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Eating Healthy On A Tight Budget — The 9 Effective Strategies

Eat­ing Healthy On A Tight Bud­get: The cost of buy­ing gro­ceries every week used to stress me out. I knew that eat­ing health­i­er meant spend­ing a lit­tle more on food. I felt ter­rif­ic while shop­ping for healthy ingre­di­ents to make meals for my fam­i­ly and me.

But then I would wor­ry and feel guilty as I was get­ting home from the health food store with the amount on the receipt com­ing up over my head.

One of the biggest hur­dles many peo­ple face when eat­ing healthy is the cost. Buy­ing all your gro­ceries from a health food store can break the bank. More­over, it can be impos­si­ble to find tru­ly healthy foods that are up to your stan­dards at your neigh­bor­hood super­mar­ket though it is get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter every year.

Since many peo­ple like me do not have an unlim­it­ed gro­cery bud­get, I decid­ed to share my top 9 strate­gies for sav­ing mon­ey on healthy and whole foods.

Read More: 5 Best Food Proces­sors to Sat­is­fy All Budgets

#1 Cook At Home(Eating Organic Food On A Budget)

1 Cook At Home

How often have you opened the refrig­er­a­tor to find that you have noth­ing to make for din­ner? Per­haps you are hun­gry and do not have the patience or ener­gy to make a healthy meal. So you go to a restau­rant or order take­out. Are there any oth­er options?

No doubt, cook­ing at home is not the most pleas­ant task if you are a busy per­son. How­ev­er, it is much cheap­er and health­i­er than din­ing out. Let’s admit that most, if not all, cafés and restau­rants will stock the cheap­est ingre­di­ents to gain a big­ger mar­gin for their busi­ness. More­over, these cheap­est ingre­di­ents are often not the best quality.

How­ev­er, you can make a habit of cook­ing at home if you learn easy recipes. This habit will save you mon­ey because eat­ing at home is usu­al­ly 3–4 times cheap­er than eat­ing out. In addi­tion, you will con­trol the qual­i­ty of ingre­di­ents and can cook healthy and tasty recipes. I vow it is not very dif­fi­cult; some recipes can teach you to love cook­ing and to eat at home.

How­ev­er, if you want to make your cook­ing expe­ri­ences enjoy­able and effort­less, you may need to buy some addi­tion­al kitchen equip­ment. For exam­ple, a good food proces­sor will sig­nif­i­cant­ly help, espe­cial­ly if you have a big fam­i­ly. The food dehy­dra­tor will make the task very easy if you like doing con­ser­va­tion and dry food for lat­er use or camp­ing. If you are addict­ed to smooth­ies or shakes in the morn­ing or after the work­out, the blender is anoth­er nec­es­sary addi­tion to your kitchen counter. And if you are a cre­ative cook­er, then a food spi­ral­iz­er is anoth­er kitchen gad­get you may consider.

#2 Plan Your Meals In Advance

Sav­ing mon­ey takes plan­ning, and that is espe­cial­ly impor­tant when it comes to buy­ing gro­ceries. Once you get used to cook­ing at home and test a few easy and healthy recipe ideas, you will be pre­pared to plan and shop for the week ahead. You can plan your meals for one week or up to a month in advance. Then ensure that you have your cup­boards and pantry stocked with every­thing you need to make your meals.

Speak­ing of plan­ning, do not go to the gro­cery store with­out a shop­ping list. If you do it, I may buy things you do not usu­al­ly buy or do not need. Hav­ing a list will keep you focused and reduces impulse buys.

#3 Get A Warehouse Club Membership

If you do not already shop at a ware­house club like Cost­co or BJ’s, do your­self and your finances a favor and get a membership!

In Cost­co, you can save a ton of mon­ey on fresh and frozen organ­ic pro­duce and pantry sta­ples like brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds, raw nuts, and almond milk. BJ’s is pret­ty much just like Cost­co, but with a much broad­er selec­tion of organ­ic prod­ucts, grass-fed, and humane­ly raised meats. For exam­ple, you can get one-pound tubs of pre-washed, organ­ic baby spinach, baby romaine, mixed greens, organ­ic apples, oranges, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, peach­es, plums, toma­toes, and potatoes.

You can also get trop­i­cal fruits like pineap­ples, man­goes, papayas, kiwifruit, bananas, avo­ca­dos, and water­mel­on – all at much bet­ter prices than I would find at my local gro­cery store. They even have large bags of frozen, organ­ic straw­ber­ries, cher­ries, and mixed berries.

You also get large bags of organ­ic brown rice and organ­ic quinoa and can often find large con­tain­ers of chia seeds. Cost­co car­ries eco-friend­ly dish­es and laun­dry deter­gents, while BJ’s has no suit­able alternatives.

