Can you eat healthy food on a budget? That's the big question on many people's minds. And the answer is yes! For years we bought cheap (junk) foods because we didn't know any better.
Then we started putting these principles into place and starting buying healthy, whole foods for our family for less than we were spending on junk!
Most people say that one of their goals is to eat healthier foods. Parents want the best for their kids, and most people want the best for themselves. But, unfortunately, a lot of people feel like they can't afford to eat healthy foods.
Have you ever asked yourself these questions about eating healthy food on a budget?
Yes! Absolutely! And you don't even need coupons to make it happen.
No, you can learn how to budget and eat amazing food just using your local grocery stores.
You probably can, but honestly, I really want to help you focus on whole foods instead (for less money!)
You can of course keep the foods you love while saving money! These tips are going to help you change your mindset about buying food in general, but they don't tell you how you have to eat (per se).
10 Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
One of the reasons I didn't think I could afford good quality foods was because I was shopping at a "brand name" organic grocery store... you know the one. Our grocery bill while eating well used to be $1000 a month for two people!
So then we started eating "junk food" because we were trying to save money. There were many times that I bought cheap (really cheap) food because it's all I thought I could afford.
But I could have afforded much better food, I just didn't know how to spend my money properly. It's a lesson that I had to learn many times over before it stuck, and it's a great lesson to learn when homesteading - how to balance what you want to do or have with the resources you have available to you.
Fortunately there are a few simple tricks that you can use to keep for family eating well for very little money.
For years before we had a homestead and garden, my family of three ate an all organic diet for less than $200 a month just buying food from the grocery store.
These ten tips will help you start feeding your family, however large or small, healthier foods for less money.
1. Learn to listen to your body
This one takes some practice. We’re just not accustomed to listening to our bodies anymore. We’re always on the go-go-go and don’t take the time to eat. So we shove the food in our faces and end up feeling stuffed.
We’ve forgotten what it feels like to just be full. Cut what you are eating in half for a few meals and see what your body thinks.
My husband and I both found that we were used to the STUFFED feeling as the feeling of being "full" - but it was well beyond what we needed to be eating each meal. When we started listening to our bodies again we found that we ate much less than before.
*This is not intended to be medical advice and you should consult with a doctor before doing anything crazy with your diet or nutrition.
2. Learn to cook from scratch
While this might be a bit intimidating, it doesn't have to be. Recently, I saw that a 2lb pre-cooked rotisserie chicken was over $20... and it wasn't even organic!
That might be fine every now and then, but if you get used to roasting a chicken or 2 on the weekends, it can save a lot of money. In fact, a 5lb organic whole chicken was only $22 at that same grocery store.
A little effort to cook the bird, and we ended up with more than double the meat for about the same price (and better quality too)!
This same idea goes for bread, pizza, and all pre-cooked meals in the freezer section!
3. Looks for deals on meat
Find the untrimmed brisket at your local grocer and have them grind it for ground round.
My grocer sells brisket for around $2.99/lb – this is much better than the $5-7/lb that ground round sells for. Brisket also has the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids… plus, the taste is so rich that you’ll never go back to regular ground round.
I make meatloaf, hamburgers, chili, taco meat… pretty much everything with brisket. It’s amazing. I bought one pound of ground round for a dish I wanted to make when the grocer was out of briskets… it was terrible and we threw it away.
If you want to grind your own meats, you can follow my video tutorial on grinding meat at home!
Also, when trying to save money, be sure to buy whole meats, not deli meats or overly processed meat. They are way more expensive for what you get, and they are loaded with filler.
4. Buy nutrient dense veggies
When you’re trying to eat well, most of your money goes to produce. Learn what veggies sell for the least amount per pound and plan your menu around those things.
For example: One head of organic red cabbage costs me about $2.50. I can chop that one head of cabbage up, along with one yellow onion, and sauté it in butter for a delicious side dish that yields 10 servings.
Compare that with one head of organic iceberg lettuce for $3.25 and you see my point.
Not only do these nutrient dense foods give you more, well, nutrients, but as a result you are fuller longer, and need less overall food!
5. Weight prepackaged food
Saving money on real food can be a little tricky as there aren't often coupons for produce! However, with this simple tip we save up to 50% on organic produce, no coupons required!
What are pre-weighed foods?
These foods are found in the produce section of your grocery store and and sold by the bag.
So when I go to the store for apples, I don't just buy the first bag I grab. In fact, I don't just grab one bag at all! I grab at least 5 bags and take them all over to the scale in the produce department...
And then I do the unthinkable... I weigh them all! Most of the time a "3 pound" bag of apples weighs anywhere from 2.75 pounds to 6 pounds!
If I were to just throw a bag in my cart that ended up only weighing 2.75 pounds then I'm losing money on that purchase. However, by weighing a few bags and finding one that is over on the intended weight I get way more food for the money!
Just check out these two pre-weighed bags of organic potatoes! The one on the left weighs 5.85 pounds, while the one on the right weighs 3.13 pounds.
I regularly find “5lb” bags that are between 3 and 6 pounds. Make sure you’re not losing money, and you might even get a little extra for the same cost!
6. Buy in bulk when you can
This one is simple enough, but it does take a bit of pre-planning.
We eat raw cheese and I try to buy it in bulk every 6 months. The 8oz block from the local grocer is $5.99, but when I buy it in bulk it’s only $3.40 (I buy 20lbs at a time).
Also, if you can hit a sale at the same time you're buying in bulk, even better!
For example, Jovial Foods has a sale on their einkorn flour every Black Friday - so I save up and buy hundreds of pounds during that sale. It saves me almost 30% on that one item!
These little savings add up, but you do have to plan for the large upfront cost for each order. Plus you need to be prepared to store things appropriately.
7. Make a meal plan and stick to it
Making a meal plan is actually one of the most important things when it comes to eating healthy… whether you’re trying to save money or not.
If you don’t know what’s for dinner there is a high likelihood that convenience will win out over health.
Avoid this issue by always having a few meals in the freezer that can be tossed in the oven and ready in less than an hour.
8. Reduce sugar, it's expensive.
Sugar is costly, to both your health and your pocket book.
Reducing the amount of sugar you buy will drastically reduce your food bill.
And I’m not just talking about a 5lb bag of sugar, though I’m including it – I’m also talking about all foods that contain sugar, natural or otherwise. This includes fruit.
Cutting down on sugary foods will also help reduce cravings for snacks between meals. I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy a nice chocolate chip cookie now and again (or whatever dessert your family likes best), just be smart about it and don't go crazy :-)
9. Like what you buy
Liking what you buy is not the same as buying what you like, so take those ding-dongs out of the cart!
This just means that you need to be realistic about what your family will eat.
If you find a great deal on turnips but no one in your family will eat them, what’s the point? You’ve wasted your money and now you have to deal with a bunch of rotten turnips.
Try new things (at a reasonable pace, don’t buy ten new things to try in a week, that will most likely be a waste of money) and keep track of what your family loves, likes, and is willing to eat.
10. Don’t overbuy
Just like with number nine, you need to be careful not to waste food, money, or refrigerator space.
When you put all these steps together, you will naturally keep the waste to a minimum, but if you ignore them you will find yourself overspending and not being able to eat everything you bought before it goes bad!
There you have it!
Ten tricks for clean eating on a budget. They are simple enough and yet sometimes they are so difficult to stick to!
It is worth it though – My food budget was about $1000/month before we implemented these tricks. Now it’s $200 or under. Quite a savings and the food we eat is of much higher quality.