Yes. A couple avocados do cost more than a super-size bag of cheesy poofs. Healthy food can be more expensive than processed food. But it doesn’t have to be. Before I show you the math, let me ask:
What do you want?
A little tough love first… Do you really want to get healthy and eat better? Or are you not interested in making changes right now and have been making excuses to get out of it? I’m NOT trying to guilt trip you. The last thing I want to do is make you spend money and time on a workout program and food that you don’t have your heart in. Your life is YOUR life. It may not be the right time for you to make any sort of changes right now. And that is OKAY.
But if it IS the right time to make a change, if you DO want it bad enough, then I’m here to help you learn some new skills.
12 Tips for Buying Healthy Food on a Budget
1. HAVE A PLAN.
Meal planning is the best thing you can do for your food budget, whether or not you are trying to eat healthy. Without a plan for what you are cooking and eating for the week, you will usually end up wasting food and having something spoil on you before you can use it. Sit down with your calendar and figure out your schedule for the week. Don’t try to cook a 5 course dinner on your busiest night. Plan smart. If you need inspiration, try Pinterest for meal plans. They have them for every diet, allergy, preference, etc. that you can possible imagine. Once you have your meal plan, make a list. Do not go to the grocery store without a list. That’s a recipe for disaster. Having a meal plan and a list will keep you from having to go back to the store 4 times that week because you’re missing one ingredient. It’s annoying and wastes time as well as money since you inevitably end up buying something else while you’re there.
2. BUY DISCOUNT MEAT AND FREEZE IT.
Meat is probably going to be your most expensive item. Learn when your grocery store discounts meat. Is it on a certain day of the week or at a certain time of day? Make friends with the butcher and find out! When you see good meat for a sale price, BUY IT. This is one of the few times that you are allowed to deviate from your plan. It’s usually discounted because it will go past the sale date that day or the next. As long as you get it home and either cook it or freeze it immediately, you’re good to go. Stocking up and freezing discounted meat can save you a LOT of money.
3. USE THE CUSTOMER REWARDS PROGRAM.
Different grocery stores have different programs. I am OBSESSED with Winn Dixie’s fuel points program. I have saved hundreds on gas since they started this program. Just don’t fall into the trap of buying food you wouldn’t normally buy because of the rewards points or special coupon.
4. FIND THE CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE.
Dried beans are cheaper than canned. Yes, they take a lot longer to prepare, but it may be worth it if you’re making a large batch. Ask yourself if there’s a different version of the same food that is cheaper. But don’t sacrifice fresh for processed. Otherwise, we’re missing the whole healthy point.
5. BUY LOCAL.
Find out if you have a local farmer’s market or produce co-op in your area. This can be a great way to get fresh fruit and vegetables for super cheap. Make sure to compare to the grocery store prices though. If you just need some diced tomatoes to throw in your homemade chili, you probably don’t need to pay for the heirloom, uber-organic, bathed in goat’s milk at the urban renewal farm tomatoes. (FYI: This is something I would totally buy, so I’m not making fun of it at all.)
6. THINK SEASONAL.
Whether at the farmer’s market or the chain grocery store, the season will affect prices of fresh produce. Strawberries are cheap in the summer, but more expensive when they are scarce in the winter. Winter squash are just the opposite. Cook seasonally to get the most bang for your buck.
7. BUY STORE BRAND.
We’re trying to avoid processed food to begin with, but there are some minimally-processed items that we don’t mind. Pasta sauce (no added sugar and only simple ingredients), salsa, yogurt, cheese, etc. Check the store brand ingredients. If they are using the same clean ingredients, then get the store brand and save yourself some moolah!
8. CHECK THE COUPONS, BUT STAY FOCUSED.
Coupon clipping can get a little crazy. Have you see the Extreme Couponers show? Just because the boxed macaroni and cheese is $.10 per box doesn’t mean you need to buy 300 boxes. Or even 1. Put the weird cheese powder down. Thank you. Most coupons are going to be centered around super processed foods and won’t be of much use to you. However, there are occasionally some deals on minimally processed foods like yogurt, almond milk, frozen vegetables, etc. Take a look at the Sunday paper coupons or the store’s own circular coupons. If you don’t normally buy it and it’s not on your master list, don’t clip it out. If it fits into the healthy eating goals, then grab 5 of that sucker and go to town!