Cost­co and BJ’s require an annu­al mem­ber­ship to shop, but it is well worth the small year­ly fee and pays for itself after just two or three vis­its. I rec­om­mend get­ting the upgrad­ed Cost­co Exec­u­tive or BJ’s Perks Rewards mem­ber­ship. The annu­al fee is dou­ble, but you earn cash back. That means sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars each year auto­mat­i­cal­ly deduct­ed from my bill, on top of the sav­ings you already receive as a member.

Pro Tip: Get a Cost­co Exec­u­tive or BJ’s Perks Rewards mem­ber­ship and pay your gro­cery bill with a cash­back cred­it card to score extra cash back. I do this to get a com­bined 3.5% cash back on all gro­ceries I buy at BJ’s.

#4 Buy Frozen Fruits And Vegetables

#4 Buy Frozen Fruits And Vegetables

I noticed many house­holds do not even con­sid­er buy­ing frozen fruits and veg­eta­bles even if they pass by the frozen prod­ucts shelves every time they vis­it the super­mar­ket. At the same time, frozen fruits and veg­gies are usu­al­ly just as nutri­tious as fresh ones. They also are cheap­er and avail­able all the year around. While fresh fruits, berries, and veg­gies are not only more expen­sive than fresh pro­duce but also avail­able only a few months in a year dur­ing only har­vest season.

The frozen pro­duce will also be avail­able all the time in a freez­er, and you do not need to use it with­in a short time of buy­ing. For exam­ple, frozen fruits and berries are great for smooth­ies or oat­meal top­pings. In con­trast, such veg­gies as green peas, broc­coli, and cau­li­flower are great for any dish.

#5 Purchase Groceries Online 

Although shop­ping for gro­ceries online may seem weird, you will get used to it once you real­ize how much mon­ey I could save quick­ly. I rec­om­mend two places to shop online for gro­ceries – Thrive Mar­ket and Amazon.com.

The Thrive Mar­ket usu­al­ly all prod­ucts about 35–40 % cheap­er than your local health food store. They offer tons of organ­ic, all-nat­ur­al, and GMO-free prod­ucts that you can typ­i­cal­ly only find at expen­sive health food stores but at whole­sale prices. More­over, you do not have to buy large quan­ti­ties of prod­ucts to get these savings.

Thrive Mar­ket does not sell fruits and veg­gies. How­ev­er, they car­ry a good selec­tion of healthy pantry sta­ples like brown rice, quinoa, beans, nuts, seeds, spices, and many canned and boxed, min­i­mal­ly processed foods that make eat­ing quick and quick and con­ve­nient. They also car­ry a wide selec­tion of eco-friend­ly, non-tox­ic hair and body care prod­ucts, house­hold sup­plies, sup­ple­ments, and even pet foods!

Thrive a Mar­ket is an excel­lent option for spe­cif­ic brands that you will find either too expen­sive at the gro­cery store or unavail­able at ware­house clubs. In addi­tion, you can save a lot on organ­ic spices and sauces – two things that are expen­sive at health food stores and have lim­it­ed avail­abil­i­ty at stan­dard supermarkets.

Ship­ping is free on orders over $50, and if you sign up through one of the links on this page ( like that one), you will get an extra 20% off your first order! After that, there is a mem­ber­ship fee of under $60, but it pays for itself after just two or three orders. Plus, when you sign up, they donate a free mem­ber­ship to a low-income family!

Amazon.com has a vast selec­tion of healthy, organ­ic foods for sale from var­i­ous brands. How­ev­er, many of the spe­cif­ic prod­ucts are only avail­able by the case, or the ship­ping charges refute the mon­ey saved. Not every­thing has free ship­ping for Prime mem­bers, either. Either way, it is quick and easy to search for prod­ucts you reg­u­lar­ly buy to see if you could save mon­ey and get free ship­ping through Amazon.

#6 Buy Whole Foods

6 Buy Whole Foods

Sup­pose you get used to buy­ing semi-processed food such as shred­ded cheese, refried beans, ready hum­mus, or gua­camole. You prob­a­bly nev­er thought if you pre­pared such recipes your­self. It will be more afford­able and health­i­er sim­ply because it is cheap­er to buy a block of cheese, avo­ca­does, and canned beans of gar­ban­zo for those recipes. And if you own a food proces­sor and get used to cook­ing at home, prepar­ing these recipes will not take more than 10 minutes.

