putting the above tips into action, I am sure you will be able to save some money eating healthy and protect that precious budget. Eating quality foods shouldn’t become a financial hurdle. Your body deserves it!