15 Smart Tips To Eat Healthy On A Budget
This post is sponsored by Sprouts although all opinions are 100% mine as always.
Did you know every month USDA puts an official food plan: cost of food (here is January 17) to give an estimated weekly/monthly cost for groceries? For example: for me, it would be $37.60 for a thrifty plan and $74.70 for a liberal plan. If you are curious, you should check it out and compare where you are...But I am not here to tell you what your grocery budget should be because we all have different situation, food budget and priorities so please do what works for you and your family. Healthy eating is a very broad and fluid term because my idea of healthy may or may not align with yours. For some eating 100% organic, GMO-free is healthy but for others, being able to get 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables daily is healthy and that's perfectly fine. Personally, I have never been great at budgeting, let alone food budget (I blame it on all the good restaurants + my part-time gig as a food blogger) but over the years, I have picked up some tips and tricks to save money while eating healthy. If you are on a budget, eating healthy can be challenging (or at least it is assumed so by many) but trust me it is not impossible. I hope these 15 Smart Tips To Eat Healthy On A Budget will make it little bit easier on your wallet and health.
Your mindset on healthy eating on a budget: Just like with anything else, the motivation to change should come from you. Just ask yourself why you are doing it and what does it mean to your health & finances? If eating healthy is your priority, maybe you should cut down your expenses on something else. For me, food is a big deal so instead of getting routine a mani-pedi or designer clothes, I spend a little bit more on my groceries and eating out. It is a habit that takes consistency and it's always a work in progress. No matter what your budget is or where you on healthy eating journey, the whole idea is to make healthier changes suitable for your lifestyle without feeling deprived. A lot of people get overwhelmed (and frustrated) at first because they want to make too many changes way too fast. Another challenge is to get your family or significant other on board, which is a common hurdle for many of my clients (esp females). My advice is to have an open conversation about it and make them part of the process instead of shoving healthy eating down their throat. They are more likely to come on board if they understand why..again, please don't start making too many changes at once.
Start meal planning if you already don't: I sound like a broken record but meal planning is a major money saving habit. Instead of aimlessly going to the grocery store and buying whatever feels tempting at that time, have a plan and stick to it. I do weekly meal planning with 4 simple steps: scan through pantry, fridge, freezer // check Sprouts app (more on that later) // meal plan based on those ingredients first // prep and cook as much as possible ahead of time. Also, if you don't have a plan in place, you are more likely to eat out or order in.
Make friends with the butcher: Meat is not cheap but that doesn't mean you have to give up meat to be healthy. Meat, poultry, fish are all great source of protein and other important nutrients. I highly encourage you to spend sometime learning about different cuts of meats from Sprouts' Old Tyme Butcher Shop. They have trained butcher's who will happily answer your questions on different cuts of meat, source of your seafood/fish, or give you cooking tips. You can also buy meat in bulk, portion it out and freeze it for later use.
Utilize the bulk bin section more often: I love bulk bin for grains, nuts, lentils, and spices at Sprouts especially when I don't need a whole bag. Canned beans such as chickpeas are convenient but long term, it is much cheaper to buy those items in bulk. Beans, lentils, and grains can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the freezer for later use as well. Nuts are great for snacking, with overnight oats, granola, or as a topping for a salad. Nuts can go rancid if not stored properly or used quickly enough therefore, I prefer to buy small quantities of 2-3 types of nuts in bulk rather than large bags that will stay in my pantry forever. I am a huge fan of spices at Sprouts (they carry around 100 different bulk spices) because I can buy as little or as much as I like instead of spending money on a jar of spice I may or may not like. Additionally, at Sprouts, if you buy an entire case of most products, you will receive an automatic 10 percent discount so take advantage of that when possible.
Start comparing products: Instead of blindly grabbing certain brands because of a pretty label and packaging (not that it ever happens), pause and compare products right next to each other. Sprouts has a private label brand that are usually lower in price so be sure to check that out. You might be paying a premium price for no other reason besides the aforementioned label.When comparing products, besides nutrition facts and ingredients, be wary of marketing gimmicks. Don't assume that terms such as natural, vegan, gluten-free, cholesterol-free etc are automatically healthy for you (it's a whole another topic for another day).
