My goal in life is to help people learn how to simplify eating healthy and living an active life. I want to share with you 5 simple ways to eat healthy on a budget. It really isn’t hard and I hope you will feel that way after you read this post!
1. Meal Plan
I talk about this a lot, but I truly believe that meal planning is the number one way to save money while eating fresh whole foods. If you know exactly what you are eating at each meal you can shop for the best deals for each item.
Before I started meal planning, I was spending so much money at the grocery store! I would just buy some vegetables, some meat, and other random items that I thought I would eat throughout the week. Now, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have a list. I know it sounds like I’m super organized and that it seems impossible to plan for the whole week. You might be thinking to yourself that it takes too much time to plan and to cook. I promise if you just try it doesn’t have to take a lot of time!
I want to encourage you that the more you do it, the easier it will become. You will start to have “go-to” meals that you do a lot, and you will know your pantry staples that you always need. It was hard at first when I just started out, not having a clue what I was doing, but once you just START, it gets easier. I promise. And hey, I am here to walk you through the process.
I have created an easy meal planning sheet and a video to walk you through exactly how to do it. If you can dedicate 1 hour (or less) each week to planning your meals, you are golden. Next week, I will be providing you with a sample 7-day meal guide so you can have something to go off of when you are just starting out!
2. Eat Leftovers
I also talk about this a lot. If you can plan out your meals for the week, you can plan to make enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
Eating out at lunch, especially when you are trying to eat healthy, can get super expensive!! I think that is why people think that eating healthy is expensive. Yes it is if you eat out. If you eat out every day at lunch, you will probably spend at least $40-50 just for LUNCH for the week. If you grocery shop and plan to eat leftovers, you will probably only spend about $12.50 on lunch for the week! That is a crazy difference.
For those of you that do not like to cook or feel like you don’t have time to (I know a few of you out there!), I want you to know that I do not spend a lot of time in the kitchen. All of the recipes I make are super easy and I’m out of the kitchen as soon as I can be. I work full time so I do not like to go home and spend all night in the kitchen!! Again, if you plan, you can prep things ahead of time and spend even less time preparing your dinners.
3. Buy On Sale
Plan out your meals, and when you get to the store if you see that a certain fruit or vegetable is not on sale, and you could get a different one cheaper, then switch it up. A lot of times I get to the store and apples are not on sale, I will get oranges that week. Or if I see that pears are super cheap that week, I will get pears. If I planned to get a green pepper and it is double the price of the red pepper, then I will get a red pepper instead.
Most fruits and vegetables can be switched out for something else unless it is a recipe that is super specific. You could switch out zucchini squash for green beans if the zucchini is expensive this week.
We always buy our meat at The Fresh Market on Tuesdays. I am pretty sure that Fresh Market all around the country has $2.99 Tuesdays. You can get a pound of chicken and ground chuck for $2.99/lb. THAT is a steal. Now, the ground chuck is not grass fed, but while we are trying to pay off loans and are on a strict budget, we can’t afford the grass fed. Once we can afford it, we will definitely buy the grass fed. It is so much better for you (for several reasons), so if you can afford it, GO FOR IT! But, we can’t for now. The chicken is of pretty good quality I am pretty sure, it is antibiotic free and hormone free. Sounds good to me!
4. Eat High Protein/Fiber Meals
If you eat high protein you will feel full and satisfied. If you eat high fiber you will feel full and satisfied. Therefore, you do not have to eat as much and as a result you spend less money on snacks.
I don’t know about you, but if I am splurging and eating a combo meal at Chick-Fil-A, even though I just stuffed my face, I could still eat more after the meal!! It’s crazy. I had a large fry, a soda, and a fried chicken sandwich. Shouldn’t I be stuffed?! But I never am. Maybe I am the only one with this problem?? But, when I eat a real food meal with roasted chicken breast, green beans and some potatoes, I am stuffed and don’t need to eat for several hours.
Processed foods and fast foods are what we call “highly palatable” foods. This means that they season and fry these foods in items that tell your brain “GIVE ME MORE!” That is why you crave these foods more the more you eat them. The vegetables you eat at home have so much fiber and nutrients in there that keep you full. They also don’t have the added ingredients in there that tell your brain to eat more. When you are full you feel satisfied and don’t feel like you NEED more. The cravings go away.
This saves you so much money because you don’t have to buy a ton of snacks to fill you up during the day. It also saves you from having cravings and feeling like you are starving all day long. Sounds like a win-win to me!
5. Don’t Buy in Pre-cut Packages
I am talking about fruits and vegetables in packages. You can find pre-cut fruits and vegetables that are packaged for you and ready to go. Convenient yes. Cheap no.
For example, if you buy fresh green beans in bulk they range from $.99 to $1.99/lb. The fresh green beans that are already chopped are usually about $3.99 for ¾ lb. So you are paying more for less food. NOT the plan here. Also, you can choose exactly how much you need for your recipe if you buy in bulk rather than having to buy two packages and then waste some because you didn’t use it all.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU SPEND?
When I was first starting out trying to eat healthy on a budget, I wondered how much I was supposed to spend every month on food. I wanted people to tell me exact numbers because I couldn’t figure out how much was too much! Dave Ramsey recommends to spend 5-15% of your income on food each month. I calculated it out and 5% was WAY too little, and 15% I felt like was too much. I felt like it could be less. We stick around the 12-13% range. Sometimes we do less and sometimes we do more. You figure out what works best based on your income.
Start keeping track of how much you spend each month on food. You will be surprised at how much you spend. I use Mvelopes to keep track of my spending. I see EXACTLY where each penny goes. Since I started keeping track and trying to stick to a budget, we are literally saving $200-$400 each month because we don’t spend it on food. That means we can pay down $2400-$4800 more each year on our student loans! THAT is significant!! If you don’t have loans, than you could be saving or investing that! It’s amazing what happens when we start paying attention and committing to a budget.
Those are my 5 simple ways to eat healthy on a budget! If you stick to these 5 tips, you can easily stick to your budget and eat real food!
Let me know if you have questions!
How to eat healthy on a budget (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkRikMiBVlU)