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15 Simple Ways To Save Money on Groceries And Still Eat Well

15 Simple Ways To Save Money on Groceries And Still Eat Well

Whether you only have to feed yourself, or you’re trying to provide cost effective, nutritious food for a growing family, buying groceries is one of the largest expenses for any household.

According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the cost of feeding a family of four can be as much as $954.60 per month. And it’s likely to be much more for many families.

The good news, is that there are some simple measures you can take to slash the cost of your grocery bill. Here are 15 simple ways, that when combined, can cut your grocery bill by 50% or more.

1. Shop alone

It is estimated that about 65% of the items we pick up when we shop with others are unplanned. If you have children, I’m sure you’ll be acutely aware of this problem. Consider taking control of your weekly shopping and leave your spouse and children at home. Stick rigidly to your list and you’ll save yourself a small fortune as well as a minor headache.

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2. Time your shop intelligently

Is there a particular time of day that your local shop is likely to reduce the cost of certain items? For many, it is at the end of the day. For others, early in the morning. Perhaps a few forbidden items have a nasty habit of jumping into your basket when you’re feeling a little bit hungry? If so, then have a hearty breakfast and hit the store mid-morning. Your bank balance and waistline will thank you.

3. Slice and dice

As with buying prepackaged and precooked foods, buying sliced or diced ingredients means you’re usually paying for the extra preparation process. Instead, purchase hams, cheeses and fruits in their whole state and do the chopping yourself. More time consuming, certainly. But also far more economical.

4. Shop infrequently

It may be lovely to dream of perusing local shops at a leisurely pace and buying fresh produce daily, but it’s also unrealistic for many time-starved families. Get organized and you’ll stop popping into the grocery store every other day and picking up a few impulse buys while you’re there. The less you shop, the more you save.

5. Shop for your lunch

If you don’t plan your week ahead and make your list, you’ll inevitably be dashing to pick up an expensive sandwich or meal in your lunch break. This particular habit is the cause of much debt. And if there are two or three people in your household guilty of not preparing their lunches, it adds up to a significant monthly spending. Prepare sandwiches or fresh soups from home or cook larger meals so that you are able to take leftovers into work.

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6. Check labels

Purchase items as fresh as you possibly can. Rummaging at the back of the shelf to reach for hidden items can mean unearthing the produce that is freshest and with a longer sell-by date. If you lazily swipe the front items from a shelf, you’ll likely be getting the produce with the shortest shelf-life. This simple tip means far less going to waste as you’ll eliminate the need to discard spoiled items.

7. Pay with cash

If you doubt your ability to skip past the ‘freshly baked’ donuts or are easily diverted, it helps to leave the card at home. Although it is difficult to be completely accurate in terms of cost, once you have a rough idea how much you spend on your weekly shop, take the money out in cash and you’ll deny yourself the means of adding tens of dollars worth of unnecessary groceries to your basket.

8. Check for local sales

Check the websites of your local stores for any sales on particular items. There is often a particular meat that is on sale each week and it makes sense to buy in bulk and freeze any cuts that provide excellent value. You can also build each week’s meals around the meats that are available cheap at that time. Remember to also check any promotional flyers that often litter the entrances of grocery stores. And don’t neglect the cheaper cuts of meat that are often reduced. They provide great nutrition and value.

9. Purchase groceries in-season

Purchasing groceries when they are in season is a fantastic way to get the most nutrition from your fruits and vegetables. It is also a cheaper way of packing your diet with these healthy foods when they are at their cheapest. Foods that are locally available and in abundance are almost always cheaper than produce that is out of season and flown thousands of miles to land in your local grocery store isle. Research online sites for local food producers and familiarize yourself with the food seasons.

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10. Buy spices and condiments in bulk

Adding spices to your food is a great way of packing in the flavor without having to add too much fat, salt or sugar. Find stores that sell spices in bulk and by weight. Buying your favorite spices in bulk can save you significant money, and being able to purchase small quantities by weight can also help you avoid unnecessary expenditure on those ingredients you may only use very infrequently.

