Are you under the misconception that in order to eat on a tight budget you have to eat unhealthy foods? Many people tend to associate cheap foods with carbohydrates in a box, like cereal or chips. Additionally, the number one way people eat as cheaply as possible is by avoiding the grocery store altogether and eating fast food instead. This may be one way to eat cheaply, but believe it or not, there are still ways to prioritize clean, healthy eating despite being on a budget. This starts by knowing how to navigate grocery stores instead of avoiding them. There are plenty of affordable and healthy life hacks that can be utilized when walking through the aisles at the store that should help you save money and treat your body with kindness with foods that are good for you. How do you eat healthy while being on a budget? We’ve compiled a list of life hacks for you below.
- Sub in plant-based proteins or cheaper cuts of meat. Take some time to research plant-based protein sources. If you’re trying to get the main protein source in your meal, your instinct may be to turn to meat, but with some creativity, you can implement cheaper plant-based protein sources instead. Chickpeas or Garbanzo beans, black beans, pinto beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts are all alternatives to add protein to your glow bowls, salads, and dishes. Additionally, if you’re set on having chicken, pork, turkey, or beef in your meals, start paying attention to the cheaper cuts of meat and go for those instead. Depending on the type of meat, ground meats can serve as a cheaper alternative as well.
- Meal plan/prep. By taking the time to meal plan for the week, it gives you the chance to take inventory of what you already have in the fridge and in the pantry. It also helps you plan meals around foods you may still have that are about to expire. Taking the time to plan before you go, it helps you eliminate waste and be intentional with not overbuying or giving way to spontaneous shopping.
- Go to the store with a list. Directly related to the point above, once you have a meal planned, write out the ingredients and stick to the list religiously once you get inside the store. It’s so easy to get sidetracked at the store and end up buying things you don’t truly need. Something to remember is to stick to the outer edges of the store as most of the essentials can be found there. Additionally, if you do venture into the middle aisles of the store, try to look at the bottom and top shelves because the cheaper price tags are usually out of eye level.
- Buy canned or frozen produce. There seems to be a misconception in society that something has to be fresh in order for it to qualify as healthy. This could not be more incorrect! Frozen veggies and fruits tend to really preserve a lot of their nutritional value, as they are frozen directly after being harvested. Canned options are also a great option, just make sure you read the label to check and make sure they aren’t being saturated in juices with lots of extra sodium and sugars. Beyond just produce, buying canned meats such as tuna and salmon and other nonperishable food items is a great way to save money!
- Cook at home. It may seem simple, but making a pact to eat out less will save you money and be healthier in the long run! Did you know that generally speaking studies have shown that you can cook for a family of four for the price of eating out for two at a restaurant? If cooking is not your thing throughout the week and you find it hard to be motivated, try cooking on the weekends and dividing it up into portions you can eat throughout the week. Cook larger portions that create plenty of leftovers. This can also allow you to pack your own lunch for work to eat out less.
- Look into affordable meal packages: Many people dismiss the idea of meal packages because they are under the impression they are all too expensive. However, many people have shared that they actually spend less money in the long run due to overbuying at the grocery store. Meal packages actually help you avoid traipsing through the grocery store when you’re hungry and help eliminate waste and unneeded purchases. There are services that will send you healthy meals prepared and delivered with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
- Shop produce that’s in season: If buying fresh produce is important to you, do some research on what’s currently in season as this product is generically cheaper than produce that is out of season. Another idea is to grow your own produce or herbs to not have to deal with grocery store prices. Try to also buy whole foods rather than pre-packaged versions. For example, a block of cheese is cheaper than shredded cheese or a head of lettuce is cheaper than a bag of lettuce.