Living on a budget helps you to manage things like your grocery bill so you don't overspend, but it makes it difficult to eat healthy when more nutritious food can often mean spending more money at checkout. Although healthy foods can certainly be more expensive, there are still ways to prioritize nutrient-rich foods on a budget. It might take a bit more time and effort, but these tips can help.
The best way to ensure you're not overspending on healthier food is to plan your meals. Get a diary and write out each day's meal for the week ahead. The best types of recipes to choose are those where you can swap in budget-friendly ingredients like canned fruit and vegetables. Once you've chosen your meals, get a shopping list of the ingredients you'll need for each meal to give you a guide to stick to when you go to the grocery store. This will help you stay on your goals of eating healthy and only buying the things you need.
To ensure you save money on your healthy grocery bill, check the closest grocery stores online and compare the prices of all the food on your shopping list. Although this can take some time to do each week, comparing prices can make a massive difference to your monthly food costs. You'll eat healthier and can save a lot of money in the process.
When you're at the grocery store, notice which fresh produce is in season. Seasonal foods are more affordable simply because they're more abundant and easy to find when they're in season. They're also in their peak of nutrition and quality. When planning your meals, incorporate these in-season foods into your diet. You'll get more for your money, and they'll also last longer.
Healthy snacks are known for being more expensive than unhealthy snack products. But even if a product is in the health food aisle or labeled "healthy," it doesn't mean it is. Read the ingredients on the labels—chances are you'll still see a lot of unnecessary ingredients. So unless these options are on sale and you need them for a hike or something similar, prioritize buying base ingredients or inexpensive alternatives.
Crackers are a great example here. Different brands range hugely in cost, but if you check the ingredients, a cheaper cracked wheat option might not be any less nutritious than the organic, locally sourced, 15-grain option.
Cooking meals from scratch is the perfect way to eat healthier and save money. Cooking from scratch means you know what you put into the recipe, so you can track exactly what you eat. It's also cheaper to buy ingredients and make them into a recipe than to buy something already made. When you make large meals for a small cost, you can store the leftovers in containers to eat later in the week or freeze them for future meals.
One of the worst-kept secrets to eating healthier is to shop at your local farmers market. Large grocery stores act as middlemen for farmers to sell their products to consumers. At a farmers' market, they sell directly to consumers. In many cases, the prices are lower than what you'd get at a grocery store. It pays to do your research, as this isn't always the case, but for much in-season produce, farmers' markets are a great source for affordable, healthy food.
If you have the space and patience, consider growing your own vegetables and herbs. This will give you control over what you eat. You can even grow food from leftover scraps by sitting the cut-off ends of scallions, celery, and root vegetables in a jar of water to allow the roots to grow, then planting them. You can also avoid toxic pesticides from conventional farming practices that are bad for your health. Or, if you don't have space for a garden, look for a community garden in your area.
Depending on whether you have enough storage space in your pantry, consider buying food like beans, meat, flour, and nuts in bulk. Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money. Plus, having base ingredients on hand makes it much easier to cook healthy meals from scratch. Buying in bulk is also better for the environment; you can bring your own bag and buy just as much as you need (or a lot all at once), doing away with wasteful plastic packaging.
Buying and cooking food in bulk to save money is a great idea, but food will only last a few days in the fridge before it spoils. To make perishable food and meals last longer, store them in your freezer. Foods like bread, meat, poultry, sauces, fresh herbs, and entire meals can be frozen usually for several months. If you have any food that's about to spoil but you know you won't be able to eat it in time, put it in the freezer.
Meal prep is healthy and budget-friendly, and it also saves you time. With meal prepping, you can buy in bulk, saving you a ton of money on your grocery bill. When trying to eat healthier while living on a budget, you can also look at meal prep as a way to portion out your meals before you eat them if you're prone to snacking what could be two servings just because it's there. Finally, you can freeze healthy meals you've cooked for the days you don't feel like cooking.