11. Use a loyalty card and download coupons

It makes sense to accumulate loyalty cards for each store you visit. Sign-up to as many as you use in order to benefit from their loyalty programs. It also pays to use websites such as Coupons.com and print out any relevant coupons. Spending a few minutes searching coupon websites while you’re preparing your menu and shopping list can slash your monthly grocery bill. Be flexible with the brands you buy and you’ll be rewarded with a cheaper bill.

12. Skip prepackaged meals

Sure, prepackaged and precooked foods offer a tempting level of convenience. But they’re also far more expensive than if you were to buy the ingredients separately and cook them yourself. You also have little control of nutritional value, quality or freshness. Although time is scarce and convenience valued, it is far more economical to cook meals from scratch that can be chilled and portioned for subsequent meals.

13. Grow your own

We haven’t all got the space, climate or inclination to grow exotic fruits and vegetables. But we can usually grow our own herbs. Little shop-bought bundles of herbs can be rather expensive if you’re regularly buying a couple of varieties. By simply adding a couple of dollars to the initial cost, you’ll have a pot that will provide an ongoing supply of fresh herbs to snip at your convenience.

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14. Create your menu and list

Creating a weekly menu is one of the best ways in which you can save money on groceries. Having a clear plan of what you’ll be eating each day means that you can break down each meal into the exact ingredients and quantities you’ll need. Making a list of these items ensures that you don’t pick up groceries that you don’t need and it also means you’re far less likely to order a late night pizza.

15. Learn how to cook

If you refuse to cook, then the first three points are pretty redundant really. The importance of cooking your own meals, for taste, nutrition and value cannot be overstated. Cooking meals in the proportions you require affords you a scale of economy that buying ready-made simply cannot come close to. Learning the basics of food preparation enables you to cook quantities as small or large as you need, with little going to waste.

If you are not yet keeping track of your weekly shopping budget, these 15 tips are a great way to start cutting your monthly expenditure and start eating better food. By using your weekly list, tweaking your shop and tracking your spending, you may surprise yourself just how much money you will save on your grocery bill.

Featured photo credit: Bruce Stockwell via flickr.com

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Published on January 17, 2020

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (The Definitive Guide)

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (The Definitive Guide)

Have you ever looked at health gurus and wondered how on earth they can afford all that health food? Or maybe you’ve tried multiple times to start eating healthy only to find the $600 monthly budget overwhelming?

If you’re anything like me, you know exactly what I’m talking about! I absolutely understand the sinking feeling of looking back over a grocery budget and finding you went way over what you intended. And besides that, it can be hard to justify buying a tiny $5 bag of carrot chips while a $1 mound of potato chips is sitting right next door.

My husband and I recently ran into that struggle. We got married this past year and soon found ourselves trying to balance 12 hour work-days with keeping our relationship strong and trying to keep our personal businesses afloat. Granted, our budget was the one thing that took a hit! After we started tracking our spending, we were shocked to see we were spending over $1000 a month just on food! A little planning cleared that right up.

So, how to eat healthy on a budget?

Here’re the top tips I learned that helped us shave over $600 monthly off of our food budget so we could reinvest that in the areas that really mattered to us![1]

1. Meal Plan

You’ve probably heard the saying “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail” right? Well, this saying couldn’t be any more true than in the area of healthy budgeting! The fact is, most healthy foods don’t actually cost that much… the pre-made time saving ones do!

If you go about creating a healthy meal plan within your budget, you could easily cut costs down to around the same price you are paying for junk food.

Meal planning is as simple as working in foods you already have in your fridge/freezer, adding in several meals with simple ingredients and seasonal veggies, and breaking it down into a shopping list.

Often, finding a few meals to make in big batches will save you the most money in the long run, which leads me to my next point.

2. Cook in Bulk

Not only will cooking in bulk save you a whole lot of time, it will save you a whole lot of money too! Believe it or not, if you find meals to make with similar ingredients, you can easily save more money than when you were eating unhealthy.

Don’t believe me? Just look at a $4 frozen pasta dinner. Now, sub that with a veggie pasta dinner. 5 zuchinni ($3), Pasta sauce ($2.50), and chicken ($5) could last you a full 5 meals which adds up to a whopping total of just over $1 per meal!

