By: K.H. Smith
When it comes to frugal eating, healthy food is sometimes compromised for cheaper foods. For most of us budget savvy shoppers, we want to feed our family healthy foods, but for less money. How can you do this? Organic foods, fruits, vegetables, and meats are all expensive items on a grocery list. I will not claim to always have the cheapest grocery list, but I try to find a good balance between eating frugally and eating healthy foods. As a family of 3, we spend about $100-$125 per week on groceries. We eat a lot of organic fruits and veggies, mostly organic meats, and very few starches like pasta and rice. We also eat at home for almost every meal. On average, we eat out 1x per month, so the savings can be used to buy better food for home. Here is how my family and I eat healthy on a budget!
The biggest tip is to plan your meals. Meal planning helps grocery budgets is several ways. It helps you shop once for the week, which saves you time and you can avoid impulse buys during a second or third grocery trip. You also can avoid wasting food because you only buy what you plan to cook that week and you know when you will eat those meals, so less produce and such should go bad. With a meal plan, you are less likely to give into the temptation of take-out which isn’t good for your budget or your waistline. You already know the answer to the question “What’s for dinner?” and have everything to make it! Meal planning is really helpful!
Meal Planning doesn’t need to be elaborate either. I use a post-it note to write out our dinners for the week. Several of our dinners are big enough to have leftovers, and my husband likes taking leftovers for lunches. This makes lunch planning easy and I try to have those meals towards the beginning of the week so he can pack them. Generally, I have a rough idea of which meals I will serve for which night, but it is not cut in stone. If I feel like Fridays dinner on Wednesday, no big deal! Consider your family’s weekly schedule when planning which meals for which night. Monday and Thursday nights I get home super late from work, so easy options are planned for those nights. We also clean out the fridge on Sundays so, we eat the final leftovers before stocking for the next week. This helps us lessen how much fresh produce is tossed.
I am not a huge couponer, but I do look through the coupons for products we eat regularly. I do use the app Ibotta, which allows you to “coupon” without the clipping. If you haven’t used it, consider giving it a try. You just look through the app for the items on sale at the store you shop at. You have to unlock them, by clicking on it, sometimes there’s a video to watch or a survey to answer. It’s pretty easy to unlock items. Then purchase them as usual, and once you are home, verify your purchase with the app. You can do this by scanning the barcodes and then when everything is scanned just photograph the receipt. Easy peasy. The savings can be cashed out pretty quickly at $20 minimum to PayPal or in a gift card to many great stores like Amazon. I have earned about $200 to date buying items I normally buy.
If you haven’t tried Ibotta, give it a shot. If you use my link , you get $10 to start, I get $5 and we are on the same team working for increased savings. Win-Win!
Eat Seasonal Produce
Another way to eat healthily and still save money on groceries is to eat fruits and veggies that are in season for your area. They tend to be less expensive and many times are grown locally or semi-locally. Since they have spent less time traveling to the stores, they tend to retain more nutrients which is better for you. Many grocery stores put seasonal produce on sale, so be sure to check out the ads and plan your meals around what is on sale.
I also favor cheaper fruits like apples and bananas. These tend to be much less expensive than berries or grapes in our area. We can get a week’s worth of bananas for $1.20 and a bag of apples is usually $5-8.
I do buy organic produce when reasonable. I do focus on the dirty dozen to prioritize my produce. If we don’t eat the peel, then I buy nonorganic. But berries and such I try to buy organic as often as possible.
Eat Less Meat
We all know meat is expensive. It can kill a grocery budget if you buy too much. If you eat smaller portions of meat at your meals or occasionally have a meatless meal that will help you save on your grocery bill. Many soups and salads can have great flavor and be filling with just 4 oz of meat per serving. Or you can add substitutes to your meals like tofu or beans for protein for less expense.
Consider your cuts of meat as well. If you are willing to cut larger pieces of meat into smaller portions at home you can save money. We tend to buy larger cuts at Costco and freeze them. It helps keep the costs down and we enjoy a decent variety that way.
Fewer Convenience Foods
If you tend to buy pre-chopped veggies you are paying a premium for someone else to do your chopping. Consider doing your own prep. This will save you money. A head of lettuce is cheaper than a bag of salad mix. Same thing with stir-fry ingredients. If you are truly trying to eat healthy for less you will have some prep work in the kitchen. We spend some time on Sunday nights cutting up melon, fruits, and such. It just fits in our routine now and we don’t mind it too much. Plus you are more likely to eat it if it’s prepped and ready to go than if you have to do all the prep work when you are tired and hungry.
Looking through your grocery stores ads while meal planning is a great way to maximize your budget. Adding in coupons and Ibotta and you can really stack up your savings. Be creative. The beauty of meal planning is you can look up recipes ahead of time that use what is on sale. If certain items you use regularly are a great deal, stock up. Generally, sales repeat every 6-8 weeks so if they store well, stock up accordingly.
Grow A Garden
This is a great option for those who like to garden. I have had great success with a small 10’x10’ plot in my backyard. I have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, potatoes, and squash in that small plot. It is fun for kids to help plant seeds and watch the produce grow. I do love a fresh salad with veggies picked from my garden. It is most economical to grow from seeds and with minimal additives. Also, pick veggies that will grow well in your climate to maximize your harvest.
Hopefully, these ideas have helped you to improve your grocery budget while still eating healthy.
Which eat healthy on a budget ideas have worked for you?