When I hear “eating healthy is too expensive” my inner Elle Woods gears up to deliver a strong closing argument to shut down the case. This is because I am living proof that its not. About 2 years ago I left a cushy 9-5 to pursue my dream without a savings account or plan. With one paying client and rent to pay, I know all too well how to make it work on a tight budget. As a health coach yes, I made nourishing food a priority over bar tabs and trips to the shore. But on any healthy eating journey, choices need to be made. Below are the tips I personally followed to stay healthy no matter what.
1. Know your staples
Identify the 5 items you buy almost every time you’re at the grocery store and get to know their average prices in relation to amount (ie per pound, count, etc.). Without memorizing every price in the store, you can know when to spot a deal or a markup on your usual items. Just like its important to read nutritional labels to be healthy, you have to read the prices to be thrifty.
2. Choose where to buy
Are your staples best bought in bulk, fresh, frozen, or in a can? Think outside of the grocery store and consider your favorite type of wild rice could be cheapest on Amazon.com or Vitacost.com. Knowing the prices will help you figure out if the bulk section of your store or pre-bagged is cheapest. While bulk is usually always cheaper, be cautious for exceptions (ahem, chia seeds at Whole Foods).
3. Be realistic, not perfect
Eating healthy doesn’t mean all or nothing. I believe fresh, organic, local, and seasonal is the optimal way to eat, however, I know it’s not always possible and that’s OK. Get familiar with the EWG Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list to see what’s most and least effected by pesticides and toxins. If you can’t go fresh and organic, go fresh. If canned and frozen makes sense for you right now, go for it. The goal is to stick to whole foods and veggies at your price point.
4. Shop outside of the box
Box meaning literally, boxes of processed foods. Prepackaged snacks are not only unhealthy but also expensive! If they make health claims expect them to be even more. Shop the perimeter of your store to stay near fresh produce, meats, fish, and frozen goods. However, the middle does contain whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and condiments so dip in when necessary.
5. Eat seasonal
Seasonal eating has an expensive sound to it, but in fact is the most affordable way to eat. When fruits and vegetables are in season, they are growing in abundance and need to sell! Without being too tied to your staple list, buy produce on sale or what’s in season to get the best nutritional and monetary bang for your buck.
6. Stock condiments
When you have a kitchen stocked with herbs, spices, condiments, and sauces, you can make any meal new and exciting. Give a simple meal of brown rice with vegetables an Asian flare with tamari, sesame oil, and sesame seeds or go Italian with oregano, garlic, and a chunky marinara. Seasonings make throwing an affordable, healthy, and delicious meal together a snap.
7. Go meat-less, more
Take the “meatless Monday” concept and run with it. Meat and animal products are expensive! Buy half the meat you normally buy and replace it with beans, tofu (1x per week), seeds, nuts, nut butters, and protein-rich quinoa. Contrary to popular belief, plants DO have protein! I challenge you to limit your yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, deli meats, and fresh meats for a month and watch your grocery bill go WAY down. Also, your pants size!
Do YOU have any tips to stay thrifty at the grocery store? Share with us below!