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That’s not even digging in to all the money you will save from fast-food. Trust me, a little $10 spent here and there add up! You’ll be saving a whopping amount from all the meal prep you will do!

3. Cook all Your Meals in One Day

The science behind this is 2-fold.

Number one, if you have lots of meals to grab and go, you will be far less likely to binge on pricier food when you get hungry. Let’s be real, you’re not going to spend 1 hour cooking when hub-n’-grub is at your bekon-call!

Number 2, meal prepping ahead of time will help you stick to your meal plan better when you’re not in the mood. Let’s face it, we’re all going to have days when protein and veggies doesn’t exactly sound appealing. But, if you have a full meal that’s quick to grab in the fridge, it will be easier for you to fill up on the good stuff rather than spending money on what you don’t really need.

4. Cut Back on Snacks and Specialty Items

I can almost hear you from across the screen. “But, I thought snacks were good for me!” Here’s the deal: Snacks are expensive! And healthy snacks, oh my goodness, say goodbye to your paycheck!

Look, I’m definitely not saying that healthy snacks are bad. Quite frankly, I would much rather you chow down on Halo Top than a triple-butterfinger-fudge sundae. It’s just that… healthy snacks are why eating healthy gets a bad rap for being expensive.

Look at it this way: You could either buy a week’s worth of groceries full of chicken, fish, beans, veggies, and fruits for $30. Or, you can spend that $30 on six snacks that will leave you hungry for more.

What’s more, the ingredients for gluten-free baked goods, sugar free substitutes, or protein powders alone will add up to you eating a full week’s budget in one sitting. By all means, if you want to work some yummy items into your budget, do it! But don’t confuse that extra monthly $300 of delicacies as a necessity. Your body and budget will thank you!

5. Satisfy Yourself with Your Favorite Subs

We all have an emotional tie to food. Maybe pasta reminds you of home! Or maybe a fresh-baked pizza is what gives you a feeling of comfort. Whatever you favorite food, find a way to work it into your budget in the best way.

We’re only human, and depriving ourselves of what we love will never end well. More often than not actually, it ends in take-out or a pricey-premade substitute.

Instead of finding yourself in this situation, find a way to make your favorite foods fit your budget. Zuchinni noodle pasta might just give you that feeling of home without breaking the bank. Or maybe you could google a healthy pizza alternative you would like that you could make at home. Often, something similar to your craving will be enough to give you a sense of satisfaction.

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Or, just buy your cheat meal and save it for a special day. That’s okay too!

6. Stick to the Cheaper Proteins

Okay, I know we all love steak. Unfortunately, buying pre-cooked or expensive cuts of meat are one of the easiest ways to drain a budget.

Instead of purchasing those, try buying frozen chicken or eggs. A 5 lb bag of frozen chicken can be as cheap as $5, and you can buy a whole weeks worth of eggs for just over $1. You could even try going vegetarian for a few meals if you really want to cut down on costs!

7. Buy Frozen Fruits and Veggies

I know, we all love our fresh fruits and veggies! However, sometimes frozen might be the way to go if you’re looking to cut costs!

Fruits and veggies are easiest to ship when frozen, making them a much cheaper option. Contrary to popular belief, scientists have actually found that frozen might be better for you too![2]

The reason is, frozen produce is picked at its prime and shipped immediately. Fresh fruit tends to be picked much earlier so it will ripen while being shipped. Not only does this make it less nutrient dense, but sometimes the fruits are actually pumped with artificial flavors to make up for the lack of real nutrients.

While I’m all for fresh fruits and veggies, don’t feel guilty if you opt for frozen foods due to a budget.

8. Bump up the Calories with Rice and Beans

The problem some people find when trying to eat healthy is that it can be hard to get the amount of calories you need without relying on expensive “specialty” items. Instead of stocking up on pricey gluten-free breads and pasta, I say stick to simple rice and beans as the bulk of your meals.

Brown Rice is very cheap and easy to use as a base for bowls and dishes. Likewise, beans can add a bit of fiber making you feel full and satisfied without having to spend a lot of money.

If you are trying to cut on body fat, use extra veggies as the bulk of your meal and add in rice and beans as a filler.