Buy­ing ready cere­als are also more expen­sive than whole grains such as oats or brown rice or nuts and raisins. More­over, the unprocessed food is usu­al­ly sold in bulk, so you can pre­pare more cere­als sav­ing even more mon­ey, and the saved mon­ey you can spend on bet­ter qual­i­ty nutri­tious whole food. You also must remem­ber that most stores place the whole food on the edges of the store while processed and unhealthy food in the cen­ter in front of your eyes encour­ages you to spend more money.

#7 Eating Organic Food On A Budget

Organ­ic fruits and veg­eta­bles are expen­sive. How­ev­er, you can save a lot of mon­ey by pur­chas­ing organ­ic pro­duce based on the Envi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fif­teen” lists.

Fruits and veg­eta­bles with the poten­tial­ly high­est lev­els of pes­ti­cide residue (accord­ing to the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list) include straw­ber­ries, apples, stone­fruit (peach­es, plums, apri­cots, cher­ries), grapes, toma­toes, cel­ery, bell pep­pers, cucum­bers, and leafy greens. So you bet­ter buy organ­ic ver­sions of these foods.

How­ev­er, the Clean Fif­teen list includes avo­ca­do, man­go, pineap­ple, bananas, papaya, mel­on, kiwifruit, grape­fruit, cau­li­flower, egg­plant, cab­bage, and corn. These foods have been shown to have low or no pes­ti­cide residues, so you can save mon­ey by get­ting non-organ­ic ver­sions of these foods.

Here is anoth­er life­hack for you on how to get organ­ic food cheap­er. You can find organ­ic food from some small local farm­ers, who grow it accord­ing to the organ­ic stan­dard but do not cer­ti­fy it because it involves extra expens­es. If you go to the local Mar­ket and ask sell­ers how they grow their pro­duce and if they use organ­ic farm­ing meth­ods, you may learn a lot of help­ful information.

#8 Buy On Sale and In Season

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, coupon clip­ping is not an excel­lent mon­ey-sav­ing option for those who pri­mar­i­ly eat a whole foods diet because most Sun­day papers and coupon fly­ers offer dis­counts for junk food.

How­ev­er, keep­ing an eye out for fresh pro­duce sales is a good idea. Fol­low your local gro­cery and health food stores on social media or sign up to receive sale announce­ments. That way, you will be the first to know if your favorite fruits or veg­gies will be discounted.

Sea­son­al pro­duce, for exam­ple, straw­ber­ries and zuc­chi­ni in sum­mer or oranges and pome­gran­ates in win­ter, tends to be less expen­sive. Plus, fruits and veg­eta­bles that are in sea­son and grown local­ly are fresh­er and like­ly have high­er nutri­ent levels.

When you do find a sale, buy extra. Buy as much as you can, and then freeze for lat­er. For exam­ple, it makes much finan­cial sense to buy a bunch of dis­count straw­ber­ries or kale when they are on sale and then freezes them for lat­er use. While it makes your gro­cery bill a bit more when you pur­chase them, the sav­ings are long-term when you do not have to buy them lat­er when the price is higher.

#9 Replace Meat With Other Proteins

Replace Meat With Other Proteins

Anoth­er way to save mon­ey you spend on gro­ceries is replac­ing the meat with pro­tein such as legumes, beans, tofu, eggs, or fish. You can first intro­duce one or more days a week with­out meat or add anoth­er meat­less day a week if you do not eat it every day.

All legumes and bean have a very long shelf life; they are inex­pen­sive and con­tains a lot of pro­tein. You can even make plant-based meat­balls or meat­loaf from legumes and beans. Plant-based meat­balls have less sat­u­rat­ed fat and decrease dia­betes type 2 and heart dis­ease risk. In addi­tion, beans are rich in iron. For exam­ple, one can of the bean con­tains 15 g of pro­tein, cost­ing you less than $1. You can add more whole grains, rice, veg­eta­bles, or tofu to your stan­dard meat recipes, so the meal will be fill­ing but will con­tain less meat.

Final­ly, you can pre­pare some dish­es with canned or frozen fish.

Final Thoughts

I hope these nine strate­gies for eat­ing healthy on a bud­get help you out. I use all five of these. I cook at home dai­ly, plan my meals in advance, and have a BJ mem­ber­ship and a Thrive Mar­ket account. I often buy frozen food, espe­cial­ly berries, for my smooth­ies and shop online for gro­ceries. I also do not exclu­sive­ly pur­chase cer­ti­fied organ­ic food; I always look for fresh pro­duce sales and know the local farm­ers who grow their pro­duce using organ­ic stan­dards but are not licensed. I am also aware of sea­son­al food and recent­ly refused the meat, and often imi­tate meat recipes using tofu, legumes, beans, and oth­er sub­sti­tutes. These tac­tics have dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduced my spend­ing on food.

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