Fresh fruits and vegetables are not cheap. Neither are lean meats and whole grains. Eating healthy when you are on a strict budget can be very difficult. I will say that there were actually many blessings that came out of our tough financial times. One of those blessings was that I was able to gain the skill to make a dollar stretch when it came to grocery shopping. Now, I still have a pretty strict budget and am usually able to stay at or under it each week.
Here are some of the tips for shopping on a healthy budget that I have found work for me. Feel free to share any others that YOU have found.
Plan, plan, plan! I sit down at the beginning of each week and make a detailed menu for dinners, being sure to include the nights when I know we will be eating out or having a potluck, or having people over. No need to buy extra food for the week if it’s not going to be prepared! Our breakfasts and lunches don’t change a lot, so it’s easy to plan for those. I also am sure to include snacks in there as well. I make my grocery list from this menu and try very hard to not buy anything that does not get written on the list.
Price matching. I don’t have time to coupon. I figure if I’m going to spend 20 hours a week clipping and hunting coupons, I might as well get a part time job. But I do sit down at the computer once a week and pull up all of the local grocery stores websites and look at their weekly ads. All Walmarts do price matching, which means that they will match any competitors price. So I gather all of the best sales from the different grocery stores, butchers, and drug stores in the area, put them on a list and make my menu according to what is on sale. This alone has saved me about $50 a trip at the store and I only have to go one place rather than to 10 different stores. This is especially good for produce and meat. For instance, ALDI always has baby carrots for .49 cents. So even if the Walmart price is $2, I can get it at ALDI’s price. The other day I got ground turkey for .99 cents a pound whereas the Walmart price was over $3 a pound. The downside is that you actually have to step foot inside Walmart. Boooo.
Use what you buy. If you have baked chicken on Monday, plan to have a chicken salad for lunch on Tuesday. If you make too many peas for dinner, throw them in some brown rice the next night for a stir-fry. Make sure that if you buy produce, it is used. I have found that if I take the time to cut up my fruits and vegetables before I put them away, they are much more likely to get eaten. If I put a bag of grapes in my fridge that are still on the stems, nobody touches them. Off the stem, they are gone in a day. Lazy but true.
Be a hoarder. Did you know that you can freeze milk? Maybe that’s common knowledge but I didn’t know that until recently. Now, when I see a gallon of milk on sale for $1.89, I buy more than I need and freeze it. The same with any abnormally good sale (my turkey bargain listed above). When something is dirt cheap, I try to buy a lot of it. This is more expensive in the short term, but over time saves more money.
I’m sure that a lot of this is just common sense, but when I was younger and newly married, I didn’t know how to shop efficiently. And honestly, I think America is the only country where its poor people are on average more overweight than those who are well off. Our grocery stores and fast food establishments are not designed to benefit your wallet. If you want to eat healthy without going broke, you are going to have to plan for it.
So stay away from the Banquet pot pies and Kool-Aid and go grab an apple and a glass of water. Your body will thank me later.