9. Try Acai Bowls

Acai Bowls can be a really cheap and satisfying meal as long as you do it right.

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You can find cheap fruits at most stores or just freeze your fresh fruits before it goes bad.

Making your own granola can save you a lot of money as well. The total cost for this delicious meal should only add up to a few dollars compared to triple that price if you were to buy one pre-made.

10. Make Your Own Meal Kits

Do you like your meals freshly cooked? Sending meal kits to your doorstep is an easy way to drain your budget. Instead, try making your meal kit at home! Not only is it fun, you will easily get a delicious taste.

Simply find a few simple meal cards or print some out and fill a ziplock with the ingredients for each specific day. Don’t know what recipe to make? Another option is to order one month of meal kits and recycle the recipe into ingredients for the upcoming months with ingredients you picked up from the store.

11. Don’t Drink Your Calories

A few dollars spent here and there can really add up! Just as with specialty items, healthy drinks can be a blackhole for you. An energy drink and kombucha and coffee each day could easily have you spending and extra $300 each month!

I you really need a special drink fix, try making your favorites at home. Bring a coffee in, make kombucha, or even try making lemonade with stevia or a healthy soda. You’ll be surprised w hat a big difference such a small change can make on your budget!

12. Buy Cheap Online

Just like anything else, it pays to be prepared. Buying foods from online retailers can be a really affordable way to save money as long as you’re prepared.

Plan ahead for those more expensive specialty items you can’t live without. It will save you tons of money compared to having to buy food from a specialty store.

13. Don’t Fret about the Clean Fifteen

One of the huge things that can mess with a person’s budget is eating organic. For the record, I am 110% all for eating organic whenever you can. However, for some people, it can be hard to make organic food fit into a budget.

Instead of scratching healthy eating for a smaller budget, try to buy meat and the dirty dozen organic, and don’t go crazy about the rest. The clean fifteen are the fifteen safest foods to buy that aren’t organic! Meanwhile, the dirty dozen is the most worthwhile avoiding. According to Produce Retailer, these are the dirty dozens:[3]

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

14. Pay Attention to Storage

Keeping the food you have is just as important as how much food is in the first place. Try to stay on top of how much produce you can actually use before it goes bad. It might not be a bad idea to pencil an extra shopping trip in the middle of the week to keep food fresh.

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Investing in good food storage containers could go a long way in saving you in the long run as well.

15. Freeze Food Before it Goes Bad

Instead of getting mad at yourself at the end of the week for all the wilted produce you need to throw out, try freezing it before you get to that point.

Most frozen veggies will taste delicious in stir fries and soups. You can freeze fruits to make sorbet or smoothies. Frozen greens can be chopped up and tossed into just about anything for a nutrient boost!

16. Consider Ditching Most Supplements and Powders

I have nothing against superfood powders and supplements. However, if your budget is tight, it can be hard to fit supplements and powders in.

Instead of adding in powders, add extra nutrients to you food. Add lots of greens and veggies to all your meals to meet your nutrient needs. If you need a specific supplement, you can find great deals online as well!

17. Use Budget App

There are so many great apps you can download for free. One of my current favorite is HoneyDue because you can track your budget easily with your spouse. There are many options available, just find the one that you’re most likely to use. The ones that download your spendings automatically are often the easiest and will give you a more accurate number.

My husband and I use the same app, but have a separate budget for each of our weekly food plan and for our additional snacks. Keeping things separate can often be helpful to know exactly where your money is going. Plus, it can help hold you accountable if you have a significant other you are sharing money with.

18. Use What you Have

Most people have unused protein powders lying around in their cabinets. Instead of letting that go to waste, work them into your meal plan. Protein powders can make amazing doughnuts, pastries, or pancakes!

19. Enjoy the Process!

Finding ways to enjoy your new lifestyle will be helpful in sticking to it long term. Find fun in seeing how much you can save each month. Make a competition with someone to see who can stick to the lowest budget and create something fun to do for the winner with some of the money saved! Blast some music in the kitchen while cooking your new recipes.

Budgeting and health doesn’t have to be a drag. Make it fun and you’ll enjoy your new lifestyle long-term!

Featured photo credit: kevin laminto via unsplash.com

Reference

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