Organize potluck with friends and families: Eating out can get expensive if that's something you do regularly with your friends and families. You can maybe suggest a potluck where everyone can bring a dish or two. You can take healthier dishes to the potluck, encourage everyone to try a different recipe or new to them ingredients. It is also fun to do International night type theme if you have a diverse group of friends/families where each individual will bring something to represent their country or culture. I almost always make mo:mo (Nepali dumplings) for dinner parties or samosa bites as an appetizer.
Stock up your pantry & fridge: Since we are surrounded by so many fast food restaurants, it is extremely challenging to avoid drive through or order-in if you have a busy week. A quick meal at a fast food can sometimes be cheaper and quicker than home-cooked meal but if you have a stocked up pantry and fridge with few essentials, whipping up a quick meal is totally doable. I depend a lot on egg-based dishes, nut butter, and pasta.
Starting packing your lunch: Lunch with your co-workers exploring different restaurants daily is a nice break but the cost can quickly add up. Even if you start packing lunch at least 2-3 times a week, you simply save money by doing so and hopefully eat better. Some of my fav lunch includes: Lunchbox Chickpea Salad, Chipotle Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili, Pretzel Crusted Zucchini Meatballs, Everyday Lentil Salad.
Understand the price tag: Look for unit price labels, (a requirement in some states) to find out which size package is the best deal based on the price per ounce, pound, or other unit. Additionally, look for different sales, discount, or specials on different products. Sprouts is having a “Buy One, Get One” (BOGO) sale for two weeks (from Feb. 15 thru March 1). You can save on more than 600 of Sprouts’ bestselling products like bread (which you can buy and freeze one for later use), almond milk, pecans, pasta sauce etc just depending on your store.
Explore the frozen produce section: Frozen produce are a great alternative to fresh produce. They can actually be equal, or superior, in terms of nutrient value, quality, shelf-life and cost. Explore the frozen produce section for veggies such as peas, broccoli, mix veggies, etc to be used in soups, stir fry's, and curry-type dishes. Veggies with sauce are often loaded with unnecessary fats and sodium so I'd stay away from those. Steam your veggies instead of boiling them because it reduces the nutrient value especially vitamin C.
Download the grocery store app: I HATE going through sale paper and clipping coupons but these days grocery stores have an app that can be downloaded with just a click. Sprouts has an app that will allow you to look at weekly specials and coupons when planning your meals. It may not look like a lot a savings at first but even if you save $5-7 every week, it adds up to $250 - $350 a year.
Try meatless meals: The idea of going meatless is to enjoy non-animal based protein such as tofu, legumes, eggs and vegetables as a part of your meal instead of meat. Let's be real, meat is expensive (compared to lentils, beans, and tofu) so going meatless 1-2 meals a week, you will save money, environment, and do good for your health. Some of my favorite meatless meal includes: Hemp Crusted Tofu // Restaurant Style Red Thai Curry// Pretzel Crusted Zucchini Meatballs // Split Green Peas Falafel
Limit processed food: Instead of habitually grabbing 3 different types of cookies, 2 ice cream tubs, and a large bag of chips, limit yourself to 1-2 absolute favorite snacks. It significantly reduces your food cost over time + your waistline. If you like snacking, you should perhaps check Stovetop Popcorn, Granola, Chocolate Date Bites and Roasted Chickpeas as it is nutritious and cheaper than store-bought snacks.
Expand your cooking skills: One of the biggest complaints I get from friends, families, and clients is "they want to eat healthy but it is expensive" as they depend so much on eating out. Honestly, you need to re-read #1, #2 and start cooking simple meals at home. Invest in Everyday Essential Kitchen Tools, stock up 10 Store Bought Foods For Quick Healthy Meals and 5 Must Have Spices to get cooking!
Be a leftover/re-purpose queen (king): If you have a decently stocked pantry/fridge and have some cooking skills, you can easily re-purpose and stretch leftovers to last 1-2 more meals. For example: Easy Roast Chicken can be utilized for chicken noodle soup, fried rice, and quesadilla. I eat a lot of random meals at the end of the week such as clean your fridge stew, everything fried rice, and surprise burrito.
I have been a regular at Sprouts for almost 2 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed shopping there for most of my groceries, especially quality produce, meat, and dairy at an affordable price. If you are unfamiliar with Sprouts, it is a healthy grocery store that has fresh, conventional as well as organic foods at great prices. They also have a section with supplements and natural personal + household items. If you've never been to Sprouts , you should see if there is one in your area!
Do you have any other tips on eating healthy on a budget? Share your tips below.