Top 10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Today I wanted to bust a myth about healthy eating that I hear CONSTANTLY. From clients, friends and even strangers at the store: “I want to eat healthy but it’s too expensive.”
I couldddddd go into a long diatribe about how eating healthy day-to-day will drastically reduce your risk of health issues and degenerative diseases which cost Americas and the government hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care each year, not to mention their lives, but I’m not going to do that here today. There are tons of great documentaries and blogs that dissect those issues like Forks Over Knives and Food Inc. Today, we’ll keep it simple, practical and actionable and focus on stretching your dollar when it comes to eating healthy.
As a Health Coach, part of my job is to help people make conscious choices when it comes to not only their health, but also their relationships and finances.
Eating healthy on a budget is a topic that is near and dear to me. I believe in small, actionable tweaks that provide BIG returns for your mind, body, energy level and overall health. Below, I’ll take you through 10 easy steps that you can take to reduce your spending and lovingly afford your healthier lifestyle without major sacrifices. All I’m asking you to do is be mindful when it comes to what you eat and how you approach the process. Read on…
The short back story to all of this is that I’ve always been a thrifty gal and one who loves a deal. I started to take my health more seriously and support my obsession with bulk bins at health food stores while I was in college on a shoestring budget. So, I was forced to be creative. I didn’t want to sacrifice what I was putting into my body to stay fueled and energized, so I had to figure out a way to “afford” my new lifestyle. Over the years, and as my budget and palette expanded and my understanding of the importance of high-quality whole foods grew, I decided that this “way of living” was a necessity for me. So I made it work with these simple tips that I share with my clients and friends often.
Approach this list of tips with flexibility and an open mind.
This is by NO MEANS a comprehensive list of all of the ways to save money while eating a healthier more mindful way but these tips do work and they do help stretch your dollar. Employ just one or two of these tips and then once you’re confident and comfortable, add in a few more. I promise you, in NO TIME AT ALL, your wallet and body will be thanking you.
Buy organic when it counts. Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a list of the most and least contaminated produce called “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen.” If you don’t want to blow your entire budget on organic produce, refer to these lists to know when to splurge on organic when it counts the most so you can reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides and toxins.
Buy in bulk. I absolutely love the bulk aisle for nuts, seeds, grains, rice, flour, oats and dried fruit. Since the distributor saves on packaging the items that savings is very often passed on to the shopper. I love to store bulk items in mason jars in my cabinet for easy access and so that I can always tell when I’m running low and it’s time to stock up. By simply stocking my pantry in this way, I always have snacks, breakfast items and baking ingredients on hand.
Store produce for lasting freshness. One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they didn’t have time to cook all the produce they bought and items went bad in a few days. This is sad but can be avoided! Avoid “rotting away” your money by properly storing your produce. I follow these steps to save delicate fruit in glass containers for longer shelf life and love Debbie Meyer Green Bags (zip lock bags + glass containers work too) for separating and storing leafy greens and vegetables in the fridge. By separating produce you reduce the risk of cross-contamination from natural gasses that the produce emit which typically cause premature rotting. These green bags are a life saver for prolonging the freshness and shelf life of your veggies.
Shop the web. For kitchen staples like extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed coconut, organic balsamic vinegar, Apple cider vinegar, nuts, seeds, specialty flours, gluten-free options, condiments and more, I shop the web. Sites like my favorite Vitacost.com have extremely competitive prices on high quality pantry staples plus give you free shipping on orders over $50. I usually do one big stock-up from time to time and get all my favorite oils, condiments and pantry favorites at great prices. If they’re on extra sale, I’ll buy two of each as these items store very well in the pantry and I know I’ll use them in the future so might as well save even more. $10 OFF your first order click here
Case discount. Did you know that most retailers will give you a 10% off case discount when you buy the case? Stay with me. I look for items that I use weekly like protein bars or canned organic beans and the minute they go on sale at the retailer I’ll grab a whole case. That way you get each item for the in-store sale price PLUS the 10% case discount. If you have the space to store in a pantry this tip is great for protein bars, organic canned beans, organic canned soup and sauces(especially in the winter when you know you’ll be flying through the ingredients). If you’re not sure if your local store honors this kind of discount, just ask the store manager! I have yet to find a food store that doesn’t honor it.
Sales and coupons. As mentioned above, I know there are certain foods that I keep in rotation or love to have handy to be able to whip up a quick, nutritious meal in minutes. For these items, I always look for weekly sales, circular coupons or even head to the manufacturers website to print off coupons. You can visit the Whole Foods site and check out the weekly specials, this is great for buying wild fresh fish and other specialty items that sometimes feel like a splurge.
Plan ahead. By simply taking 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the week to scan your fridge, freezer and pantry and plan ahead for the week, you’ll save tons of money by using what you have and going to the store with a plan. Strive to plan at least 1-2 meals per day. If you know you typically eat dinner out of the house, line up your breakfast and lunch options for the week. I find that having 1 – 3 options available for each meal allows you to use up the ingredients and not get bored. Visit my Recipe Library for inspiration and CLICK LINK BELOW THE IMAGE to download a FREE Weekly Meal Planning Calendar(PDF) to help you stay organized and document your meals for each week…
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DIY. Making your own trail mix and green juice at home will save you tons of money long-term. A store bought green juice will run you $8-$12 a pop while making it at home costs about $2.50 a serving (approximately). That is a HUGE savings if you like to gulp the greens a few times a week. Mixing up your own trail mix or granola not only saves you money but reduces your intake of unnecessary oils and sugars that are often added to store bought varieties. There are tons of kitchen corners to cut when it comes to doing-it-yourself in the kitchen. Try my homemade granola recipe here!
Mix and match where you shop. I typically rotate where I shop between the local farmers market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I have these 3 local retailers on rotation and stock my fridge, freezer and pantry accordingly. For example, organic frozen fruit and Ezekial Bread at Trader Joe’s will certainly save you a few bucks in comparison to buying them elsewhere, and all of that adds up over time. Whereas, I am not a huge fan of produce in a bag so I typically purchase my leafy greens at the farmer’s market or Whole Foods if I miss the market. Which leads me to the last tip…
Eat what’s IN season. Buying a pineapple in December will cost yah because pineapples are not traditionally grown in New York in the dead of winter. That means, you’re paying for that pineapple to be harvested and transported (probably by plane, train and automobile) all the way to your neighborhood shop. By eating fruits and vegetables that are IN season and plentiful at the markets, you’ll save up front. Head to your local farmers market and ask the farmer about what they think the biggest deals of the week is, usually equals what is in season and the most abundant crop for the week. Not sure what a sun-choke or watermelon radish are? Just ask the farmer for preparation suggestions. Usually other shoppers reaching for those goods will have some great suggestions too. Say hi to your neighbors!
I hope you found this post useful. Let me know in the comments below which tips you love and what you want to see more of. With just a few tweaks to your mindset and some thoughtful action towards planning ahead you’ll have this down in no-time at all.