9. GO TO THE RIGHT STORE.
Identify what stores have the best prices on different items. This takes a little time at the front end, but you eventually get into a pattern. For me, I rarely buy meat anywhere but my neighborhood Winn-Dixie. The other local grocers just don’t have the sales or prices for the same quality. However, for canned goods, dried staples, and spices, I try to get over to Big Lots. Big Lots also has a lot of expensive international foods for discount prices. If you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco, use it! Just make sure you’re not getting sucked into the appearance of a deal.
10. BUY IN BULK
If you are feeding a family, the wholesale store is going to be your BEST FRIEND. Even if it’s just you, buying non-perishables in bulk is a great way to save money. Brown rice and peanut butter won’t go bad for a while. Even at regular grocery and discount stores, they usually put the price per unit on the price sticker. 99% of the time, buying in bulk is going to save you money. Sometimes a LOT. But don’t automatically assume this on something you haven’t bought in bulk before. Compare the unit prices.
11. EAT YOUR LEFTOVERS.
This one sounds easy and silly, but how many times have you thrown out old leftovers? A lot, right? That’s wasted food and money. If you’re tired of that meal because you’ve eaten it twice already, change it up. Add something to it to make it different. For example, a leftover grilled porkchop is sadly sitting in your fridge. It can be chopped up, added to some sautéed sweet potato and bell pepper, and become a delicious pork and sweet potato hash. Or heat it back up and put an egg on it for some different flavor. Or slice it, put some salsa on it, and throw it in a taco. Whatever you do, eat it before it starts to grow secondary life forms.
12. EAT THE SAME MEALS ALL WEEK
Yes, it’s boring. But you save money by buying in bulk, cooking at one time, and not wasting your leftovers. If you just can’t stand to eat 5 days of grilled chicken, use some different ‘freebie’ sauces on it. Flavor it with mustard one night. Use salsa for a Mexican theme the next. Greek seasoning on chicken will taste very different from Cajun seasoning. Use your spices! Pick up some cheap plastic containers to portion out your meals for the week. Stack them up to grab as needed. If you’re a particularly busy person (who isn’t?), you’re going to LOVE the convenience of this.
FREE Healthy Food Shopping and Price Lists with Sample Meal Plans
I’ve got a list of some 21 Day Fix / Clean Eating approved foods below that are relatively cheap. But the list isn’t a comprehensive list, and it’s going to change depending on where you live and what time of the year it is. However, this should give you a good idea of what’s out there. I’ve created three weeks of example shopping lists and meal plans to give you an idea of what a shopping trip and typical eating day will cost you. You can get all of this for FREE. (I won’t spam you. I do have morals.)
NOTE: This list, the menus, and the prices are based off of feeding one person. There are too many variables (number of family members, picky kid preferences, etc.) to provide precise calculations for families, but we the tips and methods I’ve provided will work when expanded to family size.
A Sneak Peek at the Numbers
While you’re waiting on your email, here’s the breakdown…
Sample Shopping Trip Week #1 Total: $47.67
Example Day without Shakeology: $7.01
Example Day with Shakeology: $10.73
Yes, drinking Shakeology is going to be more expensive. But affording the little bit extra isn’t a problem when you’re meal planning like this. And again, we’re back at the question of WHAT DO YOU WANT? If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.
Sample Shopping Trip Week #2 Total: $34.41
Example Day without Shakeology: $6.40
Example Day with Shakeology: $10.12
Subsequent weeks can use the leftovers from the first week and save you even MORE money. Just eat what you already have. Don’t let it go to waste. You don’t have to cook it the same way, but use it up.
Sample Shopping Trip Week #3 Total: $26.81
Example Day without Shakeology: $6.18
Example Day with Shakeology: $10.09
THIS CAN BE DONE.
I get it. You’re nervous. You’ve failed 15 previous times. You don’t want to spend a penny on yourself because you’re convinced you will fail again. Some more tough love? If you think that way, then you’re right. You WILL fail. Because you won’t even give yourself a chance.
Switch your mindset. Take a chance on yourself. Invest a little bit into your health. Do you know how good it feels when someone believes in you? So give that gift to yourself! Believe in yourself! So what if you slip up and eat that pop-tart in a moment of weakness. Move on to the next decision and make it a better one. You ARE worth the investment and the effort.
Up for the change? Make sure to look at the Shakeology page. If you’re in this to win it, then give yourself the best possible tools for the job. You want to turn your body into a fat-burning, muscle-building machine, right? You can buy the entire aisle of protein supplement, probiotics, 15 different superfood pills, phytonutrients, and every multivitamin under the sun…or you can drink a shake for the same price as your Starbucks latte. Just saying.