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Favorite Tips: Healthy Eating on a Budget

Posted Sep 12 2011 10:16pm
Home Healthy Eating Favorite Tips: Healthy Eating on a Budget

17 comments Sep 09/11 Healthy Eating, Healthy Meal Planning, LIfestyle

While I was grocery shopping the other day, I reached for a five dollar box of my favorite quinoa pasta and noticed that a box of regular old white pasta was less than a dollar.

Then I pushed my cart along and sighed at the fact that my beloved Annie’s dressing was nearly four dollars a bottle while the unhealthy brands were half the price.

In my health-conscious dreams, Harris Teeter would have “buy one, get two free” specials on cases of coconut water rather than on diet soda and the juice that I make at home would be as cheap as buying a bottle of the sugary processed stuff that I can find in the stores.

Let’s face it, eating healthfully can be expensive.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg (or as much as Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring).

I’ve gone over my tips for eating healthy on a budget on the blog before, but since it continues to be a hot topic, I thought it would be worth doing another post containing all of my favorite tips.

 

(Source)

 

Healthy Eating on a Budget

 

Plan out your meals and set a grocery budget.

For me, planning is essential.  Otherwise, I’d just be tossing random things into my cart, and inevitably, I’d have to go back to the store for an ingredient that I forgot to buy.  Plus, not having a meal plan often leads to ordering unhealthy takeout.  For more on meal planning and budgeting, check out my post Healthy Meal Planning on a Budget (one of my first posts!).

 

Pack your own lunches.

Eating out everyday for lunch can really add up.  I’ve packed Michael’s lunches for the past year or so, and we’ve really noticed the difference it has made in our spending.  It is healthier too!

 

You don’t always have to buy organic.

I’m sure that some people will disagree with me on this, but I don’t feel as though you always have to buy organic if you cannot afford to do so.   If you do want to make the investment, I’d recommend just buying organic versions of The Dirty Dozen or checking your local grocery stores for sales and markdowns on these items.  Also, Trader Joe’s has pretty reasonable prices on organic produce- just another reason why I adore that place!

 

If you cannot afford fresh, buy canned or frozen.

Again, I am sure that there are some people who will disagree with me, but I personally believe that frozen broccoli is better than not having broccoli at all.  Just be sure to read the labels carefully to make sure that there are no funky additives and buy the lower sodium version of these foods whenever possible.

 

Shop the markdown bins for produce.

We’ve all seen those random racks in the grocery store that are stocked with bagged produce, right?  Those are goldmines!  I love raiding them for discounted organic apples, pears, and cucumbers, which are all great for juicing.  Usually, you can find giant bags of bananas for a dollar or less.  Sometimes the bananas are quite ripe, so I usually freeze them for smoothies or take it as  sign that I need to make banana bread!

 

Look our for coupons.

I’m a huge fan of coupons (though I’m definitely not fit to be on Extreme Couponing).  There are usually coupons in the Sunday newspaper, but I like to hunt for coupons online.

Some great online resources are SmartSource.com, Coupons.com, Valpak, Hot Coupon WorldSouthern Savers, Red Plum and Mambo Sprouts (for health food coupons!).

Searching Google for coupons is also a great idea and so is signing up for mailers and alerts on your favorite brands.  The manufacturers will often send out discount codes or printable coupons.  If you’re worried about getting too much spam or junk email, set up a free email account to use just for receiving these notifications.  That’s what I do!

 

Visit your local grocery store’s website often.

Many grocery stores release their weekly specials online (the stores near me do so on Wednesdays, but the stores in your area may be different).  I usually take these sales into consideration when I am planning my menu for the week.  If you sign up on their websites, stores, such as  Harris Teeter, will actually email you sale alerts on products that you purchase often.  Some stores (like  Earth Fare) have printable coupons on their websites as well.

 

Eat meatless meals 1-2 per week.

Purchasing meat can be very expensive, so lately, I’ve been making pasta or grain based meals for dinner a few nights a week.  Personally, I never eat animal protein at lunchtime either which saves some bucks.

 

Don’t do all of your shopping in one place.

This may be difficult to do at times, but I love shopping at multiple stores in order to find the best deals.  Over time, I’ve learned which stores have the best prices on certain items.  I’ll even go to clubs like Costco occasionally to stock up on bulk items that we use often (like popcorn and Larabars!).

 

Utilize your crock pot or slow cooker. 

I’m really excited that the fall is quickly approaching for many reasons.  One of those reasons is that I can use the slow cooker more often to make soups and chili.  These are usually pretty inexpensive to make and they yield several servings.  I’ll often freeze the leftovers and use them during a week when I am tight on my grocery budget.

 

Shop the bulk bins.

I’ve made no secret of my love for bulk bins.  Choosing the amount of each item that you want to purchase also controls how much you’re going to spend.  Check out my post called Bulk Bin Fanatic for more on this subject.

 

Utilize your local farmer’s market.

One of the many benefits of going to farmer’s markets is that they are super cheap.  My dad called the other day to tell me about all of the produce that he and my mother purchased at the farm stand…for only seven dollars!  Sometimes I’m even shocked myself at how low the totals are when they ring me up.  You can check out my post on tips for going to the farmer’s market for more info.

 

I hope that you’ve found these tips to be useful.  They’ve really worked wonders for our family!

What are your tips for eating healthfully on a budget?  Do you plan your meals out each week? I’ll admit that it can be a nuisance from time to time, but it is totally worth the effort in the end.

I’ll be back on Monday.  Have a wonderful weekend!

 

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  1. I completely agree with all of these. I’m all for frozen veggies sometimes (without sauce, added salt, etc) since they’re picked in season. We definitely always go organic with the “dirty dozen” and I shop at Trader Joe’s once a week. They have great prices!

  2. Great tips Erin! I use most of these tips as well, and agree that it helps keeps costs down!

  3. Great tips! I agree that buying healthy food can be more expensive, but if you are cooking your own healthy meals at home then it saves you money over dining out so I think it evens out in the end.

    I loosely meal plan each week, usually buying 1-2 meats to serve with whatever vegetables we get from our produce co-op. Then I add a whole grain (like bulk quinoa, barley, brown rice or sweet potatoes) to complete the meal. We also eat meatless meals a few times a week too.

  4. I usually use fresh veggies because I like them roasted but always wish I could buy frozen, to save the money. Any tips for preparing frozen veggies so they still taste good?

    • thegrassskirt

      Canned or frozen won’t EVER be as good as fresh. The Birds Eye Steam Fresh and Chef’s Favorites are really good though. Frozen & canned work best in omelets, pasta, rice, or stir fry. I wouldn’t eat them plain as a side…unless you like bland food! :)

  5. What a great list! I definitely need to remember these tips. Thanks Erin!

  6. I’m a frozen veggie junkie. Sooo cheap and easy. I mean, pre-cut and pre-washed? Count me in. I could always use more tips though for staying healthy on a budget, so thanks for the info!

  7. We have a grocery store that we are regulars at. We look over their flyer and online deals/coupons each week. We plan our meals around the specials and sales and by doing this we are able to save 35% to 55% on our grocery bill. Recently we bought a $100 worth of groceries and paid around $60 for all of it – awesome. I agree that you do not have to buy everything organic and that at times frozen or canned works just as well. We pack our lunches and eat 1 or 2 meatless meals a week. We do frequent wholesale clubs to stock up on deals – paper products, meat & dairy are high ticket items out here – have to save or get a bargain when you can. I love your post today – Have a Great Weekend:)

  8. Great ideas! I’m always trying to save money and eat healthy. Here are some of my tips:

    1. Eat what’s in the fridge! No more buying until the eating is done in the fridge.
    2. Only make recipes once a week! I find it can get expensive with buying special ingredients and not necessarily using what you have.
    3. Make lots of beans and rice! So healthy – so cheap.

    Take care!

  9. I’m a college student, which mean my budget is low. So eating healthy always cost more. Thanks for all the great tips! Now I should really learn to plan out my meals to save money. :)

    • thegrassskirt

      I’m glad to help! Eating healthfully in college can definitely be a challenge! Props to you for trying. :)

  10. Great tips girlie! I get really frustrated with how inexpensive it is to eat junk food. I was at the grocery store once and there was a woman in front of me with two carts FILLED with pop tarts, tv dinners, frozen waffles, sugary cereals, etc. etc. and her total was HALF of my total. My cart was only half full and was primarily produce. But I completely agree with you. I do try to buy organic whenever possible, but if I can’t, I go with frozen. And planning is key. If not, you end up throwing things away because you don’t use it, or you have to go back to the store for one thing and end up buying fifteen items.

    • thegrassskirt

      Yes! It is SO frustrating to watch other people buy a ton of junk for practically nothing while we have like 3 items in our carts that cost the same amount!

  1. Beer for dinner | The Grass Skirt - [...] of all, I am so glad that everyone enjoyed my post on Friday about eating healthfully on a budget.  ...

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Hi there! I'm Erin, the happy gal behind The Grass Skirt, which is named after my signature smoothie. Here I share how I maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle, my favorite recipes, workouts and products, and my love for Lionel Richie. Hope you'll enjoy reading!

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